families & challenges

Nov 6, 2013

Today the preparatory document for next year’s Synod of Bishops titled “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization” was published in Rome.  It is brief, to the point, and gives the opportunity for all the people of God to contribute to the pre-synodal deliberations. The first two parts of the document provide an introduction with a summary of theological and historical background. Part three lists a few questions and invites responses from each local church (diocese). 


It might be tempting to skip the first two sections of the document and jump directly to the questions as did this morning’s Press article (“Vatican seeks Kiwis’ views on thorny issues” p.A7). While the “questions” section does seek to discover details of the current church reality, it would be unfortunate (to say the least) if the great potential of the exercise was reduced to be a mere collation of unformed opinions about and reactions to the challenges of contemporary family life.

This is the reason for the albeit brief first two sections of the document which provide some background and formation about the context within which Catholics are invited to respond to the questionaire.

Perhaps a metaphor is helpful: 

If I were to survey a classroom of five year old children about matters of diet, their responses would be humourously predictable. No doubt it would be their choice to live on ice-cream and cake, and they might even opt to ban all vegetables from supermarket shelves.  

Also, at this age, children play games that might resemble adult life, without having to worry too much about responsibilities. The five year old “doctor” or “nurse” can wander off to another game while teddy lies on the play-room floor in the middle of heart surgery. 

Wise parents and teachers will soon begin to teach their toddlers that actions require responsibility and decisions have consequences. Fortunately most parents have learnt a lot from their own upbringing and experience. A wise parent will also not only listen to the opinions of other parents on how to raise their children, but their desire to ‘get-it-right’ will lead them to ask grandparents for advice, and to consult those who have researched what has worked and failed throughout the history of raising happy and healthy children.

And so to today’s questionaire. As you consider the text and the questions, let your own responses be informed by the rich tradition of family (from history, diverse cultural wisdom, and from the Christian and Catholic tradition), as well as by your own personal experience of and hopes for family life.

“Creating the human race in his own image 
and continually keeping it in being, 
God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, 
and thus the capacity and responsibility, 
of love and communion (Gaudium et spes, 12). 
Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation 
of every human being” (FC, 11)”.


The images below are of St Joseph and the child Jesus: “Adoption” sculpted by Christopher Slatoff, in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles.


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