I’ve been following the current Synod on the Family with interest. Here we have in this extraordinary assembly of bishops what Pope Francis has identified as a ‘moment of grace’ for the Church, which means all of us.
We can choose to see it as a political drama played far removed from us except for what filters through to us in the media.
Or we can see it as something in which we are all caught up, a moment of grace for families hitherto unconscious of their dignity and mission, and a bolstering of families who are aware of their
dignity and mission and have been trying to live it out amid and besieged by the many challenges of modern life.
I’m even more excited about the upcoming extraordinary jubilee Year of Mercy.
Pope Francis wants to cast the net as wide as possible to catch souls for Christ, which is great and necessary, but it’s a little different for us mothers and fathers with little ones who are trying to raise them in the faith.
We are already close to Jesus in many ways, with him every day, and bringing our children along with us.
I’m not saying that because we’re in the regular company of Jesus that we’re immediately saints (Judas was as well, after all, and we don’t know where he ended up!). But many saints, including married saints, have been where we are now.
We might fluster around Martha-like doing 10 different things and getting frustrated while Jesus is right there in our home eating the meal we made and enjoying our children’s company.
We might sometimes get angry at Jesus over some way we think we’ve been unfairly treated and refuse to acknowledge his presence, as St Faustina Kowalska once did.
We might not want to make our feelings known about him, for various reasons, modern-day Nicodemuses who will only come to meet with Jesus under the cover of darkness.
We might be often in a fog of confusion about who Jesus is and what he is on about apart from the occasional burst of clarity and insight, like St Peter.
There are saints who have had unhappy marriages (Bl Elizabeth Canori Mora), who have lost children through miscarriage, stillbirth or death at a young age (Sts Zelie and Louis Martin), who have despaired over their adult children (St Monica), who have struggled to provide for their children materially, have suffered infertility (Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah), juggled the demands of a career and a young family (St Gianna Molla), were hated by an in-law (St Francis of Rome), had to flee persecution as refugees (Our Lady and St Joseph).
Then there are saints who didn’t have children themselves but left us great thoughts in their writing if you look hard enough, on raising children: St Mary of the Cross, St John Bosco, St John Chrysostom, St Josemaria Escriva, and St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, are great examples.
The story of the mother and her seven martyred sons, told in the Old Testament book Maccabees, prompts us to think about just how important our faith is to us.
In our time in which there are possibly the greatest number of children suffering persecution in parts of the world just because they are Christian, she’s a good one to remember.
During the Year of Mercy, faith-filled families will be best-placed to both receive and show the mercy of God in similar ordinary and extraordinary ways.