https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CzHf3VrncY - an interview of Bishop Olmsted on "Complete My Joy".
https://www.catholicsun.org/2018/12/30/complete-my-joy-in-major-new-document-bishop-olmsted-urges-fathers-mothers-to-commit-their-families-to-a-deeper-relationship-with-christ/ - a summary of "Complete My Joy".
Family is likely where we feel the deepest joys as well as the deepest pain.
|Bishop Thomas Olmsted With the Christ child and st. Joseph in the background.|
I . I N T R O D U C T I O N
to families amidst the ups and downs of life. Family is likely where we feel the deepest joys as well as the deepest pain. This is because of the deep love that comes with family; it echoes our deep human need for love. In fact, I am convinced that the priestly work that we spiritual fathers do for the upbuilding of the family is our most important work. I think this more today than ever.
3. So, in this 15th year of my service to you as your bishop, and the 50th anniversary of our founding as a Diocese, I seek in this exhortation to, in a way, visit your home. Throughout this Jubilee Year, I shall be praising God for all of the husbands and wives, mothers and fathers of the Diocese of Phoenix. Over these past 50 years, countless faithful Catholics have surely attained the goal of their lives—eternal salvation. Credit here is due to the rich mercy of God, to the dedicated priests and religious who have served our Diocese so well, and to you and the many faithful families who have lived—and continue to live—your vocations with generosity and even, at times, heroism.
4. I thank the Lord for each of you. I call upon the
Holy Spirit and the intercession of Our Lady of
Guadalupe, the Patroness of our Diocese, to assist
me in encouraging and challenging you to deepen
your relationship with Jesus Christ—Who is the
source of hope and love for every vocation. Your
taking up this mission in a renewed way during this Year of the Family will do much to complete my joy in you as your spiritual father.
How to read this Exhortation.
5. I ask that you read through this exhortation prayerfully
and slowly, with a listening heart. In this way,
you can receive what the Lord has for you, fitting
for your own journey and your family’s journey.
Many of you, though from strong and intact families,
have yet to hear family life presented as a
beautiful, noble and joy-filled life that can certainly
be lived with God’s grace. Others of you give
thought regularly to your family’s mission, and are
looking for a challenge; I trust you will find it.
6. I also am keenly aware that for many, the family
pain that you experienced, or are experiencing
now, has injured the hopes that such happiness
in a family could be attainable. Do not be afraid.
Great hope remains in Jesus Christ who has overcome
the world. If this place of suffering is where
you find yourself at this time, you may profit by
reading chapter four first, on suffering, sin and
God’s Remarkable Plan: Image the Trinity, Domestic Church
7. Let us begin: God has a plan for your good and for
your family’s healing, renewal and mission. This is
not to say that your family life will look at any point
like a sales brochure model! It doesn’t have to. In
fact, to an almost comical degree, simply looking
at the people the Bible names in the bloodline
of Jesus—the difficult and fractured family situations
that God used to give us our Savior—should
assure all of us that He in no way sees our family
situation as irredeemable.1 Far deeper than the
appearances, God wants to increase a profound
communion of love in your family that corresponds to the deepest desires of your hearts.
God wants to increase a profound communion of love in your family that corresponds to the deepest desires of your hearts.
8. Is this truly possible? Yes. How? Because of what
you are. I want to remind you here of who and
what you are, Catholic families of the Diocese of
Phoenix. What you are is beautiful and exciting,
at the deepest possible level! And the challenge
to become what you are even more is therefore
worth our time to discuss, and worth any required
9. A bit of theology is needed here. Theology is pondering
God’s mystery, the truth he reveals about
Himself. St. John Paul II, in his magnificent 1981
exhortation to the Christian family, The Role of the
Christian Family in the Modern World, reminded
all of us that “the family has the mission to guard,
reveal, and communicate love,” and so become
“a living reflection of, and a real sharing in God’s
love.”2 Through the family, husband and wife—and
any children God gives them—are a living image
or icon of the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity!
10. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI makes this point even
more explicitly when he says, “God is Trinity. The
human family is, in a certain sense, the icon of the
Trinity because of the love between its members
and the fruitfulness of that love.”3 As the concrete
image of God to the world, every family—your
family—is, by its nature, a communion of love and life.
12. To this awe-inspiring truth—that the little icon of the family images the Trinitarian God in a unique way—we can add this: the Christian family is also the littlest living cell of the Church—the domestic church, in fact. This is another indicator of your dignity and the adventure of your mission! Your home is, and is called to grow, as an outpost of the mission of the Church militant on earth, in
union and service with your parish. “Thus, the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith…the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from
which the Gospel radiates…the future of evangelization depends in great part on the Church of the home.”(4)
Enemy of God, Enemy of the Family
13. If this is “natural” for a Christian family, then why
is it so hard? Here we run into a real difficulty, and
another mystery: the mystery of sin and evil. Before
they fell, love was easy for our first parents, Adam
and Eve, but after falling to the temptation to try to
be gods themselves, love became hard—and love
remains hard in this life. The soil no longer obeys
Adam easily, childbirth is a matter of pain for Eve.
We face disease, and earthquakes, and bedbugs.
Family life exists now on a spiritual battlefield. You
have as spouses and parents the choice either to
engage the challenge as an adventure or to abandon
the field in some way. There is no escape from
this choice—not to choose is, in fact, to choose
“...in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
14. Satan, the enemy of God and of all of His creation,
is profoundly aware of the centrality of the family
in God’s plan and its irreplaceable role as an icon
of the Trinity. We shouldn’t be surprised, therefore,
that this leader of the evil angels would aggressively
target the family with all of his cunning and
resources. St. Paul assures us that it is Satan who is
behind the great battles that we face, “Our struggle
is not with flesh and blood but with…the evil
spirits in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12)
15. Before her death in 2005, Sr. Lucia, one of the three
visionaries visited by Our Lady at Fatima, wrote in a
letter to Cardinal Carlo Caffarra that “the final battle
between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will
be about Marriage and the Family. Don’t be afraid
because whoever works for the sanctity of Marriage
and the Family will always be fought against
and opposed in every way, because this is the
decisive issue. Nevertheless, Our Lady has already
crushed his head.” (5)
16. Sister Lucia’s words are alarming, but also encouraging.
The final war has already been won! Nevertheless,
the battle raging around us is real. On every
side, and painfully even within our own families,
we experience destructive attacks that only a short
time ago would have seemed unimaginable. (6)
17. Despite these real challenges, this is not the moment
for us to become discouraged or lose heart,
for that would be to forget that “where sin increases,
grace abounds all the more,” (Romans 5:20)
and that “in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:38)
The breaches in the civilization of love and culture
of life are many, but they call us not to despair.
Rather, they challenge us to unflagging trust in the
Lord and Giver of life, to radical reliance on God’s
grace and mercy, and to personal engagement in
the domestic church on behalf of love and life.
I I . THE NATURE OF THE FAMILY:
A GARDEN AND NOT A JUNGLE
18. I am a farmer’s son. Planting and harvesting illustrates
nature very well. Hence, I begin this section
on the family’s nature with this story.
19. A wise teacher once had one of his young students
over to his home. Among the topics they discussed
was nature and the human soul. The young student
was immovable on his argument that young people
grow up best when left to their own decisions,
and that parents and society were to blame for the
sorry state of the individual in the country. Knowing
that they were at an impasse in the discussion, the
philosopher changed subjects. “Would you like to
see my garden?”
Knowing his teacher to be a cultured man, the
student immediately agreed. The philosopher
opened his home’s back door and they stepped
out to view the “garden”. What greeted their eyes
was a disheveled yard filled with weeds, overgrown
trees, spider webs and piled leaves. It was a picture of neglect.
“What do you think?” asked the philosopher.
“Garden?” replied the student. “This is a mess!”
“Just like the uncultivated soul, my young friend.”
20. The Church will always uphold a demonstrable fact
that, in our time, has become a point of controversy:
the family has a nature; that is, it has a given
meaning, structure and goal. Like a rosebush or a
rhinoceros, and even more like a garden, the family
does not invent, but receives its God-given reality
as a gift—that which it tends toward when it has
the conditions necessary for thriving. 7 The structure
is, from Creation until now, man and woman
covenantally bound by vows for the sake of their
own good and for the sake of any children who
come forth from their “one flesh” union. The married
couple’s family home is a life- and love-giving
center in the world for as long as they both shall
live, all the way to their Heavenly home.
21. Why is the family such a big deal? People in other
periods of history would have answered, “What
a silly question.” Not anymore. The nature of the
family must be explained and defended because
this question is now being asked regularly, and
answered badly. Simply put, the family is a big
deal because it is the God-given and natural “soil”
meant for each new child’s growth.
