Tag Archives: Family

What I Really Want from the Synod on the Family

Pope Francis and prelates attend the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SYNOD-CONTRACEPTION and SYNOD-ISLAM Oct. 9, 2014.
Pope Francis and prelates attend the morning session of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SYNOD-CONTRACEPTION and SYNOD-ISLAM Oct. 9, 2014.

By Brian Romer Niemiec

A few days into the Synod on the Family, and we have already seen a wide range of topics and opinions being presented and discussed in Rome. Any hesitation or passivity that may have been present at the beginning of the extraordinary synod last year has been thrown away.  It is no secret that these upcoming conversations are going to be a conversion experience for all involved if the synod is to speak with one voice at the end of its time together (naïvely optimistic, I know).

These hot button issues are incredibly important subjects to discuss, and I am very gratified by many of the people present at the synod for wanting to work through these topics to find a life-giving truth for the betterment of Christian families.  I was, however, even more delighted to hear some of the bishops request time to talk about less sexy, but no less important issues surrounding ways to support and strengthen family life within Church communities.

It is this question – one of many – that I am wrestling with now in my parish collaborative. I see families in both churches with various levels of need in the area of faith formation.  There is the family that comes to mass every Sunday, volunteers in a number of parish activities, and prays as a family at home.  There is also the family that shows up only to mass on weekends with Religious Education, and when asked why they attend class the oldest son responds, “Well, my grandmother thinks it is important, so my mom makes us all go.”

Continue reading What I Really Want from the Synod on the Family


Pope Francis on the Family… and Beyond

By Matt Keppel

Two weekends ago, I had the immense blessing to be in Philadelphia to witness the beautiful representative of the Catholic Church that is Pope Francis. The conference that he was attending, and closing, was on the family and the life of the family within the Church. Following the World Meeting of Families, he is going to follow up his historic visit to the United States with the Synod on the Family. So, it would seem that family is significant on Francis’s list. After listening to him multiple times this weekend, I can attest to what he believes about the life of the family: love.

Just as Francis has been clear about some issues regarding families, he has been interestingly vague on others. On nearly every street corner in Philadelphia the throngs of people were confronted by men, young and old, asking us (mostly men, really) to sign a petition intended for Pope Francis that he might make a definitive statement about marriage being between a man and a woman. And yet, at the World Meeting of Families what did he tell us about families? That they are called to love the members within them; children are valuable to us because they are our future; our grandparents are our familial memory; and the love of the family should be lived out to bring love and joy to our communities. Many of us standing there were shocked. Francis finished his Saturday evening address without addressing what so many people had hoped he would: same-sex unions. Continue reading Pope Francis on the Family… and Beyond

The Other Other Pro-Life

By Matt Keppel

Now, I’m not much for a soap-box… not big ones at least.  Nevertheless, some soap-boxes are worth speaking on, especially when the discussions come down to issues of life.  Yes, this is an article about being pro-life! (knowing nods and eye-rolls) Not abortion or death penalty, but the life of the family. When it comes to pro-life issues, family life is often lost or looped in with abortion, but the life of the family is by every right a major issue on its own (albeit intimately connected to the others).

The Church in the United States has, since its coming, always been one of the working class. Our fathers and grandfathers worked in factories and fields toiling for a better life and we got just that.  We were given power in this country. Many of us even made names for ourselves! We knew what we wanted; we fought for our rights as the working class and have thrived because of it. Even still, we may have fought so hard to get what we thought we wanted that we have strayed from our banners. Indeed, it is time to pick up our heads and see that in our fight for a better life we have left our families behind.

Last week, how many of us put in more than 40 hours of work for our jobs? (You look silly raising your hand, but that’s okay we don’t judge…yet) Now, how many of you have families? Young children? I’m sure that we have all heard how workers in the United States take the fewest vacation days in the West (Euro-based countries). This should not come as a surprise to anyone as we witness it year after year. Does this practice just happen? Every day I see students who derive their self-worth by the work that they produce, and it’s encouraged by their schools and families. It only follows that those same people would carry over those feelings when it comes to a job. Do we think that some magical change of heart takes place between childhood and adulthood? If so, let me be the first to tell you that you’ve been deceived.

