Thursday, March 19, 2015

Family Life as Radical Call to Sanctity

It occurred to me on Tues when perusing a compilation of St. Josemaria’s remarks on matrimony that everything said there sounds at first like “nice” advice that helps marriages work better. But it struck me that it is something much more and very different, namely that the advice is all pointed to making the self-gift in the marriage and therefore very different. It is advice for martyrdom in small things and therefore ascetical  advice to become Christ Himself, and therefore, a saint
                Consider that the narrow, canonical way to achieve sanctity for at least a millennium and a half consisted in leaving the world and taking vows, and in the case of sexuality, celibacy. That is, in order to be on the canonical road to sanctity, one had to have made a vow of celibacy. Escriva arrives in Rome in 1943, and Opus Dei is given a nihil obstat as a spirit of sanctity in the world for laymen single or married and priests equally. There were no married people in Opus Dei yet (that took place in 1949), but the outline was clear that sanctity was available for everyone. The call to holiness – to be Jesus Christ – was universal (which became Magisterium for the universal Church in Lumen Gentium Chapter 5).  That had to mean marriage was not only a legitimate moral way to engage in sexuality, but that it was a way of achieving holiness and eternal life.  This was not clear since the time of the escape to the desert (5th c.) until the present day. This notion that the “religious” vocation to be a nun, friar, priest has dominated Catholic culture persistently, and it has not let up. Consider the tone that the CCC presents under t he rubric of “The Consecrated Life.” Observe the phrases “more intimate” and “follow Christ more nearly.” They are not erroneous, but the tone they generate  is that the Sacrament of Baptism is not enough:
III. The Consecrated Life
914   “The state of life which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, while not entering into the hierarchical structure of the Church, belongs undeniably to her life and holiness.”453 (2103)
Evangelical counsels, consecrated life
915      Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.454 (1973-1974)
916   The state of consecrated life is thus one way of experiencing a “more intimate” consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God.455 In the consecrated life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come.456 (2687933)
                I would offer that the deep reason for this year of the extraordinary (2014) and the ordinary synod (2015) is to nudge the consciousness of the Church to a realization that matrimony is something quite different than a mutual love and the legitimate procreation of children. Rather it is a divine way that has for its intimate purpose the sanctification of the spouses, and as such, is a mutual self-gift and the way of the Cross, and since it is a total gift of self, it must be open to children. The point of matrimony is the heroism of giving oneself completely. Notice that it isn’t “religion” that is the point but the “anthropology” of giving oneself away to God through another: the spouse. And, by making the gift of self, one becomes – little by little, another Christ, Christ Himself.
Escriva’s Bright and Cheerful Homes:
Question to Escriva: “My husband doesn’t practice. He is baptized but does not want anything to do with the Church. And I am not fantastic either.”
Escriva: “Sit down, sit down. I can see what you’re getting at. First, love your husband a lot . You have a duty to love him a lot; not only being faithful, but very affectionate. Then, don’t pester him. Is that clear? You women are sometimes far too insistent…. Your very affection blinds you. He is good, he’s been baptized; therefore he has the faith. And on top of that faith – most likely through no fault of his, or very little fault, but a little neglect – life has thrown a lot of things on top of him, and now the faith can’t be seen or felt… But if you, with a clever hand, begin to do a bit of cleaning…
            That soul is closer to you than others. Ask, invoke St. Joseph, who was the head of a family, so that the father of your family, the father of your children, may become – in time and very soon – very attached to St. Joseph and may behave very well. Do you know how you will achieve this? The same way as I told that other daughter, striving so that one fine day he goes to confession…

Put your whole heart into it, offering to our Lord the small mortifications that crop up in life, each day. Don’t put on a glum face. Don’t go on at your husband… And you will see that between us all we will succeed. Tomorrow at Mass I will dedicate a memento for this intention. But, in no way lose your temper. Are we agreed on this?... I am sure I would be very good friends with your husband if I knew him and dealt with him. I’m sure he must have many virtues, many human virtues, and then… there will be something that will have scandalized the poor man; and something that needs to be pruned or scraped clean. Some small thing! Let us pray for him to the Lord that he may go and let himself be washed clean a little, like your children when you wash them clean, and you do so with so much love. The priest, in the holy Sacrament of Penance, as he is another Christ, also cleans with great refinement, he squeezes the suppurating wounds so that the pus comes out, he prepares them so that they may heal… He will be healed; and you and he will be very happy, my daughter. May God bless you!”

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