Friday, August 28, 2015

The Choice of the Family (Image Books)

The World Meeting of Families and the Synod on the Family is quickly approaching and we as Catholics are woefully uninformed and misinformed on it. We are also in a constant state of fear about the outcome of this synod. We fear, without merit, that the Church is going to fall, and that same-sex unions will now be performed in Catholic Churches worldwide. Let me assure you that the Church has been the same for 2000 years and will not be doing any such thing! Instead of focusing on the absurd negative outcomes that could come from this synod, we need to focus on the positive of it and what it can teach us about family life. To prepare for these two monumental invents, I recommend a diet of prayer and reading. One such work that I am reading is The Choice of the Family by Bishop Jean Laffitte who is the Head of the Pontifical Council on the Family.

The Choice of the Family is a series of interviews Bishop Laffitte conducted with Pierre and VĂ©ronique Sanchez. Before diving into the subjects of marriage and family, the Sanchezes ask Bishop Laffitte to tell who he is. He begins by telling us that he is from a large family, and that he is the twelfth of twelve children. They were six boys and six girls and his father was a surgeon. He points this out because, there is a history of doctors in the family, which included his mother's father and his mother's brothers. His parents were a great example of love for him, and they were both practicing Catholics who went to Mass at least weekly and frequently more often. Their Christian education was more than just verbally taught. It was lived! He also learned humility from them, and the seriousness of not blindly accepting one's faith but questioning it and nurturing it to grow. He then goes on to talk about the challenges that he and others faced with the changes from Vatican II and the call to his priestly vocation. I thoroughly enjoyed this section of the book, and feel that brief biographies should be included in every Catholic book. It really puts their thoughts into proper context if you know their history.

The book then has five more chapters, which discuss engagement, covenants, marriage, parenthood, single people, divorced people, and many other topics. When discussing marriage as a covenant, he compares it to the covenant that God made with the people of Israel and still maintains with the Church. He also explains that a covenant and contract are not the same, and that love is a gift and not a loan. Laffitte then goes on to discuss the dangers of cohabitation and that divorce is higher among those who cohabitate together. Not focusing on the negative, he then discusses the benefits of marriage preparation and firmly believes that an engaged couple should meet with a priest and a mentoring couple before their marriage. My wife and I participated in both of these as well as a retreat, and we found them all helpful and edifying.

The section on divorce and remarriage particularly caught my interest. I have very strong views on the subject, so I wanted to see what Bishop Laffitte's views were and if our two views aligned. I admit I was surprised at the way he chose to approach the topic. He said, "The question s not first of all a moral one but rather is a matter of taking into account the very nature of the Eucharist, what it is, and what Eucharistic Communion implies." What that means in basic terms is that Christ was present and played a part in the covenant you made with your first marriage, assuming it was a valid marriage. Therefore, it is impossible for him to "uncommit" from the first marriage and commit to a new marriage. He also explains the history of why divorced and re-married people feel slighted in not being allowed to receive Communion. Until the past twenty years, people were more aware of their sin and abstained from receiving Communion, so divorced and re-married people were not the only people who abstained from Communion. Now, it seems that they are the only ones who do not receive Communion. This is not a shift in Church teaching, but a shift in members of the Church who choose to ignore or justify their sins, instead of going to Confession.

This published interview is not your typical yes/no interview. The questions are thought-provoking and open-ended, and the answers are elaborately explained without being overly academic. As I was reading through this book, I found myself nodding my head constantly with what Bishop Laffitte was saying. He didn't speak against or undermine Church teachings, but he explained the truth of the Church's teachings in a voice of authority and a voice of love. He also demonstrated that he has applied the Church's teachings through many years of service as a priest, and that his arguments for the family and traditional marriage are not merely scholarly views of an academic. If you are looking for an approachable book to the subject of marriage and family, then I highly recommend this book. And if you act now, it's a steal on Amazon at less than $10 for a hardcover!

This book was provided to me for free by Image Books in exchange for an honest review.