It is time to begin that change of heart. As Catholics, we have fought the good fight and we’ve run the race. Many are tired of fighting, some believe that there is nothing more to fight for, yet I tell you that much is to be gained. Our families deserve it. Our children deserve parents who are present during their formative years. They deserve both mothers and fathers receiving time off to take care of newborn children. As the Church itself lays out in its Rights and Dignity of Workers, we deserve to take this time simply because we are created by God. It’s an issue of social justice just like abortion, poverty, and the death penalty, though it certainly does not have the sex appeal.

I believe in the value of a hard-day’s work. I know what it feels like to produce something beautiful (as a former brewer, right now it tastes like bitter-chocolate stout). However, at the end of the day, everything we do is for the good of those around us. Our jobs are good insofar as they help us to build the kingdom of God, which, in most cases, begins with our family. It is now time to take care of our families, not just by providing an earning, but by being present physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

St. John Paul II: Thank you, every woman!

On this first-ever feast day of St. John Paul the II, I’ve been reflecting on my gratitude for the example of the late, great pope. (This beautiful post by Fr. Robert Barron is a good short read if you’re looking for a brief tool for your own reflection.) Meanwhile, I also find myself in the 8th month of pregnancy, and my husband and I are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our first son or daughter!

With that in mind, I decided to reread the pope’s Letter to Women this morning, which was written in advance of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. The entire letter is worth a read, but I’m frequently drawn to this portion of the letter where he thanks all women in the world for their “vocation and mission.” Emphasis in italics is from the saint himself:

“This word of thanks to the Lord for his mysterious plan regarding the vocation and mission of women in the world is at the same time a concrete and direct word of thanks to women, to every woman, for all that they represent in the life of humanity.

Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.

Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life.

Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.

Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity.

Thank you, consecrated women! Following the example of the greatest of women, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, you open yourselves with obedience and fidelity to the gift of God’s love. You help the Church and all mankind to experience a “spousal” relationship to God, one which magnificently expresses the fellowship which God wishes to establish with his creatures.

Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic.”

I wish so much that women who struggle with understanding their own dignity in ways big and small would hear these words and take them to heart.

St. John Paul II, pray for us.


Related posts you may like re: St. John Paul II and/or women in the Church:

Of Synods and Church Burglaries (Or, Incidents in the Life of a Parish Priest)


By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

“Father Matt, is it true that when a church is broken into it needs to be torn down and rebuilt?” 

-A fifth grader-

I awoke on Tuesday morning to find the pastor in the kitchen.  “Grab a cup of coffee and let’s talk.”

I poured.  And he talked.  Our church had been burglarized during the night.  The giant crucifix that adorned the sanctuary had been stolen, ripped from the metal chain which suspended it over the tabernacle.  A reliquary had been taken, along with some chalices and patens.  By a strange twist of fate, I had stored the chalice and paten given to me by my parents on the day of my ordination in a different place.  They remain.

The rest of the day was filled with parents, students, teachers, parishioners, and complete strangers asking for news and expressing condolences. Various news outlets called.  When I unlocked the church yesterday morning at 6:10, a news van had been parked outside for some time.

While all this was taking place in Yonkers, the Catholic internet exploded.  Some commentators screamed that the non-binding, draft-ish, non-official/very official working paper coming out of the Extraordinary Synod betrayed everything Catholic.  It signaled the bad old days and the Gates of Hell possibly beginning to prevail.

Others, with glee equal only to the terror of their counterparts, crowed that this document signaled the beginning of everything good and holy the Church had been missing for the last however-many-years.   Here was the Spirit of Vatican II, the culmination of the work of the Council, finally finding its fulfillment.  It seemed, at least to some, that absolutely everything had changed instantly.  (So much for reception, eh?)

Throughout the last forty-eight hours, parishioners have continually (in a sincere way that has touched my soul) asked if the Pastor and I are “doing okay?”  I always smile, say yes, offer thanks for the prayers, and turn the question on them.  “This is your home too,” I say, “how are you doing?”

Back to the question above, asked by an earnest fifth grader, tears in her eyes: does a church need to be torn down when it’s burglarized?

“No,” I answered.  “We’ve been here for over a hundred years on this hill and will be here for more than another hundred.”

The Church has been here almost two thousand years, and barring the parousia, it will remain.

My prayers over the past days have mingled together, Synod and the burglary.  I find myself, however, praying through both events most effectively when I think about the people: the bishops who the right hates, the bishops who the left despises, the conservatives, the liberals, the divorced, the homosexuals in relationships, the homosexuals avoiding relationships, the people who built  Sacred Heart, the people who burglarized our church, and that fifth grader: neither Synod nor burglary can ever tear down the church, because it will always be the people, saints and sinners alike, that keep it standing up.


The Synod’s New Tone Isn’t So New

By Sara Knutson

Yesterday saw an explosion of attention toward the Catholic Church as the midway report on the proceedings of this month’s Extraordinary Synod was released.

Given the buzz regarding the report’s strikingly positive tone toward homosexuals and others, the stated reasoning behind the shift in tone has been overlooked, and that’s too bad. It’s a throwback move that may be the most important shift of all.

First, a bit of necessary history: the Second Vatican Council’s document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, is famous, among other reasons, for its affirmation that elements of truth could be found outside the Catholic Church. Rather than disparaging other denominations and religions, Lumen Gentium praised what they held in common with the Catholic faith, seeing such commonalities as a sign that God meets people where they are and gradually leads them further in faith. Continue reading The Synod’s New Tone Isn’t So New

The 4 Stages of Every Team

By Katie Morroni

On a recent walk with a friend, she introduced me to the concept that teams of all kinds move through the same 4 stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing.

I admit, I was reluctant at first. All teams? Surely this couldn’t apply to everyone. But now I’m a believer.

It was brought to her attention at work, in a professional setting, but she mentioned it to me in suggesting that it applies to vocations of all types, too. She’s about to begin her formation with the Sisters of Life this fall, and spoke about how it could apply to learning to live, work, and pray in community with other women. But she went on to say how it also applies to marriages and families of all shapes and sizes, and to all individuals who find themselves as part of any team. (When you stop and think of it like this, we’re all on a variety of teams, regardless of our vocation.)

I began thinking that because it applies so beautifully to vocations, to work life, and to just about any situation I can think of, it would be worth sharing here with the CatholicHow community. Almost all teams move through these stages, and we continue to move through them again and again as transitions happen to our teams as a whole or to key members of the team as individuals. Consider: A new pastor joins the parish where you serve. A couple gives birth to their first child. A longtime, influential staff member leaves your place of work and is replaced by someone with a very different personality.

What follows is the text that my friend shared with me, authored in part by her colleague and professional advisor. It pulls from a number of sources, perhaps most extensively from Ken Blanchard’s book, High Performing Team. Emphasis is my own.

Have you experienced this in your teams? How have you navigated this process with success? Have you seen a team fail because it could not move past the storming stage? Post your comments below, or connect with CatholicHow contributors and readers on Facebook or Twitter.

Continue reading The 4 Stages of Every Team

Guest Opinion: Pro-Life? Support Paid Maternity Leave


By Michael Lewis, Guest Contributor

President Obama made a splash on June 23 when he took four working families out to lunch at Chipotle after announcing his support for some kind of paid maternity leave in the United States. In his statement, the president said that the U.S. is the only developed country that does not offer working women any sort of paid leave to give birth or spend time with a newborn. In fact, President Obama said, “many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth—that’s a pretty low bar.”

The President’s announcement of support received little media attention as he failed to back a concrete piece of legislation to back up his support for paid maternity leave. His political opponents—many of them champions of the pro-life movement—dismissed the idea as another unnecessary, expensive government program. Obama walks the walk on paid leave, however—White House employees receive six weeks paid leave to give birth, a policy instituted when the President took office in 2009. Perhaps the disinterested reaction is not a result of our lack of caring for new mothers, but a reflection of the low value American society places on having children.

It used to be men and women married at 20 or 21, the husband had a good job that paid well, and they bought a home and had babies. Such was the American dream when our parents were growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Dad worked to pay the bills and put food on the table, and Mom took care of the kids.

Now, however, many young people of prime childbearing age are pursuing advanced degrees and careers—and thereby delaying pregnancy—partly out of ambition and partly out of financial necessity. The widespread use of contraception makes it easy to remove the procreative aspect from sexual love, and many women are finding that when they get around to trying to conceive, their years (or decades) on the pill permanently altered their bodies, making conception difficult.

In addition, today’s economy makes it hard for families to survive on one income, and as the President said, taking time off to have a baby can be a financial burden for many middle class families. The Family Medical Leave Act provides employees with up to 12 weeks of medical leave, but for the vast majority of workers, this benefit is unpaid, and again, many cannot afford to lose three months of income. In contrast, countries such as Canada offer up to 17 weeks of leave, with compensation of 55% of wages up to 15 weeks. Sweden offers 480 days per child, at 80% of salary. Other nations such as Poland, Germany, France, Slovakia and other Eastern European countries offer varying levels of benefits for new parents, paid for by Social Security programs or national health funds.

Continue reading Guest Opinion: Pro-Life? Support Paid Maternity Leave

Yours, Mine and Ours


By Ellen Romer

I confess, I watch Say Yes to the Dress. I like judging dress choices and the other wedding choices I see on Four Weddings.  As someone who was previously engaged and is currently engaged, I have done a fair amount of wedding planning. There are a lot of opinions and expectations that end up involved in the process and it is easy to lose sight of what is important. I appreciated Sara’s call to think more about how cultural expectations seem to trump what is a sacred thing for the Church. I share in the overarching sense of avoiding a materialistic approach and focusing on the sacrament. Being in the middle of planning a wedding for the second time, I am also acutely aware of how not only my fiance and I, but many people have a stake in this wedding. Simple isn’t always so simple.

Our wedding is ours. We minister the sacrament before witnesses. We make vows to one another and to God. So we can certainly say ‘No we don’t need all this fancy stuff’ and I certainly try to. Friends have shared that they are making us a cornhole set for use at the reception (yay!). We made it clear that we prefer paying for musicians at the Mass over having them at the reception.  I told my three attendants that I would like to be consulted on what they wear, but it’s up to them and their preferences. I want them to feel like themselves. We decided that a bouquet and garter toss aren’t really our style, so we’re going to pass on that.  I don’t need a big cake ( I really don’t understand them) so we will stick with a small super tasty one and I will try not to get chocolate frosting on my dress (Don’t worry Mom! It’ll be ok!).

The thing is – the wedding isn’t really about us. We are who we are and where we are thanks to our friends, our families and the grace of God.  Our marriage is not merely a private affair. We will profess our vows publicly to one another so that all can see and hear and hold us accountable to our vows and encourage us in them. Our marriage belongs not to us and our (hopefully) future children, but to the entire Body of Christ. Our marriage is not meant for us to simply serve one another but so that through our partnership and love we can better serve the people of God. So it can’ t just be about us. It has to include our families, our friends and the world we intend to serve. Continue reading Yours, Mine and Ours

The Job Description


By Jane Sloan

My dad loves me well. Today I’ll call and wish him a Happy Father’s Day. (“What did you do today? Wish I could be there. I’ll see you soon!”) But we’ll end up talking about me.   (“Yes, I’m fine. Kind of. Well…”)

If only I could articulate the many, small moments that illustrate the gift of his fatherhood to me. Does he know that it’s not just his genes, but all these moments of love that have made me? Here’s one:

I am five, or six, or seven. He comes home from work, loafers clopping beneath a dark suit. In the doorway, I spot a dangling briefcase and a big black coat that smells of cold. Hi Booms. Hi Dad. I follow him. He makes a snack: cheese and Saltines on a paper towel, sometimes salami. He changes clothes: shoes off, Big L.L. Bean slippers on. The smell of leather floats from the place in the closet where he keeps his shoes. How was your day? Good. How was school? Good. A funny bubbling story he’d listen to while stuffing crackers whole into his mouth. I steal a cracker. I give him a big hug, pressing my cheek against his soft white undershirt. And sometimes, if it is cold, I bury my face in his big pepper-colored wool sweater that scratches against my cheek when we hug, and collects all kinds of tears and snot if ever necessary on a really, really, bad day. Oh, those days. He lets me sit on his lap in the rocking chair.  Rocking back and forth under the warm lamplight. My face in his shoulder. Weeping, weeping about everything, his little deep thinker, the crafter of shadows and epic doomsdays. And the warm light, the L.L. Bean slippers propelling the rocker back and forth and my father, silent. Sorry I got your sweater all snotty, Dad. He looks at me. That’s part of my job description, he says: “Be there for Booms.” My father.

Enough about me, Dad. Let’s talk about you. But that’s hard, because your life is a gift to me and you keep…listening.  And giving.