“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” Luke 14:26-27, 33
Jesus is pretty blunt in this Gospel reading. He’s telling us that we are to put Him first, before everything that seems most important to us – family, friends, status, accomplishments, possessions. This was as challenging a teaching then as it is now. Anyone who has ever spoken out against abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage; anyone who has ever defended Christian values, the Magisterium, the Pope and the Catholic Church has lived this Bible passage and experienced the cost of discipleship.
Increasingly, the Gospel message is rejected. Even among the congregation sitting weekly in the pews, the core teachings of the Church are ignored. Relativism is alive and thriving at Sunday Mass. In our Catholic schools, poorly formed teachers are teaching our children a poorly formed version of the Faith. When the sign of The Cross is replaced with “In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier,” then something is horribly wrong. In our extended families, the Faith becomes a battleground. Issues such as abortion, fidelity to the Magisterium and same-sex marriage continue to cause division among family members.
So what are we supposed to do? How do we keep ourselves and our families focused on the Truth when popular opinion is not in our favour? Well, first we pray. Then we pray some more. We pray for courage, perseverance and strength. And we pray for those who speak harshly against us. We teach our children by example, prayer and dialogue. If they see and hear us defending the Church, they will learn to do the same. If they see us on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament and before Jesus in Adoration, they will profess that Jesus is Lord. If we make family prayer a priority, they will cultivate a prayer life. When they see us lining up to go to confession, they will understand that even the strongest people in their lives offend the Lord and need forgiveness. If we take them to prayer vigils in defense of life, and if they stand with us in prayerful silence in the presence of hecklers, they will believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death and they will defend life. If they observe us unwavering against pressure and condemnation from family and friends, they will fully understand what Jesus teaches.
In our family, we have tried to teach the kids in various ways, from the time they were toddlers, that love of God comes first. The family rosary occurs most evenings. Something as commonplace for us as saying Grace Before Meals in a crowded restaurant is a witness of faith. So is inviting their non-practicing or non-Catholic friends to join us for Christmas and Easter Mass and the family celebration afterwards. The kids are not strangers to hecklers at 40 Days For Life or Life Chain, nor do they back down from defending the Church in a university lecture hall or in a Catholic classroom.
Recently, #7 expressed his pro-life views to a group of other pre-teens who stated that they support abortion. He explained, a little bit emotionally, that abortion is murder of an unborn child. Even though he was upset, he realized that they didn’t really understand the seriousness of what they were saying. He told me that the worst part about the incident was that it took place one day after our family had participated at a 40 Days for Life vigil.
My children have observed first-hand how adhering to Holy Mother Church’s teachings has come at a great personal cost in my relationship with my extended family. They have seen that compromising my beliefs is not an option regardless of family pressure to accept same-sex marriage.
The best thing we can do to bring about change is to start at home. Build up the domestic Church within our families and we can do our part to build up the culture of life in the world.