22. Back to human basics for a moment. When it
comes to the deep question of God’s will for the
procreation of new human life, the Catholic Church
has been entrusted with a profound insight into
the beautiful mystery and meaning of marriage.
In the marital embrace, husband and wife entrust
to one another the reproductive matter needed
to form new human life; sperm from the man, egg
from the woman, and twenty-three chromosomes
from each. But man is a unity of matter and spirit,
of body and soul, and only God can create a soul
that immaterial, immortal, spiritual principle in man
that gives life and unity to the human body. As the
Catechism of the Catholic Church states (#366),
“The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created
immediately by God—it is not “produced” by
the parents—and also that it is immortal.” The soul
is not some by-product of material evolution, nor
is it “produced” somehow by the joining of sperm
and egg, it is “created immediately by God.” By
joining a spiritual soul to the biological material
provided by mom and dad, God brings a new human person into existence!
23. This person, hidden and awaited and awaiting
birth, lives, on average, nine months of vulnerability,
a vulnerability in many ways shared by his or her
mother. This little person is entirely dependent on
the generous readiness of others to “make space”
for his life. During and after birth, unlike other
animal young who often are physically capable of
a certain independence within minutes or hours,
humans remain very fragile. For years we are very
dependent creatures! Childhood is a lengthy process
requiring the nurturing of abiding patience,
protection, and readiness to “make space” for another
on the part of the mother. And here we come
to the first crux of the family matter: who has made
space for her to be a mother?
24. As one family advocate has put it, “At the birth of
a child, a mother is usually close by. The question
is, ‘where is the father’?”8 The nature of the family,
into which each human being is vulnerably conceived,
vulnerably born, and vulnerably raised, is
clearly seen here to require more than biological
motherhood and fatherhood; a secondary protective
reality which speaks to our dignity as persons
and which today requires the full voice and effort
of the Church to uphold: marriage.
25. Marriage is then at the foundation of our consideration
of the nature of the family. There may be
an objection at this point. “Wait, we were talking
about nature. Marriage is just a social construction,
isn’t it?” I answer only that marriage, the social and
personal event of the joining of a man and woman’s
life for the purpose of establishing a family,
appears in every known society throughout history.
Man and woman, by their very nature, are social
beings. We are forced to object to the existence of
society itself if we object to the natural and smallest
society we call marriage. Marriage, the foundation
of the little society of the family, appears
in human history everywhere society is found. In
other words, marriage is a healthy sign of natural
human life. In the original garden of our first parents,
marriage appears. In human history, anywhere
marriage is thriving and garden-like, society is
strong. When marriage becomes jungle-like, society
26. Therefore, the Church refers to the family, based
on marriage, as the “fundamental cell of society.”
Society is the living body, of which the smallest
living part is the cell called the family. We should
not be surprised, then, that in societies where the
family is flourishing, the common good thrives as
well. A body with the clear majority of its cells functioning
well will be a strong body, with its immune
system ready for the dangers of the world. A body
with too many weakened and vulnerable cells is
Beyond Mere Survival: The Family’s Nature is Love
27. Beyond the survival of the species and the society,
though, the family is the irreplaceable center of
love and of life. The nature of human beings is to
need love as well as life! Love is not optional. What
is love? The word love has suffered from a certain
overgrowth of confusion in the English language,
like the philosopher’s neglected garden. It is a bit
of a mess and needs a good pruning to be seen
for the garden that it is. St. Thomas Aquinas, the
Angelic Doctor, defined the word love this way,
“Love is willing the good of the other.” This definition
is simple, profound and very helpful. Love is
one person willing the best, the good, for another,
for the other’s sake. Let us not be afraid to prune
that which is confused and overgrown.
"Love is willing the good of another."
(St. Thomas Aquinas)
Marital Love is Free, Total, Faithful and Fruitful
28. From this simple definition, “Love is willing the
good of the other,” let us now look at the love
specific to marriage which, well-lived, spills over
into the children, the extended family, and the
surrounding community. The words of the Catholic
marriage rite beautifully express four qualities of
marital love: free, total, faithful and fruitful.
29. This revisitation of a wedding, dear married couples
and those of you called to marriage, I hope
will resound in its beauty, its profound meaning,
and its call to be vulnerable to this love and to
avoid the deadly state the Sacred Scriptures call
hardness of heart. “To love at all is to be vulnerable,”
wrote CS Lewis.9 This is why real love can
cause awe and even a paralyzing fear. Love is risky!
Is it really necessary to take such risks? Yes. For the
alternative to the risk of love is self-enclosed hell.
Lewis’s striking passage on love continues:
“…Love anything and your heart will
be wrung and possibly broken. If you
want to make sure of keeping it intact
you must give it to no one, not even
an animal. Wrap it carefully round
with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid
all entanglements. Lock it up safe in
the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket, safe, dark,
motionless, airless, it will change. It
will not be broken; it will become unbreakable,
The alternative to tragedy, or at
least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.
The only place outside Heaven
where you can be perfectly safe from
all the dangers and perturbations of
love is Hell.”
30. Do not be afraid of love! We need love in all of its necessary vulnerability and sacrifice because we are made in the image of Love itself! In the story of creation found in Genesis 1, we read:
"And God said, “'Let us make man in
our image, after our likeness…So
God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them, and God said
to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply…”
31. Love is the natural language inscribed in our
bodies and souls, made male and female. The
male body and soul is created to complement the
female body and soul at all levels—biological, psychological, and spiritual—and vice-versa.
32. At the key moment of the Catholic marriage ceremony,
in front of God and their invited family and
friends (who represent the whole world), the priest
or deacon, official witness for the Church, asks the
man and the woman to publicly assent to three
important questions, which contain the four fundamental qualities of authentic marital love.
33. The first is this: “Have you come here to enter
Marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?”
34. “Are you truly free?” the Church is asking, and,
“Are you here in front of this altar of sacrifice—
willing to give a total gift of yourself to this other
person?” The man and the woman reply, “Yes.”
35. This love requires your freedom, your free willing of
the good for your spouse! And it requires your total
gift, holding nothing back out of fear. It requires
that you consider this promise irrevocable, never
to be taken back despite the inevitable challenges
that accompany love in a fallen world.
36. The second question speaks to faithfulness: “Are
you prepared, as you follow the path of Marriage,
to love and honor each other for as long as you
both shall live?” The man and woman each reply, “I am.”
37. True love is faithful. Living this faithfulness requires
a constant exercise of “willing the good of the
other” in marriage such that a powerful force in
the world is increased. St. John Chrysostom said,
“The love of husband and wife is the force that
welds society together.” Therefore, the Church
and wise nations and communities recognize and
support even at great cost the need for families to
be based on marriage, the committed, life-long
covenantal bond with all of its necessary rights and duties.
38. Think here of the Father, the Son and the Holy
Spirit. Contemplating with awe and gratitude the
mystery of a God who is eternally and reliably a
fire of never-ending love, we best understand the
nature of marital love and the demands that flow
from it. Would there be “cheating” among the
members of the Trinity? Obviously not, and therefore
the marital covenant which images the Trinity
must be faithful through all the storms of life. Can
we imagine a “breakup” of the Father, Son and
Holy Spirit? Certainly not, and therefore a valid,
sacramental marriage is indissoluble. Nothing
but death can break the bond of such a marriage.
Would the three Divine Persons opt for sterility, or
does their love bear constant and abundant fruit?
Hence marital love requires the rejection of any
chosen option for sterility, whether it be contraception use or surgical sterilization.
39. This brings us to the third question of intent. The
priest or deacon asks, “Are you prepared to accept
children lovingly from God and bring them up
according to the law of Christ and His Church?” “I
am,” the man and woman each reply.
40. Love is fruitful. Usually, though not in every case,
acts of sexual intercourse proper only to marriage
give rise eventually to the gift of children.
41. Despite the cultural propaganda against children
being a good for their parents, those who experience
children learn that what the Second Vatican
Council beautifully stated is true: “Marriage and
conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward
the procreation and education of children. Children
are really the supreme gift of marriage and
contribute in the highest degree to their parents’
The Natural Good of Parental Authority
42. You, Mom and Dad, have the God-given gift and
responsibility of exercising authority in service of
your children. The fourth commandment, “Honor
your father and mother,” clearly speaks to children
as owing honor to their parents and, while
still children, obeying their authority. Do not be
afraid to exercise this important role, which despite
mockery and dismissal in Western culture remains
your vital task and honor. God gave you children so
that you would truly receive them as His gift, love
them and discipline them for their own good. Your
judicious, patient, loving and determined exercise
of authority is a protection of your children, a key
gravity-center in their education, which requires a
readiness to obey legitimate authority. The word
“obey” is derived from the Latin verb meaning “to
listen”—and you are uniquely equipped, simply by
being their parents, to teach your children to listen.
