Teaching the Faith in a Time of Crisis
by Anne Maloney
It has been a depressing month. A few weeks ago, I had brunch with my brother, a loyal Sunday Catholic. He has a vacation home which he generously offers to our extended family, and during our meal he told me that our college-age grandnephew and his girlfriend had visited. The understanding was that they would occupy separate bedrooms for the duration, but within days, my brother said, chuckling, they were sharing a room. I was dumbfounded. Not just that my sister’s grandson was flouting our family’s moral standards, but that my brother was treating it as a cute anecdote.
That same week, my husband found out that his niece, a young lady in her twenties, reared in a “good Catholic family,” announced that she was buying a house with her boyfriend. No mention of an engagement. Just “We’re moving in together” stated without shame.
Our older daughter is engaged, and we are drawing up a wedding guest list. My family’s policy has been that engaged couples are invited to family weddings, but “plus-ones” will be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the presumption against an automatic invitation. Anyone who hasn’t yet become engaged isn’t serious enough to be considered as part of the “big picture” family-wise. This policy has always worked well—until now. As we looked at the guest list, we realized that “not engaged but clearly living together” couples abounded, and included close members of everyone’s families. To stick with our policy would be to alienate a healthy portion of our guest list and cause lifelong hard feelings toward the Bride.
It is not news that the moral fiber of our culture is gone. The news is that the toxicity has invaded our homes. My husband and I have always been grateful that the battlefield stopped at our front door. As bad as things were “out there,” our children were surrounded by families who embraced the teachings of the Church, and expected them to do the same. Now even that small moat is filling in. I am reminded of that old “scary story” told around campfires in which the babysitter receives a phone call from a Scary Man who threatens to murder her. Fearing for her life, she calls 911 only to have the operator suddenly announce that “The Intruder is in the house!” Many Catholic families realize that the Intruder is now in the house.
What to do? Acknowledge defeat and redouble our efforts to rear our children in an even smaller bunker of Catholic moral teaching? That choice is not practically possible; I know Catholic families who have tried, only to end up exactly where the rest of us are. The culture works like an odor-free gas that seeps in through every crack and window. Apart from the practical feasibility of “Bunker Catholicism,” we have that tricky little command from Jesus Christ to “Go forth, and make disciples of all nations.”
Most Catholic families I know have been struggling for a while with “Spirit of Vatican II” Catholicism. Our generation’s catechesis was so awful that it would be funny if the stakes weren’t so high. I learned nothing serious about Catholicism in the Catholic schools I attended from 1963-1987. I did learn that “Jesus is my most undemanding friend”; how to make a collage, and the lyrics to “Both Sides Now,” “Joy is Like the Rain,” and “Kumbaya.” Regardless of how nutty the outside world became, though, I always knew what the Catholic Faith meant inside my own extended family, and that was what mattered.
Read more: www.crisismagazine.com