The Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, in her Book: DEAR PARENTS, writes words which pierced my heart this morning: The greatest enemy of any vocation is a divided heart. [ p. 2 – book available from http://www.madonnahouse.org/publications/index.html ].
Why did this pierce my heart?
Because a recent flood of letters and emails from suffering brother priests has me wanting to comment again on the crisis in the priesthood.
Yet, during these Holy Days of the birth of Christ, Prince of Peace, my heart does not believe is the right moment for such an essay.
More important, and rightly, today being the Feast of the Holy Family is a day to be renewed as a member of the great universal family of human persons, the family of Church, one’s immediate family and, as a priest, to remember and be renewed as a true father of every human being.
Most likely, other than the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, virtually every human heart, each one of us, must beg daily of the Holy Spirit the grace to have true purity of heart, that is, an undivided heart.
For myself, and perhaps for many people, the notion, experience, of family is a mixture of love and pain, joy and disappointment, giving and taking.
Certainly while Mary and Joseph assured Jesus of a loving and joyful home we know from Scripture the rest of His extended family were like most families – the fact they wanted to lock Jesus away simply points to the turbulence in relationships within family most of us experience.
The family of human persons across the globe has not yet achieved a true love for one another where we see every other person, irrespective of age, colour, language, social status, culture, religion, gender, etc., etc. as one like myself, therefore truly blood of my blood, brother, sister.
The materialist world, in which we live, creates a persistent darkness which enfeebles our ability to truly see one another as real other person; creates a pervasive emotional neediness, in most persons, were the desire to be loved, comforted, acquire whatever we want, so dominates, the result varies from the horrors of war, terrorism, famine, abortion on the grand scale, to the immediate personal experience of the evil of domestic violence, abuse, abandonment, rejection.
Behind every type of pain in families, parishes, nations, between nations, in each individual human heart, lies a failure to love, that is, a failure to make a true gift of self to other.
It is especially this total self-gifting of Mary through her fiat to being the Mother of Jesus, of Mary to Joseph as his wife within the parameters set by the will of the Father, of Joseph to Mary as husband and to Jesus as guardian-father, and of Jesus, in His love and obedience to Joseph and Mary, where the Holy Family IS the icon, the template, not only for the domestic-church of family, but for the universal Church and the entire human family.
Yes, and for each individual human heart as well.
Given the seemingly endless ways in which the family, in particular Christian families, are under attack these days, my heart believes, following the example of recent Popes, in particular Pope John Paul, every priest, through prayer, truth-speaking, home visits, strengthening of both the domestic-church and the parish as family, must be tireless in our humble, loving service of, and support for, the family.
Not just parents, priests as well, should be immersed anew in the teachings of the Church, the writings of the Popes and Saints on the holy vocation of marriage and family life.
The old adage: “ the family which prayers together stays together”, is as critical for the domestic-church as it is for the parish family.
Obviously the source and summit of our faith, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist, is the prime communal prayer, but increased popular devotions, at both the parish and home level, are critically needed as well.
From the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, this wonderful closing word for today about an aspect of Christmas and family life, indeed of every self-gifting vocation: Christmas is the novitiate through which all wedded lovers must pass to make the most of their holy and awesome vocation to love! [op.cit.p.86]