Saturday, February 6, 2010

Family Day: We’re All Called to Build the Kingdom

Family Day is coming up on February 15. It was introduced in Ontario in 2008. The main reason for introducing it was to give Ontarians a day off work during the long period from New Year's Day until Good Friday. As Christian parents, why not take advantage of this holiday and use the day to spend it together with our children? I would suggest celebrating the day using these words from Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, as a theme:

“Openness to life is at the centre of true development. When a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good. If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance those are valuable for society also wither away. The acceptance of life strengthens moral fibre and makes people capable of mutual help (28).”

As baptized people we're reminded, and even those who are not, that we are called to work on building His kingdom here on earth in order to prepare to enter the eternal kingdom. As we approach the holiday Family Day, let’s look at opportunities to take stock of what we have done spiritually, and are doing to strengthen our family life and to promote “openness to life.” Of course the responsibility for this falls on the shoulder of the parents. The adults are the first and most important educators of their children. Parents are the true CEO's of the family unit.

Why not begin our mission with a simple inventory of our family’s present spiritual, emotional and social state? This will be a challenge, but the time invested will be rewarded abundantly. The mission could start with a simple question, Are we living our baptismal promises? Why not celebrate on this Family Day our children’s baptism? Remember the questions, “What do you ask the Church of God?” and “What does faith bestow upon you?” We want the gift of faith and life everlasting. As parents, it's the perfect opportunity to let our children know that they're gifts of life from God and only by accepting and protecting these gifts can we all hope to have faith and the hope for eternal life.

What a great reminder to tell our children that on their baptismal day they were anointed on the crown of their heads with the sacred oil to signify their membership with Christ. Their white garment (an opportune time to look back and explain those old family photos) marked their gift of sanctifying grace. And the baptismal candle a symbol of the living Christ is given to the child with these words, “Receive the burning light and safeguard your baptism by a blameless life; keep God’s commandments so that when our Lord comes to the marriage feast, you may be worthy to greet him with all the saints in the heavenly court, and live forever and ever.”

Once we share in the life of Christ, we must try to live the Apostles’ Creed, renounce sin, attend Mass and remember Christian feasts, especially Easter and Christmas. At this point, there’s the real risk that we may find we're not living our Christian duty to a high standard and as a result may wish to stop and go no further. But the baptismal struggle is to make every effort to continue.

Yes, as the adults we need to acknowledge that more can and must be done to live better spiritual lives in order to practise the Catholic faith. We need to pray and ask God to help us. Remember, however, that this whole family exercise is a wonderful way to bring back a greater awareness of our family relationship to Christ and our family connections because of it. In so doing, we cannot help but be builders of better families and promoters of life in our society. Embrace the Christian call to respect the sanctity of life in our families, and we naturally begin to better understand the importance of protecting all life (and praising and thanking “the giver of life”) because through baptism we participate in the life of Christ.

Pope Benedict summarizes this Christian call best in the title of his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, the love/charity of truth. Happy baptismal day! Happy Family Day!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A High School Course that Should Be Rejected

The Ontario government ministry is proposing a Grade 11 gender course that goes against Catholic teaching on sexuality. The draft course, which could be taught in schools this coming September 2010, covers such areas as, “the struggle for women’s rights and historical waves of feminism,” the “successes and challenges in the recognition for rights for sexual minorities” and “radical feminist movements and LGBTT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual) rights.”

Our bishops have already opposed the course and sent a letter to Catholic school board chairs and directors of education. We can only hope that our leaders in Catholic education will heed the bishop’s recommendation. This course should not be adopted by any school, least of all a Catholic school. But if history is any indication, Catholic schools will do whatever the public schools choose to do. In the past, they’ve taken the road more travelled by and thus have generally accepted whatever the ministry bureaucrats develop.

Campaign Life Catholic which is a branch of Campaign Life Coalition backs the bishops’ decision. Mary Ellen Douglas, Campaign Life organizer, has made it clear the new credit course promotes homosexuality and abortion rights. The ministry should not be dictating what must be taught in terms of Catholic social and moral teachings.

The problem with the course goals is that it subtly tries to make its agenda regarding human sexuality acceptable to all students. But the ideology behind this entire course is totally flawed. The main problem is that it does not reflect the Catholic vision of the human person. It presents a distorted understanding of sexuality. Essentially this planned course avoids the truth about the human person and the purpose of sexuality.

If you’re a parent with teenagers in high school, I suggest you check to see if this course becomes part of the curriculum in the school they attend. As parents we’re the first educators of our children and so we must speak and get involved before it’s too late. Our children deserve to be told the truth about who they are, why God created them and how to express their sexuality for true fulfilment and for the common good. Sexuality is not merely a matter of choice and every choice is not of equal value. Expressing one’s sexuality is a choice primarily in virtuous living.
Catholic schools can teach a gender course, but the program ought to integrate what Catholics believe in terms of the male and female person and the truth about sexuality.

The full proposed course can be read by going to: