The Forgotten Question During the Synod on the Family
Sometimes the simplest questions are the hardest. We only need to look into the heart of today’s secular culture, into our places of work, our relationships, our families, and most importantly, into our own hearts, to see this reality played out. When it comes to things like the abortion debate, the question, “what is a fetus” is avoided at all costs. When it comes to problems in our friendships and relationships, the question of “what have I done to hurt us” is commonly the last question. These types of simple and direct questions are necessary for a healthy and complete discussion, but were they being asked in Rome during this Synod on the Family?
I recently attended the Congress for the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order in Canada and I was reminded about two very central themes that are not only central to our identity as Teresian Carmelites, but are in fact central to the life and renewal of the Church. After reading the different blogs, mainstream Catholic media, and the world of independent Catholic journalism, I came to the realization that the Holy Spirit is in fact speaking to the Church in this time, but I think we’re missing the message. I think the reason is that we’re not listening, and we’re asking the wrong questions.
St. Teresa of Jesus in the Interior Castle states, “As I see it, we shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God: let us think of His greatness and then come back to our own baseness; by looking at His purity we shall see our foulness; by meditating upon His humility, we shall see how far we are from being humble.” Looking at all that I have seen coming officially from the Vatican Press Office during the Synod on the Family, I can only conclude that the questions not being asked are, “who is God” and “who are we in light of who God is.” This is, however, not a synodal issue. This is a global pandemic. The identity crisis is real, as I spoke about in “Catholic Amnesia“, and it goes down to the deepest core of who we are.
The 100 dollar word to describe what is going on in the Church today is “confusion”. Yet, why be confused? Why the destruction of the family in modern culture? Why the confusion of clergy regarding the theology of marriage and human sexuality? Why the push to hand over the very Sacred Body of Our Lord into the hands of obstinate, mortal sinners?
We no longer care about who God is, and therefore do not care about who we are.
If we really cared about putting God first, we would keep His commands as Christ said, “you are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). Yet, so many of us look for loopholes and ways to dodge the commandments of God to make the Gospel more palatable. Instead of seeking to respond to God, it is like we are constantly looking over our shoulder to ensure the world isn’t watching. We want to be “relevant” and by doing so we have watered down the Gospel to the point where it is indistinguishable.
The Church today has a unique opportunity to speak the Gospel without compromise; the call to families to be little trinities in the world. The beautiful reality is that the family has a high calling which cannot be changed. Yet, if we do not ask the question, “What is the family in the light of God and Divine Revelation”, just forget about ever making a difference in the world. The more we put up roadblocks to speaking the truth, the more it will be like we are riding a bicycle and constantly sticking a rod between the spokes. We’ll fly over the handlebars time after time.
As a Secular Discalced Carmelite, I was reminded about my vocational call a few weekends ago to know myself by recognizing who God is first. St. Teresa of Jesus, the great Doctor of the Church, founded the Order of Discalced Carmelites in the midst of one of the rockiest times in the Church – the Protestant Reformation. In reading her writings in her Way of Perfection, she laments the work of Luther and states:
“And, seeing that I was a woman, and a sinner, and incapable of doing all I should like in the Lord’s service, and as my whole yearning was, and still is, that, as He has so many enemies and so few friends, these last should be trusty ones, I determined to do the little that was in me — namely, to follow the evangelical counsels as perfectly as I could, and to see that these few nuns who are here should do the same, confiding in the great goodness of God, Who never fails to help those who resolve to forsake everything for His sake.”
Teresa asked the question, “What does God desire for the Church in these times?” She did not ask first, “How do we dialogue with the sons of Luther.” She went to the most important question first. Have we asked lately, “Who does God say that I am to Him?” Did the Synod Fathers as a whole ask, “What does God say the family is?” These are tough questions when faced with the reality of the need for conversion, yet, like St. Teresa of Jesus, we must say, “Yours I am, O Lord, and born for You. What do you ask of me?” Whether married, single, clergy, religious, cardinal, or Pope, all of the baptized have the responsibility to be burdened, like St. Teresa of Jesus, to do the “little” in us to live lives of heroic virtue, by prayer and sacrifice, to seek to save the lost for the sake of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which has been so wounded by the hatred of the world; to love God above all things and then to love our neighbour. Yet, so many remain confused, and so we must pray, especially for the Synod Fathers and all of the clergy. I will end with this exhortation from St. Teresa of Jesus from the Way of Perfection:
Now why have I said this? So that you may understand, my sisters, that what we have
to ask of God is that, in this little castle of ours, inhabited as it is by good Christians,
none of us may go over to the enemy. We must ask God, too, to make the captains in
this castle or city — that is, the preachers and theologians — highly proficient in the way
of the Lord. And as most of these are religious, we must pray that they may advance in
perfection, and in the fulfilment of their vocation, for this is very needful. For, as I have
already said, it is the ecclesiastical and not the secular arm which must defend us. And
as we can do nothing by either of these means to help our King, let us strive to live in
such a way that our prayers may be of avail to help these servants of God, who, at the
cost of so much toil, have fortified themselves with learning and virtuous living and
have laboured to help the Lord.