They take their first and most important cues from
you on what is wise or foolish, worthy or unworthy,
sinful or beneficent, beautiful, true and good.
43. In a remarkably practical and strong address to
fathers and mothers toward the end of the 4th
Century,11 the bishop St. John Chrysostom compares
a child in a remarkable way to a walled city
with five gates. These five gates are the child’s five
senses. Perhaps this metaphor is as relevant today,
even more so, than in times before the Internet
was surrounding parents. Fathers and mothers are
the regents of the city, keeping close vigilance over
each gate, encouraging the “traffic” of the good to
leave and enter through the mouth, the eyes, the
ears, the skin and the sense of smell. Parents also
must be diligent in ruling out the bad, keeping
the child free from harmful teaching, example and
experience. In a single, vivid image, the bishop
captures the irreplaceable nature of your authority
and educational task.
The Family Home:
Natural Center of Education and Prayer
44. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
“Parents have the first responsibility for the education
of their children. They bear witness to this
responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness,
forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and selfless
service are the rule. The home is well suited for
education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship
in self-denial, sound judgment, and
self-mastery—the preconditions of all true freedom.
Parents should teach their children to subordinate
the material and instinctual dimensions to
interior and spiritual ones.”(12)
45. To educate comes from the Latin word meaning
“to lead out.” Parents are called, and by the nature
of their relationship to their children, have a unique
ability, to lead their children out of self-absorption
into the happiness of self-control and the ability
to make a self-gift of love for others. Fathers and
mothers “are teachers because they are parents.”
And even when you delegate your educational
role, in part, to capable professional teachers and
schools, it remains your role to be the primary educators
of your child, especially in the areas of faith,
virtue and prayer.
46. I constantly thank God for my Mom and Dad,
and for our home where prayer was as normal as
breathing. There were crucifixes in our bedrooms
and the Last Supper on the wall next to our dining
room table. On the dresser in my parents’ bedroom
were statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, along with a
candle to be lit before evening prayer and enough
rosaries for each of us—the dresser served like a
household altar around which we knelt every evening
to pray. By going to Confession together as a
family, every two weeks, I learned how God’s mercy
restored peace and made it possible for each of us
to forgive and receive forgiveness. The Lord’s Day
was marked by Mass together, plus a meal and fun
activities with other relatives and friends.
Fathers and mothers “are teachers
because they are parents.”
47. The family—including your family—is the irreplaceable
center of life and love for the world and the
Church. In fact, and this remains the most neglected
and urgent of facts, “The future of the world
and of the Church passes through the family.”13 No
matter what challenges you face in your family in
living God’s plan, the Lord has more grace in store
than you can imagine. The nature of the family is a
gift and a calling to life and love. We might pause
here and take a breath, a deep breath, pondering
the mission this implies, God’s call to the free-will
of every person whose vocation is marriage and
family! Yes, an adventurous mission awaits you in
your family life. Let us now look at this mission.
III. THE MISSION OF EVERY
48. Having looked at the nature of the family, marriage,
and marital love we can now look at the
family’s mission. When family life is lived in accord
with the dignity inherent to it, it heals and re-evangelizes
the Body of Christ so that the light of Christ
can shine forth to all peoples. This again, is because
the family reflects the love of the Holy Trinity:
“The family has the mission to guard, reveal and
communicate love”14—the love of the Trinity and
Christ’s love for the Church.
49. This mission is carried out by fathers being fathers,
by mothers being mothers, by sons being sons,
and by daughters being daughters. St. John Paul
II did not say “Family, do what you are” or “Family,
strive to make yourselves a family.” Rather, he said: Family allow your
nature as a communion of love to grow, develop,
mature, and overflow into the world with a generosity
of life and joy. Living “in a manner worthy
of the call you have received” (Eph. 4:1) depends
firstly upon accepting that calling from God.
“Family, become what you are” (St. John Paul II).
50. “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…”
begins the drama of every Mission Impossible film. Do you accept your mission, Mom and Dad? Unlike the films, this mission is very possible, though difficult; like the films, you must personally accept the mission.
Your Marriage, Centered on Jesus Christ
51. But marriage is hard! Those who glimpse the plan
that God has for marriage may well agree with the
words of G.K. Chesterton when he said, “it is not
that Christianity has been tried and found lacking;
it is that it has been found difficult and left untried.”
No matter our vocation, these words ring
true! It is often thought that faithful, chaste, committed,
life-long married love is just too difficult. As
your shepherd, I want you to remember the angel’s
message to Mary, whose unique mission in history
likely sounded impossible when she heard it,
“nothing will be impossible for God.” (Lk. 1:37)
52. As disciples of Jesus, you can always rely on Him
to instruct and guide you. A marriage that is truly
Christ-centered will stay with Him who says, "learn
from Me"(Matthew 11:29) and to the Father who
says, "Listen to Him." (Mk 9:7) Even as God tells
His disciples these things, He knows that this love
will continually need to be learned and relearned.
As you spouses, year by year, come to Him in
personal prayer, Mass and the other Sacraments,
say to Jesus, “Teach me and guide me in the way
You want me to love my spouse and my family.” I
don’t mean this in a general way. The Holy Spirit
will guide you specifically to love the unique members
of your family “until the hour when we stand
before [God]… Saints among the Saints in the halls
of heaven.” (15)
Blessings of a Chaste Life
53. A word now on the pivotal virtue of chastity in
your life. A healthy marriage is impossible without
marital chastity. This cannot be overestimated. A
healthy and holy marriage without chastity is as
likely as a healthy garden without sunlight. No
54. Chastity is not celibacy within marriage. No, the
act of sexual intercourse that makes a husband
and wife “one flesh” and is ordered to bringing
new human persons into our world is a great good.
Chastity in marriage means self-control in sexuality,
a freedom to steer one’s sexual desires and actions
lovingly, so that in sex you “will the good of each
other.” Chastity actually liberates true sexual love!
It opposes the slavery caused by its opposite vice:
lust. Chaste sexual love refuses to do anything that
is lustful. The chaste couple can live their sexual
55. What does this mean concretely? First, do no harm
to this act, which is meant to renew your wedding
vows. Refuse to allow pornography, contraception,
or any fantasy mentality to turn this act into an
experience of using each other, rather than loving
each other. The opposite of “willing the good of
your spouse” is “using your spouse as an object
for self-gratification.” Do not give any quarter to
56. Proactively, to grow your sexual relationship in a
loving way, communicate well with each other—
frankly, patiently and readily. Be quick to forgive
each other for thoughtless hurts and even sins.
Spend time, good time, together cultivating the
garden of all areas of your intimacy: your verbal
communication, your care for each other’s needs
of affection, your time just to be together. These
areas of intimacy till the soil of the garden of your
love and spill over into a meaningful sexual relationship.
Your children, too, will be deeply blessed
by this resulting closeness.
57. If you sin in this area, never despair! Get to Confession
quickly, and quickly forgive your spouse. Then,
begin again. Chastity grows by God’s grace and
renewed effort toward self-mastery and freedom.
This “self-mastery is a long and exacting work. One
can never consider it acquired once and for all.”
Major strides can be made with the combined help
of the Sacraments, growth in prayer together as a
couple, accompaniment of trusted friends, insights
from wise experts and complete surrender to Jesus
with the intercession of His Mother, St. Joseph and
all the saints.
Openness to New Life
58. I rejoice in the fatherly teaching of Pope St. Paul
VI in his 1968 letter On Human Life (Humanae
Vitae) where he courageously and prophetically
upholds the dignity of husband, wife and child in
accord with God’s loving designs. This encyclical,
published the year before we became a diocese,
remains as relevant as ever.
59. The disaster invited by theologians, bishops,
priests and laity who rejected Pope St. Paul VI’s
letter is upon us. Enough! What further evidence
do we need to see that the Sexual Revolution’s
divisions: sexual pleasure separated from procreation,
sexuality from marriage, man from woman in
divorce, woman from child in abortion, youth from
the hope that love can be faithful and beautiful,
the elderly from children who can care for them at
life’s end—are a plague of misery on a scale never
known before? Enough! Husbands and wives,
mothers and fathers, you are called to have great
hearts here, counter-cultural and brave. You can
build something better, freer, more generous, and
nobler, beginning in your own home.
. . you are called to have great hearts here,
counter-cultural and brave.
