In a commentary from The Word Among Us I read this paragraph and it reflected the same questions that I have been mulling over for a long time. It said,
Why is it that the invitation to pray “for vocations” is usually understood to mean pray only for certain vocations—namely, for more priests and religious? Why do Catholics who are single—widowed, divorced, or unmarried—often feel vocationless and in spiritual limbo? Why isn’t Christian marriage more generally seen as a high calling and not just a default option for people who can’t handle a consecrated celibate life?
These are tough questions and the rest of the commentary did explain the reasons why, but for me, the addition of these and lay leaders in the prayer of the faithful is important. Lay leaders and marriage, are vocations and need prayer. As a member of the Secular Franciscan Order, a lay vocation of professed members dedicated to living out the Gospels, we see our numbers dwindling and our fraternities having to merge as a result just like some religious. The vocation of marriage, well…..can you tell me honestly, that most of your friends and/or family who are married are not struggling to stay married? and at this point, do you know more people who are divorced or single than married? Prayer, prayer, prayer is needed.
The Government, last week released a statistic that 50.2% percent of all American’s are single. That’s right, today, we have more single people than married and 40% of all births in America are from unmarried women. Children are growing up with a new definition of family. These are startling statistics, that paint a very vivid picture of where we are and where we will be in the near future. Children in the next generation are growing up in a very different interpretation of family than we did. There has been a huge shift and we need to reassess how we are praying and approaching the subject. Families today need support in order to thrive. They need help raising their children with faith, they need spiritual counseling as couples, they need financial assistance and mostly they need a community to stand with them through their ups and downs. Marriage is not a lesser vocation to the religious life, but where the seeds of religious life are formed, so I ask you, what are we doing and saying to our hurting communities as a body in the institutional church? Pope Francis is saying plenty, he is challenging and stretching our comfort zones into unchartered territory. On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross he married 20 couples and many were unconventional couples. His example at the Vatican for the Roman Catholic church should set the tone for the Synod of families to meet next month. Check out these links to read more on 20 married couples and Philadelphia this month.
The startling truth is, the definition of families in America has changed. I was speaking with a pastor from an affluent parish and he was meeting with a committee to discuss the challenges of his changing community. Getting advice on how to go about updating his registration form with sensitivity to the transgender and two gay couples with children in their parish. How many others are in the parish community keeping silent hoping to slip through the cracks unnoticed and not getting their needs met. This shift or change in the family dynamics affects how we are to be Church to a hurting world that needs us. Whatever their situation, right or wrong, good or bad they need us. This very notion of how much they need us reminds me of this quote, “church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners.”
As a cradle catholic raising children in the faith, I’ve come to realize that there is a natural disconnect in our children when they become young adults. They go through a stage called “judging”, when they realize that their parents do not know everything they thought they did and they view our raising them in the faith as our imposed belief on them. They begin to explore for themselves if this is what they believe for themselves. The problem we face is that the rest of the world is telling them that we are wrong too. This is why, when they want to get married and they come back to the catholic church and meet with the priest, clergy or laity in preparation, they should be very careful as to how welcoming, compassionate and full of love they are in the process of facing this challenge, because this opportunity has everything to do with whether or not they choose in their young adult life to come back. Then if we can figure out how to make make marriage in the catholic church more affordable for them as well, we may not lose so many of them to destination and protistan weddings.
Let us pray together for the upcoming Synod for the family October 5-19th, that it be fruitful and healing for the entire world and that the Holy Spirit is able to direct them on these very time sensitive issues.
Here is a worthwhile read on a former priest and annulments