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So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.—2 Thessalonians 2:15

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A rhapsody: the Beauty of the Family; the Beauty of The Mass

The heart of society is the family. The Heart of the family is Jesus Christ. The Heart of the family is found and nurtured through prayer. For the Catholic, the heart of the family, then, is the Mass.

If the Mass is ugly, the family will be impoverished. If the wellspring of grace given to the Church for families so that parents and children may grow in holiness is obscured by heterodox preaching, contortions of the sacred Liturgy, abuse of the very Body and Blood of Christ, then appreciation for the Heart, i.e., Jesus Christ, will be lessened or lost. The true sense of charity and holiness is lost among various abuses heaped on the Mass.

What makes the Mass beautiful? For starters:
  • Loving attention to detail. Knowledge of Jesus Christ is found in the enticing signs and symbols found in every care-filled, lovingly celebrated liturgy.
  • The Penitential Act is (or should be) truly humbling. The Penitential Act reminds us of our dignity in Jesus Christ and our responsibility to strive for holiness, to speak the truth in love as bearers of God's mercy to a broken world.
  • The Readings are (or should be) proclaimed prayerfully. The homily is orthodox, Christ-centred (not priest centred!) and focussed on the readings.
  • The offerings are received in peace and the consecration is celebrated with great deference to the Mystery of Faith.
  • Holy Communion is received with great reverence.
  • The prayers are prayed with true intent.
  • Avoidance of cheap, cosmetic accretions—e.g., awkward improvisations and unsanctioned (non-rubrical) introductions that are foreign to the Roman Liturgy—that obscure the (super)natural beauty of the Divine Liturgy.
  • The music is reverential, oriented to God (i.e., the music speaks to God, not at or around Him), is of the highest quality (sacred polyphony and chant) both in terms of its composition and presentation.
  • Silence is observed at the appointed times to allow the People of God to hear the voice of God and to respond to His Word and Real Presence among us with great solemnity and simplicity of heart. Without silence there can be little or no discovery of peace, the peace which passes all understanding. The peace which only Jesus Christ can give to families.
We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become.—St. Clare of Assisi

Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.—St. Francis of Assisi

The family or domestic church is the hope of the world. Peace begins in the home. Love begins in the home. Knowledge of Jesus Christ begins in the home. Faith is practiced by parents who share with their children their faith in, hope in and love for Jesus. If the world is to have peace, then each nation, each town or city must be at peace. If each community is to be at peace, then families must be at peace. If families are to find peace, then individuals must find peace in the only one Who can nurture in them authentic, deep and lasting peace: Jesus Christ mediated in and through His Holy Catholic Church. We do we find that peace? Where do we find Jesus? In the Mass.

The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are.—St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

The Catholic Christian Faith is as much caught as it is taught. We are baptized into the Faith, into the Incarnation, life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, where do parents catch the Faith? They caught it first from their own parents. They catch Faith in Jesus Christ from siblings, friends and strangers, and by reading Holy Scripture and the lives of the saints. They catch the Faith in the home of homes—Holy Mass, where Christ is most profoundly present.

The parish is the family of families. The diocese is the community of communities. The Church is the communion of churches under the one earthly head, the Bishop of Rome—the bishop of bishops, father of fathers, Servant of the Servants of God (Servus servorum Dei).

What makes a beautiful family?
  • Trusting in the goodness and mercy of God and putting His will first before all else.
  • Prayer: liturgical and personal. The Catholic life is a complemented life. That is, for family life to be fully realized it is complemented by public (liturgical) and personal (private) prayer. The Catholic Faith is both personal and public. Teaching one's children to pray is the greatest gift a parent can give to a child, for in learning to pray a child walks closer to God. The home is the font of vocations. Imagine the thrill of fostering a future priest. Do your best to nurture in your child a love of God and His Church.
  • Seeking wisdom. Listening to the Word of God which is, of course, the voice of God. Being attentive to the preaching and guidance of one's spiritual father, the parish priest.
  • Confession. Going to confession purifies the soul so that one, freed of obstacles to grace, can hear the word of God and receive Holy Communion and be at peace, a peace which nourishes the souls of others.
  • Self-sacrificing love. Venerating and delighting in one's spouse and putting the good of the other first.
  • Offering loving attention to one's children and teaching them how to pray. Do not ignore your children. Teach them manners so they do not interrupt; set boundaries. Do not let your children run around at Mass. The church is more a school of prayer, a classroom and not a playground.
  • Working hard to provide material support and comfort for one's family.
  • Serving Christ in the poor and teaching others to serve the poor by being a hand of mercy. Practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
  • Teaching one's children to live the Faith boldly for the love of God and neighbour. Virtue and humility are taught. So, then, teach! Take it from a public educator. The best students are the ones who have learned virtue in the home from parents who modelled virtue and who have taught their children ownership of one's responsibilities, parents who have promoted excellence, diligence, honesty, conscientious behaviour and compassion for others, organization and what it means to be a good citizen.
If we acknowledge that being a good parent is much the same as being a good disciple, then we disciples had best place ourselves at the feet of the Master and learn from His way, His truth and His life. To do that, we must embrace the Cross and live a life of self sacrificing love that flows from our dignity as christians. To do that, we must find Christ. And where is Christ found? In the Mass!