60. Love and openness to life go together in the marital
act. Contracepting this unity on purpose, by any
means including surgical sterilization, is inviting a
poison into your marriage. Do not refuse the gift
of a new child into your home, into God’s family,
into the history of the world, with a soul meant for
eternal life. Your own heart will grow in virtue and
in the capacity for love, which is the real meaning
of your life.
61. At times, a couple discerns, prayerfully and
thoughtfully, a just reason to postpone pregnancy
for a time or even an indefinite period. The Church
recognizes and encourages here the exercise of
responsible parenthood. “The parents themselves
and no one else should ultimately make this judgement
in sight of God.”17 Having a large family is
also responsible, and the Church rejoices in this
sometimes heroic decision of a married couple,
but there can be times when justice and love call
for a postponement. What is a couple to do then?
This is where the science and discipline of Natural
Family Planning are so helpful. Modern methods
of NFP, readily available thanks to many dedicated
laypeople in our diocese, are reliable, relationship-
building tools. There is also a challenge with
NFP. Specifically, NFP requires periodic abstinence
from the marital act.
62. Periodic abstinence from the marital act does
not mean periodic abstinence from love! In fact,
at times abstinence is a requirement of love in a
marriage. Abstinence is an opportunity to learn
to love each other in a myriad of other ways. In
fact, respecting the God-designed cycle of fertility
reliably strengthens the marital relationship with
the benefits of self-control, understanding and
mutual respect. Is this a challenge? Certainly. Does
it involve suffering? Yes, at times. Yet as the saints
show us, suffering, well-lived and offered to God,
brings surprising joy. More about this in section IV.
63. The suffering of temporary or even permanent
infertility should be mentioned here. This particular
cross is among the heaviest for a couple, and the
temptation to access illicit technological means to
conceive a child, such as in vitro fertilization, can
be intense. But this grasping at life causes further
harm, is intrinsically evil, and must not be used. It
violates the equal dignity of the child, who, like his
parents, is always a gift and not a means to some
other end; nor is he a “product” to be purchased.
I highly recommend Natural Procreative Technology
(NAPRO), developed at the Paul VI Institute,
for moral medical means of increasing the natural
possibilities of conception, and assuring that the
nature of child as gift from God is respected.
64. The fundamental issue here is trust. Trusting God
in all things, including His care for the needs of
your family and each child that blesses your home
with his or her arrival, is at the heart of your family’s mission.
Masculine and Feminine Difference Matters
65. Masculinity and femininity in the family are part of
God’s remarkable plan. Man and woman image
God together, and His plan is for both motherhood
and fatherhood to thrive in the family. While it is
popular to speak of “parenting” in a vague way,
this 20th Century neologism is not terribly helpful.
Both women and men are parents, but while they
may perform some of the same tasks, they are not
generic contributors to the child’s welfare. Ryan
T. Anderson states, referring to the mountain of
corresponding sociological evidence available,
“There's no such thing as parenting in the abstract;
there's mothering and there's fathering, and children
do best with both.”(18)
A Mother’s Particular Gifts to the Family
66. Let us consider first the love of a wife and mother.
Husbands and children need the unique feminine
gifts that can only come from the one who is wife
and mother in the family.
67. Scripture, in many ways, acknowledges the godliness
of maternal love. In the prophecy of Isaiah,
God’s love is compared to that of a mother when
the Lord says, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.” (Is. 66:13)
68. To know the women saints is to know that these
great saints and doctors of the Church have given
witness to what is now called the “feminine
genius.” Here I wish to present to you the heroic
example and thought of St. Teresa Benedicta of
the Cross, whose pursuit of truth and love led her
to conversion to Christ and to martyrdom in the
Auschwitz concentration camp. A brilliant philosopher,
Teresa Benedicta contemplated God’s design
for femininity remarkably. In a simple and profound sentence, she wrote, “a woman’s soul is fashioned
as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.”
69. St. Teresa Benedicta also wrote, “Woman naturally
seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and
whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance
growth is her natural, maternal yearning.”19
This uniquely feminine way of seeing the wholeness
of the human person is a great gift, not only
to the family, but to the world. By the presence of
these uniquely feminine gifts of nurturing and relationality,
a woman can be a ‘spiritual mother’ even
if she does not have children of her own. If the destiny
of our lives is an eternal relationship of love in
the Most Holy Trinity, the wisdom of feminine love
is an essential witness in family life. As Proverbs
says, “reject not your mother’s teaching; a graceful
diadem will they be for your head; a pendant for
your neck.” (Prov. 1:8-9)
70. Dear daughters in Christ, the worth, dignity and genius inherent to you is irreplaceable in your
. . . the worth, dignity and genius inherent
to you is irreplaceable in your family.
71. Ask the Lord for all the grace you need to live out
your calling to holiness. Only you can offer your
husband the respect that St. Paul speaks of in his
letter to the Ephesians. Only you can offer the
motherly love your children need. We know this
even more convincingly now as recent psychological
research indicates that the mother alone has
the power to truly comfort and stabilize a child,
especially during the first years of a child’s life. (20)
72. I have here a challenge for you and your husband,
which I offer knowing you will have to consider, in
some cases, remarkable sacrifice. Be at home while
your children are young. Where possible, put other
work off during this time of necessary imbalance
when your children need most to absorb your
motherly presence and the unconditional love you
more naturally provide. This time goes so quickly,
and once gone, cannot be recaptured. Never
doubt that there is no greater “job” in all the world
than to be the first to form and nurture the mind,
heart and soul of your child.
73. G.K. Chesterton, the famous English writer and
convert, wrote memorably of your irreplaceable
role: “To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite
area, deciding sales, banquets, labours, and holidays;
(…) to be Aristotle within a certain area,
teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene;
I can imagine how this can exhaust the mind, but
I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can
it be a large career to tell other people about the
Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own
children about the universe? How can it be broad
to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be
everything to someone? No, a woman's function is
laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it
74. Your prayers also carry a special weight before
Him who answered His own mother’s concerns at
the Wedding in Cana. Only you can love your own
children from the full depth of your feminine heart.
God has willed it so.
A Father’s Mission in the Family
75. Husbands and fathers, you too have an irreplaceable
mission. There is a security and stability that
only you can give your family. This will only bless
your family to the extent that you fulfill your role as provider, protector and spiritual leader. (21)
There is a security and stability that
only you can give your family.
76. As lead (if not sole) provider of the income needed to sustain the family, you shoulder a burden
that frees your wife to be present to you and to
your children, particularly when they are young.
Sacrifices of the larger home, the extra vehicle or
vacation are nothing compared to the precious gift
of your children having their mother’s presence to
them in the home. Do all you can to assure this,
or to move in this direction in close dialogue with
your wife. Some of you, I know, sacrifice more than
luxuries. I commend you. Pray that as your spiritual
father I will match your level of sacrifice for the
children God has entrusted to me. Some of you
husbands are suffering through unemployment or
job insecurity at this time. Trust in God; seek good
friendships of men who can come alongside you,
and take necessary steps to provide even if outside
your normal field for a time. I am praying for you.
77. You are also the primary protector of your family.
What does this mean? It means you are the seawall
against the storms that threaten from inside
and outside. While your wife’s attention is more
naturally focused on the relationships within and
There is a security and stability that only
you can give your family.
around the family, yours naturally is drawn to
threats. This is a gift to your family. Protect them,
Dad! These threats take various forms: of special
note at this time in history, the threat of overuse of
technology and the always evil problem of pornography
come to mind. Do what you must to protect
the precious time, peace, unity and healthy imaginations
of your family. Your denying a smart-phone
to a teenager is no sin—any suffering from an unpopular
decision now will be repaid a hundred-fold
by a grateful adult son or daughter down the road,
and even if not then, in Heaven. Other threats,
known better to you than to me, are your responsibility
as well, along with positive encouragement
toward new, healthy experiences, challenging opportunities
of charity, service and work, and even
encouraging risks for personal growth. All this you
deeply impact as a father.
78. I know well that the third dimension, spiritual leadership,
is often the most difficult. Yet, God will in
no way fail to give you the grace to enter this place
of spiritual battle within yourself and on behalf
of your family. Your steadiness in maintaining the
grace of weekly Mass and the sacraments, your
growth in disciplined prayer and your pursuit of
deeper personal conversion throughout your life
provide an indelible lesson in spiritual leadership.
