By BISHOP ROBERT BAKER
If the future of humanity passes by way of the family (Pope John II), then we citizens of the United States have our work cut out for us in the days ahead.
One example of the challenge that lies before us is a major increase of single-parent homes in the United States in the past 30 years, according to statistics released from the Census Bureau, following a study of the Year 2000 census.
Based on an evaluation of 21 states and the District of Columbia, the study indicates more fathers and mothers are going solo in raising children.
Married couples with children made up 39 percent of all homes in 1970. They now comprise 24 percent of all households.
These statistics do not take into account other complex relational situations many families find themselves in across America today.
A recent Newsweek cover story detailed the changing face of the American family. It was not a happy picture.
The Catholic Church has not caved in on its efforts to promote monogamous marriage between a man and woman for life. It is one of the few institutions left in society holding out such an ideal. The church holds to this perspective because it is the teaching of Jesus Christ, a teaching for all peoples for all time.
While the church holds to the ideal, it also fosters the supports that help hold a Christian family together and that help reconcile marriages and families that are divided. Our Catholic community is a resource to many sincere, struggling husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, and children who are trying their best to lead a good Christian life and build strong family ties, facing great obstacles in the process. Such is no easy challenge in the times in which we live.
Prayer, shared prayer, among family members is the strongest glue. Father Patrick Peyton’s slogan “The family that prays together stays together” still rings true. The family rosary in the home has been in the past and remains one example of a devotion helpful to family stability. Many families still find this devotion in the home a great religious means of bonding family members with the Lord and one another.
Programs such as Family Honor, which originated in our diocese, help form in young people a proper Christian perspective to human sexuality and family life. A wrong turn early in life in this area will have major consequences later for marriage and family life. Family Honor emphasizes parental involvement in the process of sex education, a critical component lacking in many programs. Parents are integrally united from day one with the education of their children at the proper stage of their child’s development. Prayer and religious values are at the forefront of such efforts to lay the foundation for stable relationships.
Pre-Cana marriage preparation programs give our Catholic perspective to prospective married couples, preparing them for the important step they are undertaking.
Marriage Encounter is an effort to help good marriages become better.
Retrouvaille is another church-based effort to help struggling marriages survive and grow.
The Diocese of Charleston provides the services of an excellent marriage and family counselor to assist husbands, wives, and children in family relationships.
I have recently appointed Father James LeBlanc, pastor of Divine Redeemer Parish in Hanahan, as family life director for the Diocese of Charleston. He will act as a liaison with the various efforts already underway in our diocese that interface with family life.
Two of my favorite movies reflecting the stresses and strains on family relationships, in a somewhat humorous fashion, are the movies Home Alone I and II, starring Macaulay Culkin.
The movies highlight reconciliation that can happen with the celebration of Christmas. Anytime of the year, however, is a good time for reconciliation.
In this Year of Reconciliation, during the month of June, as we reflect on fostering reconciliation among family members, we pray for resolution in conflicts among members of our own families and greater reconciliation and harmony in family life, prompted by a deep relationship with Jesus Christ.