Light in the Darkness – by Dobie Moser, D. Min

SupportingCatholicFamilies

We were that “Church family.” House decorated for liturgical seasons, seven children, family service projects, music lessons, chore charts, family meetings and retreats, on our third copy of Prayers for the Domestic Church.

We loved and celebrated the sacraments that nourished our family life. We imagined we could handle whatever came our way by transforming obstacles into achievements. We had the plan and followed it: Work and do our part. Hope for the best and share hope with others. Pray that God would guide and bless our efforts. Why did we think vulnerability and suffering would not be part of our life story?

We were slow to realize the extent of our son’s illness. Early-onset schizophrenia is rare. Yet the challenges presented by his escalating illness gradually took over our family life. We read books and sought help everywhere.

Despite all our efforts, our son’s condition worsened, and hospitalizations and medications were required. He was admitted to a juvenile residential facility for severe mental illness. We were happy for the respite but longed to have him home with us.

“He can’t come home,” stated his doctor. “You have to think of your other children and your little girl. She has grown up with this chaos.” At that moment, the contagious quality of his disease was laid bare. Indeed, three of our children have been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of their brother’s psychotic episodes and expressions of paranoid delusions and hallucinations.

The plan we had long been using, “Work – Hope – Pray,” was not working. We were in a new and unexpected place, unsure of where to turn. The words of Simon Peter became our anchor: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” (John 6:68).

The surprising answer was a change in the order of our plan.

Pray – Take our joys, gratitude, fears, and pain to God and trust that God is in control in ways we are not. We now make time to read Scripture, reflect, listen, and share the deepest yearnings of our hearts with the Lord.

Hope – Our prayer helped us to have the courage to hope for that which is unseen and invisible. Hope is an act of imagination and courage, allowing us to see beyond what is and to see with our inner eye what might and what ought to be. Christian hope guided us into that place where we had not yet been, and into becoming the persons we have not yet become.

Work – Our prayer and hope informs and directs our work in a way it had not before. Moral clarity requires that when you have the tools available to lessen the suffering of others that you must take action to do so.

There are still tremendous needs for our son and all who suffer from mental illness. Rooted in prayer and anchored in hope, we work together to do God’s work on behalf of all who suffer.

Greg “Dobie” Moser, D. Min, is the Executive Director, Youth and Young Adult Ministry and CYO in the Diocese of Cleveland. He holds an MA in Family Systems Counseling and his doctoral work focused on leadership development within the family. He and his wife, Lisa, are proud parents of seven children.

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All Love Bears Fruit – by David M. Thomas

SupportingCatholicFamilies

Like other dutiful and thoughtful dads and moms on the road, I frequently returned from trips with treats for our children. When they were young, these gifts were expected. It was what they asked about as soon as I arrived home. Often their interest was stated in an almost formulaic question: What did you bring us?

There were good reasons behind their desire for a souvenir. Besides self-interest, they felt if I truly loved and missed them (which I did), I would give them something that showed it. Love without some tangible sign seemed unreal to them. Paraphrasing a Broadway song, if you say that you love me, show me.

They were right, of course. Genuine love is creative. It is also productive and generative. It makes a difference. It is why St. John Paul II called the family “a community of love.” Papal teachings often call the family “a school of love.” It is hopefully where all of us first experience genuine love, Christian altruistic love, a love that deepens our lives.

As Christians, we know everything that exists, from the universe to our personal existence, can be traced back to an ultimate source: God’s love. God’s love is deeply creative. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here – or anywhere!

Hidden in Vatican II’s wonderful words on marriage and family life (The Church in the Modern World, paragraphs 47-52) we find, “Marriage and married love are by nature ordered to the procreation and education of children.” That single sentence was carefully constructed by a special committee of the council and not without some very serious discussion.

To grasp the impact of this sentence, we have to recall how this same idea was stated in earlier church documents. Basically it was this: Children are the result of the sexual union of husband and wife. The new conciliar teaching replaced “sexual union” with the phrase “married love.” This pointed to a much more complete, more Christian understanding of procreation. Basically, the council stated that at the source of new life is not only the joining of bodies, but an enactment of human love. The love that exists between husband and wife is holy, sanctifying and creative, and leads to the creation of new life.

Deep down, this pattern of love generating life mirrors the way God loves. God’s love is essentially fertile and fruitful. And as created in Gods image, so too is all human love. All genuine acts of human love, including those in marriage and family life, contribute to God’s good creation, now and forever.

David M. Thomas has been a leader in Catholic Family Ministry for many years. He holds a Ph. D. in Systematic and Historical Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life and as a Peritus to the U.S. Bishops, World Synod on Family in 1980. He currently serves as Theological consultant to the Bishops of England and Wales, Committee on Marriage and Family. He served as General Editor for the revision of the RCL Benziger’s Family Life Program.

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“Parents for the Future” – Chapter 5 – by Lauri Przybysz, D.Min

SupportingCatholicFamilies

When our son was seven, I held his hand as we walked on a frozen road with his little brothers when he broke away from me and ran ahead. He was so quick, I could only watch in terror and call out, “Wait! Be careful!” By the grace of God he was safe, but it was a defining moment for me as a mother. I realized I wouldn’t be able to protect him forever.

Our children are plunging into a future where we cannot follow them. Before children let go of our hands and run off, their parents and everyone else who loves them, hope to equip them for the journey. We have so much to tell them, if they would only slow down and listen. We try to pass on the traditions of our faith, our holiday customs, our family stories, our favorite recipes, and all our hard-won lessons in life and love. Before they go, we want to give them a sense of security, yet also encourage them to wrestle with new challenges. We want to teach them to be kind, to be respectful of others, and to express themselves honestly. If it were not for the children, why would we care to make anything that lasts? Because of them, we want to build a better world, a cleaner environment, and a more welcoming Church. Before we are gone, we yearn for some assurance that they will carry our values into the next generation. It won’t be enough to just lecture them, though. We must leave them a legacy of faith, hope, and love that they have experienced in words as well as life.

More than what we say, it is how we live and the kind of people we are that makes a difference to our children. If they see that we ourselves are praying, loving, respecting, and learning, then they will be more likely to grow up that way, too.

Our son is now a father of twins, and they have given him many heart-stopping moments already, making their own mistakes, and running blithely into their own futures. I am smiling as I watch him try to keep up with them, and I know that our merciful God is also just.

Dr. Lauri Przybsyz is the Coordinator for Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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