This indeed, along with your love for your wife and
care for your children, will be the best of fatherly
“. . . bring them up with the training and
instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6 :4)
79. St. Paul twice tells fathers not to provoke their
children, but to “bring them up with the training
and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4) He writes
this immediately before he gives his most forceful
teaching to us about spiritual warfare. Your presence
and encouragement build your son or daughter
in a uniquely masculine way and make a stunningly
powerful difference in their lives and faith. 22
When you as fathers affirm your sons in word and
deed and time together, you are giving the authoritative
pronouncement of their goodness so that
they can live confidently as beloved sons without
trying to find their ultimate meaning in the things
of the world. When your daughter is affirmed as
good, beautiful and precious by you, the most
important man in her life, she will be confident
and well-equipped to say no to the false flattery of
the world that so often fails to see her true dignity,
value and worth.
80. In your renewed determination to live your masculine
mission as provider, protector and spiritual
leader of your home, you will often have setbacks
and moments of doubt. We all do! Stay the course.
Lean in to St. Joseph, the husband and foster-father
who faced difficulty after difficulty in providing
for protecting and leading his holy family. Ask him
to intercede for you whenever you do not see the
path ahead clearly. He is the “Protector of the Holy
Family” and the “Terror of Demons.” He knows
your struggle and is a great saint of prayer.
Faith Formation and Human Formation of Children
81. Your domestic church, as you continue to grow,
educates your children powerfully. This begins
when families introduce their young children to
Jesus in the Eucharist. I want to especially encourage
you to bring your young children to Mass. Your
presence is wanted and needed among us in the
family of the Church. While the squirming or crying
of children may seem bothersome, these certainly
do not block your reception of God’s grace. “If the
Church is not crying, it is dying.” Present at Mass
during these early years, your children are learning
the rhythm of relationship with the Lord and His
82. As children get older, it is important for parents to
consider the best way to intentionally bring them
up in the faith so that they take part in the mission
to “guard, reveal and communicate love.”23 Of
course, to take part in this mission, your children
must first have known and experienced that love
themselves. This will happen by way of prayer, liturgy,
the sacraments, catechesis, retreats and family
83. Here I offer three considerations to you parents
to take up in prayer. First, how your children will
understand the faith. Second, how they will experience
God’s love. And, third, how they will see the
faith in the witness of others.
84. The propaganda of atheism has made great inroads
in sowing doubt in our young people, even
as young as elementary school age. Atheistic
arguments often include the idea that somehow
science has disproved religion as simply superstitious
and even a cause of more harm than good.
Sadly, we have often failed to proclaim the faith in
a credible way, which further allows these errors
to gain traction. I assure you that these arguments
are no match for the sound intellectual tradition
that is ours. It is the mission, not just of the clergy,
but also the domestic church to understand and
communicate these truths. The family should be a
place where young people work these questions
out and are encouraged to engage the faith. A
knowing faith is a strong faith.
85. Our faith also entails an encounter. Pope Emeritus
Benedict XVI famously said, “being Christian is
not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea,
but the encounter with an event, a person, which
gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”(24)
Have you encountered Jesus? Are your children
convinced that they have encountered Jesus Christ
personally? Do they know the Holy Spirit’s voice of
peace in them in such a way that they can be led
by Him? When your children encounter God’s love
in a true way, they will be able to own their Catholic
faith in a more profound way. This happens
first and foremost in your family as you are attentive
to God’s presence and as you are faithful to
prayer and the sacraments. In addition, the various
youth retreats and school activities that give young
people Christian experiences can play a vital role
in ensuring that young people have the encounter
with Christ and so be His disciple.
86. Finally, quite often the faith of a young person is
invited to greater depth by the example of others.
You parents are, of course, the first examples.
The families and friends that your children spend
time with will also make a tremendous difference.
The words of Pope St. Paul VI remain true, that we
listen “more willingly to witnesses than to teachers.”(25) Young people, upon seeing the witness of
others, especially peers and those just older than
them, can be encouraged to step beyond a private
notion of the faith and be the encouragement for
others. How hard it is for a young person to live the
faith alone. Here I encourage the many ways families
get together to support and build each other
up in faith. (26)
A Word for Parents Whose Children have Strayed
87. I wish here to speak directly to those of you whose
children, for one reason or another, have strayed
from the faith. I am one of you! As a spiritual father,
I know the pain of watching the children leave the
fold. The remarkable life of a heroic saint can help
us here. Though St. Monica lived over 1,600 years
ago, her witness is as relevant as ever. She, out of
love for her son, Augustine, prayed unceasingly for
over 20 years for his conversion from sin and error.
88. I encourage you to imitate the faith and persevering
trust of St. Monica. While it may be difficult
and, at times, tempt you to despair, I encourage
you with the words of a faithful bishop upon seeing
her great prayer, "it is not possible that the
son of these tears should perish." Not only did
he not perish,27 St. Augustine became one of the
Doctors of the Church. In addition to your prayer,
your abiding love and support for them is also
invaluable. Teaching will likely have to come from
someone else once they are adults, however; St.
Monica is said to have been told by the bishop,
St. Ambrose, "Speak less to Augustine about God
and more to God about Augustine."
In addition to your prayer, your abiding
love and support for them is also
The Family’s Mission to Extended Family Members, Friends, the Church and Society
89. As you take care of each and every member
among you in the ups and downs of life, you
witness to Christ before the world. This happens
ordinarily as you welcome children into the world
with unconditional love. This is done in an extraordinary
and particularly beautiful way when families
give witness to love by accepting children with
special needs of any kind and, if called by God, by
opening your home to foster and adopted children
in need of love and care.
90. The elder generation occupies a crucial place
in families. As Pope Francis reminds us, “grandparents
have a capacity to understand the most
difficult situations: a great ability—and when they
pray for these situations, their prayer is strong. It is
powerful.” This is indeed a treasure for the family.
When special care is required for those who are
elderly, the family is challenged to offer more in
service and personal attention. This too is a great
lesson and even a source of peace for the young,
especially if it entails the spiritual care and affection
given up to the moment the Lord calls their
loved one home. This continues in the prayer and
funeral rites offered for the deceased.
91. Beyond the family, neighbors, friends, the single
and lonely can all be served as the family exercises
the badly needed gift of hospitality and witnesses,
in the unique and privileged setting of the home,
to charity and respect that comes with a family
centered on God. To the extent you are able, reach
out to those around you that have need of a wel42
come. Hospitality in the domestic church is a true
front in the New Evangelization of our contemporaries.
92. Finally, there are some among you who have been
blessed with tremendous marriages, stories of
healing and God’s grace, virtuous openness to life,
and charisms for teaching and accompanying other
couples and families. You are disciples of Christ,
precisely as married couples living the truth of the
domestic church, and are called to become apostles
to other families within your parish or in other
key areas of evangelization. I urge you to greater
involvement in the marriage and family apostolate
which takes many forms. It is the natural course in
the Church that disciples are called to be apostles!
Your marriage and family are strong in this time for
a reason—and that reason may be to help others
on that path to holiness as missionaries to other
couples and families. (28)
IV. SUFFERING, SIN AND HEALING
93. While each family is created by God to mirror His
own love and to share in His very life, the entrance
of sin into the world damaged this original
intention and everywhere threatens the strength
and stability of the family. Each and every family,
without exception, feels the burden of sin and its
consequences. However, the suffering caused by
sin, when united to Christ, becomes redemptive
and can be the source of indescribable grace in
the sanctification and salvation of your families.
94. Society would tell us that suffering is an evil to be
avoided at all costs, even if that avoidance results
in sin. But our faith tells us this is not true. (29)
Types of Suffering in the Family
95. Original sin is a partial cause of particular sufferings
for the family, including infertility, sickness,
disability, and death. I know that families struggle
in their care for ailing children, spouses, and aging
grandparents. I see when parents feel deeply the
suffering of a handicapped child. There are many
who long for a child but cannot have one of their
own. Family members grieve deeply when a child
or parent is prematurely called home.
96. Another kind of suffering is felt through the collective
sin of the culture of death. I realize that
it is a very real and difficult struggle for parents
to raise faithful, spiritually confident children in a
society steeped in sins against life and authentic
love: where abortion is rampant and support for
euthanasia grows, where despair and the violence
it breeds explode in schools and neighborhoods,
where consumerism and materialism enslave,
where pornography invades every formerly safe
and sacred aspect of life, where increasing numbers
of children are encouraged to question their
sexual identity in the wake of the lie of gender
ideology, 30 and where the damaging and perverse
homosexual lifestyle is not only accepted but celebrated.
Families of faith, the Church desires to be
your support and guide as you navigate daily life in the hostility of the post-modern climate.