Quotes from Familiaris Consortio by Pope (St.) John Paul II.
The Precious Value of Marriage and of the Family 
3. Illuminated by the faith that gives her an understanding of all the truth concerning the great value of marriage and the family and their deepest meaning, the Church once again feels the pressing need to proclaim the Gospel, that is the "good news," to all people without exception, in particular to all those who are called to marriage and are preparing for it, to all married couples and parents in the world.

The Church is deeply convinced that only by the acceptance of the Gospel are the hopes that man legitimately places in marriage and in the family capable of being fulfilled.

Willed by God in the very act of creation,(3) marriage and the family are interiorly ordained to fulfillment in Christ(4) and have need of His graces in order to be healed from the wounds of sin(5) and restored to their "beginning,"(6) that is, to full understanding and the full realization of God's plan.
 
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6. On the one hand, in fact, there is a more lively awareness of personal freedom and greater attention to the quality of interpersonal relationships in marriage, to promoting the dignity of women, to responsible procreation, to the education of children. There is also an awareness of the need for the development of interfamily relationships, for reciprocal spiritual and material assistance, the rediscovery of the ecclesial mission proper to the family and its responsibility for the building of a more just society. On the other hand, however, signs are not lacking of a disturbing degradation of some fundamental values: a mistaken theoretical and practical concept of the independence of the spouses in relation to each other; serious misconceptions regarding the relationship of authority between parents and children; the concrete difficulties that the family itself experiences in the transmission of values; the growing number of divorces; the scourge of abortion; the ever more frequent recourse to sterilization; the appearance of a truly contraceptive mentality.

At the root of these negative phenomena there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God's plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one's own selfish well-being.
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8. The education of the moral conscience, which makes every human being capable of judging and of discerning the proper ways to achieve self-realization according to his or her original truth, thus becomes a pressing requirement that cannot be renounced. 
Modern culture must be led to a more profoundly restored covenant with divine Wisdom. Every man is given a share of such Wisdom through the creating action of God. And it is only in faithfulness to this covenant that the families of today will be in a position to influence positively the building of a more just and fraternal world.
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Marriage and the Eucharist
57. The Christian family's sanctifying role is grounded in Baptism and has its highest expression in the Eucharist, to which Christian marriage is intimately connected. The Second Vatican Council drew attention to the unique relationship between the Eucharist and marriage by requesting that "marriage normally be celebrated within the Mass."(144) To understand better and live more intensely the graces and responsibilities of Christian marriage and family life, it is altogether necessary to rediscover and strengthen this relationship.

The Eucharist is the very source of Christian marriage. The Eucharistic Sacrifice, in fact, represents Christ's covenant of love with the Church, sealed with His blood on the Cross.(145) In this sacrifice of the New and Eternal Covenant, Christian spouses encounter the source from which their own marriage covenant flows, is interiorly structured and continuously renewed. As a representation of Christ's sacrifice of love for the Church, the Eucharist is a fountain of charity. In the Eucharistic gift of charity the Christian family finds the foundation and soul of its "communion" and its "mission": by partaking in the Eucharistic bread, the different members of the Christian family become one body, which reveals and shares in the wider unity of the Church. Their sharing in the Body of Christ that is "given up" and in His Blood that is "shed" becomes a never-ending source of missionary and apostolic dynamism for the Christian family.

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Educators in Prayer 
60. By reason of their dignity and mission, Christian parents have the specific responsibility of educating their children in prayer, introducing them to gradual discovery of the mystery of God and to personal dialogue with Him: "It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and the office of the sacrament of Matrimony, that from the earliest years children should be taught, according to the faith received in Baptism, to have a knowledge of God, to worship Him and to love their neighbor."(151) 
The concrete example and living witness of parents is fundamental and irreplaceable in educating their children to pray. Only by praying together with their children can a father and mother-exercising their royal priesthood-penetrate the innermost depths of their children's hearts and leave an impression that the future events in their lives will not be able to efface. Let us again listen to the appeal made by Paul VI to parents: "Mothers, do you teach your children the Christian prayers? Do you prepare them, in conjunction with the priests, for the sacraments that they receive when they are young: Confession, Communion and Confirmation? Do you encourage them when they are sick to think of Christ suffering to invoke the aid of the Blessed Virgin and the saints Do you say the family rosary together? And you, fathers, do you pray with your children, with the whole domestic community, at least sometimes? Your example of honesty in thought and action, joined to some common prayer, is a lesson for life, an act of worship of singular value. In this way you bring peace to your homes: Pax huic domui. Remember, it is thus that you build up the Church."(152)

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

We are not just material beings, but spiritual persons with a need for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment that transcends the visible confines of this world. This longing for transcendence is a longing for truth, goodness, and beauty. Truth, goodness, and beauty are called the transcendentals of being, because they are aspects of being. Everything in existence has these transcendentals to some extent. God, of course, as the source of all truth, goodness, and beauty, has these transcendentals to an infinite degree. Oftentimes, He draws us to Himself primarily through one of these transcendentals. St. Augustine, who was drawn to beauty in all its creaturely forms, found the ultimate beauty he was seeking in God, his creator, the beauty “ever ancient, ever new.”―Sister Gabriella Yi, O.P.