Keeping families Catholic in modern society.

January 1,1999

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

January being the month of the Holy Family, and the family today being in great distress, here are some reflections of a Society of St. Pius X priest, Fr. James Doran, drawing on several years of pastoral experience of family problems in "Traditional" United States parishes today:

Q: What is the essential problem of the family in modern society?

Fr. D: Fathers lack vision, vision of the Fatherhood of God and hence vision of their own fatherhood. They do not see the nobility and obligations of their vocation to manifest the Fatherhood of God in their own households, so their fatherhood disintegrates into a series of disconnected details. They are reduced to "bread-winner", "husband", "dad", etc. They need a re-integrated vision of their vocation and consecration in the sacrament of marriage.

Q: Why is the modern world making things so difficult for the family?

Fr. D: The modern world is against Christ, against nature and for a New World Order. Firstly, in its materialism, rejecting Christ, it rejects supernature and with the whole order of grace, it rejects the saving superstructure of the sacrament of marriage. Secondly, rejecting nature as it was always understood in the past, because technological man supposedly knows better, in the name of being modern it dismantles the natural structure of marriage, bending man and woman out of true to make their natural complementarity into an unnatural tension. Thirdly, in order to build a New World Order it is striving to give the family a new structure which in theory respects all different needs, but in practice divides everyone from everybody else in a planned fragmentation and chaos.

Q: Is all of this primarily a problem of nature or of grace?

Fr. D: It is a problem of both, because fallen nature is irredeemable without grace, but without nature grace has nothing to heal, transform and elevate. Man is one. Grace and nature must integrate. Grace is in itself infinitely higher than nature, but there is no state of grace without some poor nature to receive it. Again, the vision must be integral.

Q: How many percent - speaking generally - do you blame the man, how many percent the woman for today's problems of the family?

Fr. D: 90% the man, 10% the woman. Man was created by God the head of Creation, its leader; woman was created man's help-mate and companion. When Eve fell, and led, Adam was doomed; but only when Adam fell was mankind doomed. His refusing to lead, his being led by her, wounded all creation. Nothing is rectified until man leads, hence Christ, the New Adam, who goes before us, leading us, in carrying the Cross, which is the remedy of the failure to lead. When men refuse to lead, then women become unhinged. Then the part they play in the disaster increases.

Q: How did the destruction of the family take place? Who were the destroyers?

Fr. D: Firstly, the Protestants who took away the Church and put the individual on his own in front of God. This undermined both family and society. God's Heaven is a "communion of saints", a Catholic parish is a community of faithful, but man set on his own loses that sense of the common good. The living community begins to die. Society and family become mere assemblies of individuals. This process was completed by industrialism in the last century. Corrupt governments no longer sought to make of society a living community in which all men work firstly for the common good. Instead, men became mere cogs for profit in an industrial machine which is dead and kills. Profits came first. Families came second. Work was no longer a service to one's fellow-men, but "a job". In fact families are now a liability for the employer, a commodity to be factored into the "breadwinner's" wage. Hence contracts, negotiations, insurance, benefits, strikes, maternity leave, etc. Industrialism was the death of the family.

Q: How can a husband and wife, with the best will in the world, create in the home Catholic order such as they have never seen around them?

Fr. D: Firstly, by a joint vision of the end or purpose, of what they want their Catholic family to be. Secondly, by a joint pursuit of the appropriate and dignified means, to achieve that noble vision. Thirdly, if at all possible, let them associate with at least two other families in pursuit of that end.

Q: Can such a couple, with the best will in the world, stand up to the anti-society as it is today, all around them?

Fr. D: It is a question of grace, constancy and perseverance. The grace must come from their Faith, the sacraments, a priest. The constancy is of great importance, especially on the part of the father. Constancy builds parameters, defines limits, and lets everyone know what they are expected to do. A man cannot lay down the law in his family just by laying it down, still less by ranting and raving, but by his constancy he forms habits and customs which are the greatest support to law. A man who is constant need do little. He takes time with his family. They know what he expects and they act accordingly because he always expects the same thing. Moods do not govern his household, so its members are tranquil, which inspires confidence in him. Because he is constant, he is center and source of unity, author of oneness, authority in the harmony. Taking time with his family now makes his life easier later. Thus he himself benefits from his own constancy. He leads, and, in the Faith, nature is created anew in his family by grace.

Q: Do you know of some good books on rebuilding the family?

Fr. D: Here are three. "Fatherless America" by David Blankenhorn (Harper Perennial, 10, E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022: $14.00) portrays the gravity of the situation and emphasizes the need to get rid of a "divorce mentality". "Raising your children", Integrity vol. II (Angelus Press, 2918 Tracy Ave., Kansas City, MO 64109: $ 18.50) presents a rich variety of topics on the question. Lastly, "Christian Fatherhood" by Stephen Wood (Family Life Center Publications, P.O. Box 6060, Port Charlotte, FL 33949: $12.95) despite its Protestant tone has a strong Catholic foundation, basing the family on the Sacred Heart and on the father's imitating St. Joseph.