97. Where the clergy and even elevated shepherds
of the Church have failed you in this, I am truly
sorry. In this time of upheaval in our Church, when
stories of abuse and cover-up remind us of the
devastation of sin even within the most sacred
of institutions, know that I share your anger and
pain—whether you have been directly or indirectly
affected by such violations of vows and trust. This
is a tremendous cross and one we carry together,
98. Today, nearly all families live in a world of extreme
busyness, where countless activities—even good
and wholesome ones—sap energy and time and
leave families drained and disconnected. The
legitimate need to provide materially for the family
is, for some of you, another source of suffering.
Increasingly, mothers find themselves nearly forced
to spend more time outside the home to help provide
for the family. Exhaustion can lead to difficulty
in being not only physically present but also emotionally
available to the family. Single parents especially
may find themselves stretched to the limits of
their emotional, physical, and material capability.
Military families struggle with prolonged absences
and long stretches of anxiety and loneliness.
“People are starving for love because
everybody is in such a great rush”
(St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta).
99. A related suffering comes from the excessive use
of technology. Increasingly, preoccupation with
media finds families exchanging a relational existence
for a virtual one. Addiction to screens severs
the bonds of intimacy and love in the inner circle of
the family. Loneliness breeds loneliness. Left alone,
even while home together, family members may
find themselves turning more and more to shallow
entertainment. Children and parents are left lonely
in their own homes.
100. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta challenges us: “Do
you know the poor of your own home first? Maybe
in your home there is somebody who is feeling
lonely, very unwanted, very handicapped. Maybe
your husband, your wife, or your child is lonely. Do
you know that? Today we have no time even to
look at each other, to talk to each other, to enjoy
each other...And so less and less we are in touch
with each other. The world is lost for want of sweetness
and kindness. People are starving for love
because everybody is in such a great rush.” (31)
The Suffering of Sin
101. The sin of one family member upon another may
be the greatest of sufferings within the family.
Abuse inflicts unspeakable hurt and takes many
forms, whether verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual.
Unhealed wounds can bleed into relationships
in the home and prolong pain for generations.
Addiction dissolves the ability to love freely and
creates chaos in family life. Divorce, while socially
acceptable and often mistakenly encouraged,
can leave in its wake injured spouses, traumatized
children, and broken homes. This is a type of suffering
few acknowledge, and abandoned spouses
and the children of a divorce are often silenced by
social shame (32). Fatherlessness in particular is an
epidemic which has scarred the souls of millions of
children, whose hearts echo the cry of Jesus on the
Cross, “Why have you abandoned me?” Even within
otherwise strong and intact marriages, there will
be hurt stemming from selfishness, misunderstandings,
and lack of charity. I hear this in confessions,
and in communications from many of you.
102. Be on guard against the lies that the ‘father of lies,’
who preys upon hurting souls, would speak into
these wounds. He is our enemy, and when we are
hurt his voice speaks of resentment, fury, revenge.
This is not God’s voice or his will. Forgiveness is
key to remedying the wounds here. Forgiveness,
is an important step in the process of healing, and
sets us free from the pain, resentment, and anger
that can enslave us when we hold hurts too tightly.
Forgiveness is not primarily a feeling, instead it is
a choice—a choice to extend God’s merciful love
to someone who has hurt you, in obedience to
Jesus (Matt 6:14-15) who not only taught us about
forgiveness but gave us an example while on the
Cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not
what they do” (Luke 23:34).
The Strength to Suffer Well
103. It is strange. One hundred and twenty years ago,
toothaches were awful. Life expectancy was two thirds
what it is today. Physically, we now suffer
less than any people in human history. We have
Ibuprofen and Novocain. But there may be more
family suffering than any other time in human history.
This results in a gradual erosion of the ability
to suffer well. Suicide rates, even among the
young, indicate this. In a time when we are often
able and even encouraged to indulge in every desire,
it becomes increasingly difficult to bear with
courage and resilience even the smallest sacrifice
which love requires.
104. Marriage and family themselves are caught up in
the fallenness of the world. They are no escape
from the sufferings of life, but in Christ, they are
filled with the grace to bear suffering well, and
even with joy.
A Future and A Hope
105. Jesus has a plan for your family and His purposes
will not be thwarted by sin and brokenness—if you
but surrender your hurts to Him in love and trust.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
plans for welfare and not for evil, plans to give you
a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
106. To look at Jesus on the cross is to realize that He knows our suffering, from the inside. Venerable
Fulton Sheen wrote: “What do the scars of Christ
teach us? They teach us that life is a struggle:
that our condition of a final resurrection is exactly
the same as His; that unless there is a cross in
our lives, there will never be an empty tomb; that
unless there is a Good Friday, there will never be
an Easter Sunday; that unless there is a crown of
thorns, there will never be a halo of light; and that
unless we suffer with Him, we shall not rise with
107. We do well to remember the words of St. Paul: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be
revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
108. God too sees your sufferings, is with you in your
pain, and desires that you allow Him to use each
ache for your own holiness and the salvation of
your families. Suffering can be powerful and redemptive.
When it is united to the Cross of Christ,
no prayer, no disappointment, no hurt is ever
wasted. Every moment of suffering can also be an
act of love.
109. When you offer your suffering up to God, He will
use it like oil from the press to anoint your family.
In this way, you mysteriously but truly participate
in the redemption of those whom you love most
in the world!
“I consider that the sufferings of this
present time are as nothing compared with
the glory to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
Healing: A God who Restores
110. God, who allows suffering for our redemption,
and who suffers with us, also desires to restore to
us all that has been lost and broken. Sometimes,
what is broken actually becomes stronger when
healed. I think of the broken equipment on our
family farm, which, after having been repaired with
the welder’s torch, was stronger in the place of
welding than ever before, and would not break in
the same place again.
111. Even a marriage or family wounded by rebelliousness,
neglect, abuse, or rejection is still a
sacramental source of grace and mercy, “albeit a
mercy that might entail drawing close to Christ’s
own suffering.”34 In times when you may feel that
your family is not a perfect icon of the Trinity, take
comfort in knowing that there are many ways to
image the love of God. Sometimes, that image is
the Cross of Christ.
112. Fulton Sheen’s words are convicting: “Even those
who have some degree of sanctity find it hard,
sometimes, to remain on the cross until the end;
the world is full of half-crucified souls who have
come down from the cross at the challenge of
the world after an hour, after two hours, after two
hours and fifty-nine minutes. Few are like the Savior,
who will stay until the end that they, like him,
might utter the cry of triumph: ‘It is finished.’” (35).
113. How do we heal when we know our wounded
family and we ourselves need it? The sacraments
are always mysteries of Jesus’ healing—when we
receive them with proper readiness. Confession
and the frequent reception of the Eucharist in
particular bring healing to our souls. Additionally,
prayer by those who have the charism of healing
can also bring great physical and spiritual healing.
Finally, sometimes we simply need someone to
listen and help us see a path forward; this is where
wise Catholic counselors and other psychological
professionals can be of great service. We have a
growing number of such professionals in our Diocese,
and I highly recommend seeking out their
help when needed.
Louis and Zélie Martin: Sowing a Household of Saints through Suffering
114. The Church lifts up to us the lives of those who
have lived heroically the vocations of marriage—
and suffering—in order to be an inspiration and
source of intercessory power in our own lives. I
encourage you to find such an example in the
parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Louis and Zélie
Martin, the first married saints of modern times
and the only married couple to be canonized
together. Their marriage was rich in suffering, but
even richer in love.
115. Saints Louis and Zélie both had desired religious
life, he to be a priest, she a nun. Louis, however,
was unable to master Latin, and Zélie was turned
away from the convent for unexplained reasons.
God, in fact, had other plans. When He revealed
that they were called to marriage, they embraced
their vocation wholeheartedly and desired to have
many children to “bring them up to heaven.”
116. Their marriage would bless the Church in a way far
surpassing even their greatest hopes. They would
raise five daughters, all destined for the convent,
one of whom, Thérèse, would become one of the
most beloved saints of all time, a Doctor of the
Church, the patron saint of missions, and spiritual
mother to millions—even though she died at 24
years of age, never having left the convent after
her entrance at the young age of 15. Her Story of
a Soul reveals that the spirituality of the Little Way
which she made famous was really a discovery of
the deeper meaning of her own childhood, lived
within the circle of the devotion of her family.
117. Married in France in 1858, Louis and Zélie both
worked hard as business owners, creating and
selling a special lace for which their region was
known. They lived modestly and prayerfully, staying
close to the sacraments and never missing an
opportunity to practice charity to their neighbors
and raising their children to do the same.
118. But they knew the suffering of grief intimately.
They would bury two infant sons, and thus surrender
all their hopes for a priest in the family. Two
daughters would also die, one in infancy, one at
the age of five, causing Zélie to admit, “I thought I
would die myself.”
