Thursday, June 12, 2008

I attended the annual meeting of CTSA (Catholic Theological Society of America) this past weekend, and I wanted to share a bit about one of the talks with you! Julie Hanlon Rubio, a professor at St. Louis University, gave a talk on "A Familial Vocation beyond the Home." In her talk Dr. Rubio reminded us that in Familiaris Consortio Pope John Paul II speaks of the family as being given a commission to serve society and to be a communion of love. Families are meant to build communion and solidarity, a place in which we form deeper relationships with others both within our family, but also outside of our family. Dr. Rubio challenged our parishes to really form families, to be more than just a place of spiritual comfort and friendliness. She said that parishes should help families live out their familial vocation outside of the home, to challenge a lot of the tendencies in our culture about the pace of our lives and how we resist that frantic pace in order to build communion within our families so that we can then enter into service to the greater community. She noted that the practice of service is crucial to a Christian life, and that in parishes families are too often either "excused" from service or directed to service in their own homogeneous communities of parish and school. Only when we include families in the call to service, she warned, can Catholic social teaching penetrate the Church.

Dr. Rubio was drawing on John Paul II's apsostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio. I want to share some of the passages in this text that highlight the point Dr. Rubio was making in her presentation. On the topic of service, John Paul II states:
The social role of the family certainly cannot stop short at procreation and education, even if this constitutes its primary and irreplaceable form of expression. Families therefore, either singly or in association, can and should devote themselves to manifold social service activities, especially in favor of the poor, or at any rate for the benefit of all people and situations that cannot be reached by the public authorities' welfare organization (44).
He goes on to state that:
The social role that belongs to every family pertains by a new and original right to the Christian family, which is based on the sacrament of marriage. By taking up the human reality of the love between husband and wife in all its implications, the sacrament gives to Christian couples and parents a power and a commitment to live their vocation as lay people and therefore to "seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God."(113) The social and political role is included in the kingly mission of service in which Christian couples share by virtue of the sacrament of marriage, and they receive both a command which they cannot ignore and a grace which sustains and stimulates them. The Christian family is thus called upon to offer everyone a witness of generous and disinterested dedication to social matters, through a "preferential option" for the poor and disadvantaged. Therefore, advancing in its following of the Lord by special love for all the poor, it must have special concern for the hungry, the poor, the old, the sick, drug victims and those who have no family (47).
And so I ask, with Dr. Julie Hanlon Rubio, how can we as Church help our families achieve their familial vocations beyond the home?

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