Q: How much can these books do?

Fr. D: Without a live teacher, little, unless the family father is himself a man of discipline and vision.

Q: When a married couple comes to you in difficulties, no doubt each case is different, but at the same time probably your diagnosis will run along certain lines, or expectations. What lines? What expectations?

Fr. D: What is the father doing? What did he learn to do, and where? Then I ask the mother, who will inundate me with detailed stories! As for expectations, they vary, depending on how far the disintegration has gone. The minimum to be obtained is constancy, even if the details are small.

Q: And what if one spouse comes to you without the other?

Fr. D: That will usually be the wife who comes without the husband, because the neglect is usually on the side of the husband who therefore does not bother, or refuses, to come. So I listen to the wife and then will try to get hold of the husband because - generally speaking - either he is the source of the problem or he is the one that needs to rectify it. If he comes, it is a good sign. One is liable to be up against masculine pride and ego!

Q: Is the parish priest best placed to help a family and home? If so, why?

Fr. D: The Catholic household being founded on the Gospel, the Holy Eucharist and Penance, then the priest as source of these is indispensable to the Catholic household's well-being. For the priest, this is a most grave obligation, but it is also his priestly fruitfulness. He has no physical children, but he brings forth the image of Christ in his spiritual children.

Q: How much can anyone do to help who is not a parish priest?

Fr. D: Not a great deal, because Catholic marriage is a supernatural mystery between man and wife. Friends can help by giving good example, by listening with compassion and, best of all, by praying.

Q: What is your advice to fellow-priests in today's extra-difficult ministry on these questions?

Fr. D: Learn well the doctrine of the Catholic Church on marriage and family, especially the encyclicals "Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae" of Leo XIII and "Casti Connubii" of Pius XI. Set noble standards for all members of the family. Preach in season and out of season. Do not become romantic or take a sentimental view of marriage problems. They are real. Married life is difficult. Proclaim loudly over the din of the modern world what is the purpose and true good of married life. People need to be given the Catholic vision.

Q: How much can the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius help?

Fr. D: They are an excellent "jump-start" and source of conversion. However the world surrounding us today with its anti-culture is such that retreatants must swim against the current from the moment they leave the Retreat-house. That is why if the principles learned from the Exercises are not continued and supported at parish level, from week to week, they are liable to lose the greater part of their force. However, a half or even quarter loaf can be better than no bread.

Q: What advice can you give to a couple with family struggling far away from any parish or even access to the Spiritual Exercises?

Fr. D: Let husband and wife be united in the effort to pray and to learn the doctrine of the Church They may be far from any regular parish or priest, but their union is still consecrated in holy matrimony, so their home can still be a sanctuary where God is adored. The situation is never hopeless.

Q: How much importance do you give to throwing the TV set out of the home? What about video-tapes?

Fr. D: Television, as television, must be wiped out. As for video-tapes. . . oh dear! If the family father is strong, perhaps, once every six weeks... because if he is weak, even throwing out the TV set does no good, as he will be incapable of organizing the family in other entertainment, which is necessary. Thus without meaning to, he will antagonize his family and their last state is liable to be worse than their first. On the other hand if he is truly head of his family and leads it as it should be lead, then the live communication and interaction amongst the family members will by itself wean the family from its addiction to television. Again, it comes back to fathers!

Q: How much importance do you give to the womenfolk never wearing trousers?

Fr. D: When a woman's mind is informed by the gracious ideal of a lady, she will naturally turn away from such masculine clothing. Perhaps when working she may occasionally slip back into slacks, but if the noble image of woman is regularly presented from the pulpit, with also perhaps a little gentle nudging, she will persevere until feminine dress becomes a habit. "Never trousers" then becomes a reality. On the contrary a "never" on command and demanded immediately is often artificial and lacks foundation because it lacks conviction and rests only on obedience. Actually, most resistance of women to women's dress comes from ignorance of the true role of women.

Q: How much can ignorance be overcome with audio- or video-tapes?

Fr. D: They are useful conveyors of information up to a certain point, but they can never replace the live human teacher (especially not for children!). The Gospel is "incarnated" in and by live human beings. "Faith is by hearing", says St. Paul.

Q: It is known you are a great believer in the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the home. What is the minimum necessary on the part of the family for this Enthronement to be efficacious?

Fr. D: Assuming the parents know what the Enthronement means, they must have at least the desire for God to be truly the center of their home. "Where there's a will, there's a way". With God, good will goes a long way.

Q: Have you any final advice for families, or for family fathers?

Fr. D: The men must move mountains to spend time with their family, especially the children whom they can all too easily ignore. Dear Friends and Benefactors, please find enclosed the summer program at Winona, including the time-table for Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and for Fr. Doran's second workshop on the Family, in early July. Also we are sending out again the overview of one of the encyclicals on marriage, because it is mentioned above.

Happy New Year! The situation is not good, but it is not one in which there is nothing we can do.

Sincerely yours in Christ,