119. The next sacrifice the Lord asked was that of
Zélie’s life—she died of cancer when Thérèse (the
youngest), was only four years old. Louis carried
on with the help of his older girls. But one by one
he would be asked to give them back to God,
too, at the door of the convent, even Thérèse, his
“Little Queen.” In the end he also would offer a final
sacrifice in the form of an illness which took his
health, his independence and his mind. At his last
painful visit to his Carmelite daughters, Thérèse
would never forget her father’s final words to
them. Pointing his finger upwards, he exclaimed
with great effort, “In heaven!”
120. Indeed, they are in heaven, but still always concerned
with the Church militant below. In raising
this married couple to the altars, the Church gives
them to you, mothers and fathers, as witnesses to
the joy of the restorative hope of the Resurrection,
to the grace to bear the heaviest crosses, and to
the sanctity of marriage and family life.
121. God’s generosity knows no bounds. With the simple
faith of Thérèse and her parents, surrender all
and allow Him to restore your family and marriage
to wholeness in the way He knows best.
V. STRENGTHENING FAMILY LIFE
122. What, practically speaking, strengthens family life?
How is the garden of family life most assuredly
planted and cultivated?
Family Plan for Spiritual Life
123. For this 50th Anniversary of our diocese, I have published
for your use a companion to this exhortation,
a Family Prayer Guide. I urge you to use it and
grow in family prayer, strengthening your domestic
church by opening wide the doors to Jesus Christ.
I also entrust to you the following six additional key
areas of growth for your marital and family spiritual
life, two of which I also emphasized in Into the
Breach, my apostolic exhortation to men.
Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy
124. As your spiritual father, few things give me more
joy than when I see fathers and mothers together
leading their families to Mass on Sunday. The Sunday
Eucharistic Liturgy is the height of the week.
If it is not already the case, establish today that
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) Make Sunday Mass attendance a
non-negotiable when it comes to planning the
family calendar, even when the family is away on
125. Here are ways to teach and witness to your children
what it means to “love the Lord your God
with all your heart, soul and strength” by worshipping
Him in the Mass with fervor and reverence: (1)
Dressing for Mass should reflect the solemnity of
the occasion. (2) Arriving for Mass early honors the
Lord, in Whose house we are guests, avoiding rush
whenever possible, to take the time to thank God
in prayer before Mass begins. (3) Showing reverence
in front of Jesus, present in the Tabernacle,
by genuflecting with love and honor every time you
pass in front of Him teaches the truth about His
presence. At that moment, we are in the true presence
of the King! (4) Participating actively in the
Mass by prayerful silence, singing and speaking
the responses with conviction and fervor, and inviting
your children to do the same, teaches them the
language of their Mother, the Church.
"As for me and my house, we will serve
the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).
126. On Sunday, the entire day can and should be lived
in a holy way, with prayer and good time together
and fun. When Sunday is lived so as to truly
become in every Christian home the Lord’s Day,
a special day to praise Him, receive Him in the
Eucharist, dwell joyfully in His love and with each
other as a holy communion of love, I am convinced
that the New Evangelization of our tired Christian
West will flourish.
127. In her Precepts, our Mother Church requires of us
to go to confession a minimum of once per year.
In some areas of the world, this is difficult to manage,
but here we have access to the Sacrament
much more often. I encourage you not to settle for
minimalism as an individual or as a family. Monthly
confession, with parents leading the whole family
to the Sacrament, is an indelible memory for a
child, and a great aid to the soul.
128. When we are aggravated and fighting in the family,
when tempers are short and patience is thin, it is
time for a spiritual cleansing. Teach your children
to go to confession regularly, once per month, and
you will instill in them a habit that will guard their
soul throughout their lives. I can think of few other
things you can do for them that would have a
more lasting positive effect in their lives, and bring peace to your home.
Daily (as often as possible) Family Meal
129. The regular meal together as a family has a certain
grace to it, a spiritual gravity and ability to foster
discovery of each other over time. One social
study found this regular meal to be the number
one family habit that led to children’s success in
school. It is hard to imagine a more effective step
toward family communion outside the sacraments.
St. John Chrysostom, the first saint to teach the
“little church” of the home, in a homily speaking to
Christian parents about their homes, advised two
special places that parents should create: one was
a special prayer “table” analogous to where the
Scriptures are read in church—the other the family
dinner table—analogous to the altar where the
Eucharist is shared. The family meal, as unrushed
as possible, is where real encounters happen between
parents and children, between siblings and
members outside the immediate family.
130. This is one of the reasons Satan is committed to
filling up our lives with other things to do. The
more busy we make ourselves in giving in to this
temptation, the more difficult it will be to sit down
to eat as a family. I urge you to resist this. Families
need to disconnect from the world’s pace, be
present to one another and break bread together.
If dinner becomes too difficult, consider making
breakfast the family meal. It is worth the adjustment, and any sacrifices entailed.
". . . be present to one another and break
Prioritize Time Together as Spouses
131. Perhaps not initially obvious as part of a plan for
spiritual life is the necessity of a regular time away,
a date night or other form of consistent time alone
together as spouses. Relationships are built with
the material of time; there is no substitute for good
time away together. Recall how in the Gospels, Jesus,
though he was God Himself, took regular time
away from His disciples to be alone with His Father.
As spouses, time away from household tasks and
. . . be present to one another and break
children is a fundamental source of renewal for
132. The type of time away is less important than the
commitment to it; spousal loneliness, which is
common in marriage, is denied a foothold as you
nurture the love you committed to at the altar. One
concrete suggestion; adoration of the Blessed
Sacrament as a couple periodically is some of the
best time you can spend. The Lord rejoices in your
spousal love, He wants it to mature in your hearts
as you grow in holiness together.
133. A magnificent additional commitment is an annual
weekend retreat as spouses. We priests are
required to take a significant annual retreat as a
spiritual time away with the Lord. Your vocation is
no less important than ours, and planning a retreat
together annually will refresh your marital spirituality.
Technology in the Home: Establish Clear Digital Boundaries
134. Without establishing clear boundaries for digital
devices at home, your “plan for spiritual life” can
easily be undermined and even sabotaged. The
digital era has brought about great opportunities
to spread the Gospel, but we cannot remain naïve
to the reality that technology can also bring about
harm and even great evil to our homes. Pornography, violence, profanity, endless ideologies and
angry political material are often available at the
palm of your children’s hands. Therefore, parents
must be careful about allowing their children the
use of electronic devices, including phones, which
today are hand-held portals to the Internet. Dear
parents, it is my strong advice that whenever possible,
you allow your children to be children, delay
access to these digital devices and then restrict
their use in favor of real play, real conversation, and real friendship.
135. I have known families that do not allow television
and computers to be placed in private rooms, but
only in more public spaces. Some have set specific
times or curfews for the use of portable devices.
Other families have decided not to allow access
to portable devices until their children are ready
to drive, or when there may be a need to know
where they are in an emergency. All of these can
be thoughtful solutions. You as parents know your
children better than anyone else and must make
those choices through prayer and discernment as
well as knowledge of the addictive nature of these
devices, a well-documented phenomenon. But
make no mistake, you must have a plan, because
technology has a logic to it, and the logic is “keep
looking at the screen.” The gift of your time, which
is a non-renewable resource, is given to you by
God for experiencing real life.
Our Lady of Guadalupe: Evangelist Extraordinaire
136. In 1531, while half a world away the Protestant Revolution
was dividing Christ’s Church, the Mother
of Our Lord started a beautiful unification of divided
peoples in America. A Native American man
named Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mary
as he was headed to a catechesis class to learn his
new Faith as a convert. There at a hill in what is
now Mexico City, named Tepeyac, Our Lady gave
Juan Diego an odd and seemingly impossible mission:
approach and convince the local bishop, as a
poor peasant, to build a new church on this hill in
a remote area. The bishop initially was skeptical of
his story. Embarrassed, Juan Diego tried to avoid
encountering Our Lady again.
137. But on the morning of December 12, Juan Diego
ran out of his house looking for a priest to administer
last rites to his dying uncle, and Our Lady
appeared once again, saying: “Am I not here, who
am your Mother? Are you not under my protection?
Am I not your health? Are you not happily
within my fold? What else do you need? Do not
grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”
138. Mary assured Juan Diego that his uncle wouldn’t
die. In fact, he was already cured. Then, a miracle
that would change the world occurred. She
instructed Juan Diego to cut a bouquet of fresh
Castilian roses from the top of Tepeyac hill, which
were miraculously growing in the high-altitude winter
ground. Juan Diego cut as many as he could,
placed them in his overgarment, called a tilma, and headed to see the bishop.
139. Allowed again into Bishop Zumarraga’s residence,
Juan Diego displayed the content of his tilma.
The flowers fell to the floor and appearing on the
garment was the image that we now know as Our
Lady of Guadalupe. At the sight of the image, the
bishop and his advisors fell to their knees in reverence.
The bishop then proceeded quickly to build
a church at the site as Our Lady had requested.
140. Remarkably, as many millions were leaving the
Catholic faith in Europe due to corruption in the
Church and the devastating rebellion of Luther and
others in the Protestant Reformation, within one
decade of the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
some 10 million Native Americans came to the
Faith with the help of Jesus’ mother and a humble
native man. The terrible pagan practice of human
sacrifice came to an end in America; the unconquerable
divide between the Spanish colonialists
and the native peoples was conquered.
Marian Consecration of your Home
141. This is a true story of faith, obedience, Mary’s intercession
and God’s grace. Dare we hope that our
faith and obedience, Mary’s intercession and God’s
grace can work a miracle again today amid our
own pervasive culture of death and divided families? I invite you to dare with me.
142. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of America,
and of the Diocese of Phoenix. Her intercession
for our families is key to winning the spiritual battle
again in our time. My dear sons and daughters,
if you haven’t done so already, invite Our Lady to
dwell with you through consecrating your home to
Jesus through her Immaculate Heart. I ask every
family in our Diocese to place an image of Our
Lady of Guadalupe in a special place, perhaps your
prayer space, in your home. You can make of it a
special occasion, and perhaps invite a priest or a
deacon to bless the image while he also blesses
143. According to Fr. Michael Gaitley, an expert on the
history of Mary’s rare but real miraculous appearances
on the earth, the second largest consecration
to Our Lady in history is taking place here and
now, in the United States, and I am greatly encouraged
by this fact. The last nation our Blessed
Mother brought this close to her Son was Poland
in the 20th Century, which despite much suffering,
gave us a constellation of saints made up of Maximilian
Kolbe, Faustina Kowalska, and the Pope of
the Family, John Paul II.
144. “The only failure in life is not to become a saint.”
This is true. This is indeed true for every member
of your family, and we need all the help we can get. Our Lady will help us to the halls of Heaven with her prayers.
145. “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being
that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is
senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does
not encounter love, if he does not experience it
and make it his own, if he does not participate
intimately in it. This, as has already been said, is
why Christ the Redeemer fully reveals man to himself.”
146. Let me conclude this exhortation with one more
witness to the Gospel, a saint, a man’s man, and
a holy one who changed my life personally. I was
blessed to work with him directly at the Holy See
for nine years, and most of what I know about leading and being a spiritual father comes from him.
147. It was from his father and mother, and his only
brother Edmund too, that young Karol Wojtyla
(now known as St. John Paul II) discovered the
beauty and nobility of love. In the daily rhythm of
the Wojtyla home in Wadowice, worshipping the
Lord together every Sunday, praying before meals
and in the evening, the future pope experienced
and made his own the love of God that was revealed
in its fullness through Jesus, the Son of God
and Son of Mary.
148. Then, while facing with his Dad the tragic deaths of
his Mom and brother, the love of Jesus took ever
greater root in young Karol’s life. With the death of
his Dad, shortly after his own 20th birthday, he experienced
the loneliness of having no earthly family
member with whom to share the joys and sorrows,
the hopes and dreams of human life; yet by
divine providence he had already received through
them a great gift which many of our contemporaries
do not know. Fr. George Rutler describes it
this way: “…a woman being a woman and a man
being a man do not play roles unless the roles are
part of a divine drama of creation. This creation of
man and woman was God’s greatest outpouring of
“This creation of man and woman was God’s
greatest outpouring of perfection...”
(Fr. George Rutler)
149. Dear husbands and wives, mothers and fathers,
whom I have the privilege to serve as a spiritual
father, let your hearts rejoice anew at God’s call
to bear witness to Jesus and His Gospel by loving
one another in the very family in which you now are
living. You are not alone as you face the sorrows
and struggles, the lights and shadows, that are part
of family life. Recall Jesus’ promise, “Know that I
am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)
150. It is not by chance that Jesus called you and me to
be His witnesses at this troubled time in history, in
the post-sexual revolution confusion. Now, He is
calling us to know, love and serve Him in the “final battle about marriage and family” of which Sister Lucia wrote.
151. We walk side by side with many whose experiences
have led them to think that the nature of the family
is “a jungle, not a garden.” For reasons known only
to Christ, He has chosen you whom He has joined
in marriage to be, at this time in history, an icon of
His love for His Bride the Church. When you make
sacrifices, then, for one another, when you encourage
and forgive each other, when you worship the
Lord together, when you welcome children and
raise them in the practice of the Catholic faith, you
are helping our skeptical generation to believe that
free, total, faithful and fruitful love is still possible.
Indeed, nothing is impossible with God; trust Him
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, you who lived family
most heroically, pray for us!
Promulgated December 30, 2018: Holy Family Sunday
1. Pope Francis shares this history remarkably in his 2016 exhortation on the family The Joy of Love, Chapter 1.
2. Familiaris Consortio, 17.
3. Benedict XVI. Homily on Holy Family Sunday. (Dec 28, 2009).
4. Familiaris Consortio, 51-52.
5. “Fatima visionary predicted ‘final battle’ would be over marriage, family.” Catholic News Agency (July 8, 2016).
6. One only has to think of the high percentage (over 75%) of couples living together before marriage, the widespread and
almost normative experience of divorce, easy and sometimes
coercive access to contraception and abortion, legal and
cultural attempts to redefine marriage, the rapid rise of gender
ideology and its harmful deceptions, hostility towards
authentic masculinity and femininity, the pervasive problem
of substance abuse and addiction, the spread of depression
and loneliness even among children, the plague of pornography,
and the alienating and addictive effects of excessive technology.
7. Unlike the rosebush or rhinoceros, our greatness and dignity
as God’s image and likeness on Earth demands that our
free-will be part of the process of being. However, we are still
first receivers of a nature, as complex as it might be compared to lesser creatures.
8. Jennifer Roback-Morse.
9. C.S. Lewis. The Four Loves
10. Gaudium et Spes, 50.
11. St. John Chrysostom. An Address on Vainglory, and the Right
Way for Parents to Bring Up Children.
12. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2223
13. Familiaris Consortio, 75.
14. Familiaris Consortio, 17.
15. Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I.
16. CCC, 2342.
17. Gaudium et Spes, 50.
18. Ryan T. Anderson. “The Consequences of Redefining Marriage.” Address at Salt Lake Community College. (March 31, 2014)
19. Edith Stein. “Ethos of Woman’s Professions” in Essays on Women, p. 44.
20. Erica Komisar, Being There. Decades of research “confirms
the more time a woman can devote to the joy and job of
mothering a child in the first three years, “the better the
chance her child will be emotionally secure and healthy throughout his life.”
21. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. Into the Breach. (2015).
22. Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner. “The Demographic Characteristics
of the Linguistic and Religious Groups in Switzerland”
by of the Federal Statistical Office, Neuchatel. The study appears
in Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31, a book titled
The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in
Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others,
published by the Council of Europe Directorate General III,
Social Cohesion, Strasbourg, January 2000.
23. Familiaris Consortio, 17
24. Benedict XVI. Deus Caritas Est, 1.
25. Pope St. Paul VI. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41.
26. These can include various parish small family groups,
Teams of Our Lady, Domestic Church Groups, Marriage
Encounter, Couples for Christ and other apostolates.
27. Confessions of St. Augustine. Book 3, Chapter 12.
28. For assistance in discerning your gifts and what opportunities
exist for service to families, contact the Office of Marriage
and Respect Life, or in Spanish, the Office of Hispanic
Parish Leadership Support and the Office of Hispanic Mission.
29. Notice the contrast here to the message of the “prosperity gospel” so prevalent in our current culture.
30. Gordon Rayner. “Minister Orders Inquiry into 4,000 Percent
Increase in Children Wanting to Change Sex.” The Telegraph. (Sept. 16, 2018).
31. Reprinted from “The Co-Worker Newsletter” Spring/Summer 1989 and is distributed by Family Life Council, Inc.
32. For a deep and helpful look at the effects of divorce on the family, see Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, edited by Leila Miller.
33. Venerable Fulton Sheen. Characters of the Passion.
34. Nicholas Healy. Address to Mini-Synod on the Family. Phoenix (2018)
35. Venerable Fulton Sheen. Lift Up Your Heart.
36. “The Importance of Family Dinners IV.” Study by CASA. Columbia University (2007).
37. St. John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, 10.