Fr. John Hardon’s Prophetic Words on the Family
This is what we were destined to be: pilgrims in love with our families, guided by the hand of Almighty God, and blessed with His goodness.
Well, there seems to be a general consensus among die-hard Catholics: Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, S.J., was a truly amazing man, and his words (especially his words about family life) are not to be forgotten. In his time, he not only recognized the looming challenges that the traditional Christian family was facing, but he foresaw even more daunting ones to come. As he once said, “The Catholic family in super-developed countries like the United States is on trial for its existence… One modern pope after another keeps warning the faithful about the deadly struggle going on in the world today, between Christ, the Light of the world, and Satan, the prince of darkness, and the main focus of this struggle is the FAMILY.”
And, because the family is the fundamental, vital cell of society, Fr. Hardon explains that:
- Where the Christian family — the Catholic Christian Family — is strong, the Catholic Church is strong.
- Where the family is weak, the Church is weak.
- Where the family is struggling for survival, the Church is struggling for survival.
- Where the Catholic family is dying, the Catholic Church in those cultures and countries is dying.
- And once the Catholic family, as instituted by Christ disappears, the Church of Jesus Christ has been removed from that nation or people.
What Fr. Hardon is saying is that if we want to live the faith we profess, we must make great sacrifices to uplift the mission of the family, day in and day out. Faith and family are the heartbeat of a healthy society, and if we don’t give them due attention, our world will lose hope.
As parents we have received one of the most noble honors that can be given to creatures – the honor of receiving the gift of life, and giving it back to the Creator on high. We have been blessed with a treasure so profound the mind can barely comprehend it. Hardon continues:
Before God, parents have received a sacred trust. No one has a higher trust than they. No one has a higher responsibility than they. But, I must add, no one can take either the trust or the responsibility away. It belongs to the parents because it is given to them by God. The children they call theirs are first of all His. They came from Him and they are destined for Him. That is why God became a child: to teach us how simple it is to reach heaven, if only we are humble enough to listen to His words, and for parents, courageous enough to lay down their lives, if need be, for the souls entrusted to their loving care.
In his work The Catholic Family in the Modern World, Fr. Hardon reminds us that this trust can be guarded through the honoring of sacramental marriage as an indissoluble, lifelong union.
We know that marriage is not merely a natural institution or social contract legalized by the State. It is a sacred covenant and, indeed, a sacrament of the New Law… a deeply interior commitment in which husband and wife bind themselves to marital fidelity.
And, in turn, the stability which this beautiful union of grace provides gives couples the strength to bring forth the precious gift of children. He also points us to what he calls a “less well-known passage” from the encyclical, The Church in the Modern World:
Wherever Christian spouses in a spirit of sacrifice and trust in divine providence carry out their duties of procreation with generous human and Christian responsibility, they glorify the Creator and perfect themselves in Christ. Among the married couples who thus fulfill their God-given mission, deserving of special mention are those who after prudent reflection and mutual decision courageously undertake the proper upbringing of a large number of children.
In light of all of this, some of us may ask how? How can we fulfill a mission so divine and challenging, when it is hard enough just to get the last-minute diapers changed so we can trek to Mass on time, keep our baby’s fingers out of electric sockets, or pay the electricity bill? According to him, prayer is the answer. Basing our lives on prayer will allow us to do extraordinary things.
Why then must we pray? Prayer is necessary for our sake, so we might humbly admit before God how blind and week, and in fact, helpless we are without the constant support of His help… We have no choice; either we pray or we do not get the divine light and strength that we need. Either husbands and wives pray or they will not receive the grace to even sustain their married love.
So, having heard these prophetic words, just what can we do about it in our daily lives? We can make family a pillar in our world today – family, that forgotten community longing to show forth its beauty once again, longing to be a light of love, mercy and grace.
We can cherish those little moments of family life – you know, the ones that seem ordinary, yet carry a secret, mystical worth within them. We can treasure the turning of our wedding ring on our finger; the irresistible smell of our newborn baby; the first prayers of our toddler; the blooming questions of our five-year-old, awakening to the world; the times we push our grandchild on a swing.
We can make time for what we haven’t made time for — like that extra call a week to Mom and Dad, that family Rosary or anniversary gift. We can support mothers who want to stay home with their children, and fathers who would like to be home more. We can send our children to Catholic schools or homeschool them, make family-friendly events the heart of our parishes, or buy some spare copies of encyclicals on family life, and give them out to friends. We can study the works of Fr. John Hardon and live them out the best we can.
And, we can, essentially, “just be ourselves,” simply embrace what is natural and innate. We can be who we were destined to be, pilgrims in love with our families, guided by the hand of Almighty God, and blessed with His goodness.