By Fr. John
On this page: Families
are Made for Heaven
Foundation of Hope
of the Catholic Family
to the Family
Instruction of the Family
This article from the Summer/Fall 1995 issue of
The Catholic Family's
Magnificat! Home Education Magazine
Copyright 1994. All Rights Reserved
When we say that the family is the seminary of hope, we
are not using a figure of speech. A seminary is externally
the seedbed (Latin, seminarium) of that which is to take
root and grow into the flower, plant or tree from which the
seed has been sown.
But how is the family the seedbed of hope? It is the
seedbed of hope in eternal life, for which
families here on earth are the
precondition and necessary preparation.
Parents conceive their children now in time in order to
teach them there is a heavenly eternity to hope for, and
train them to pay the price of reaching heaven in the world
Families are Made for
We are so accustomed to speaking of families in
terrestrial terms that we may have to do some violence to
our thinking to say that
families are really made for
heaven. This is the clear teaching of divine
revelation and should be the towering goal of our earthly
We are destined to be reunited as families in that
heavenly Jerusalem which the voice of God told St. John,
"You see this city? Here God
lives among men. He will make His home with them; they shall
be His people, and He will the their God."
Home on earth is where the families begin and grow.
But home in heaven is where families are meant to arrive,
where God will wipe away all tears from our eyes, where
there will be no more death or family bereavement, and no
more mourning or sadness. The world of the past will have
gone, and what we now call the
future will be an everlasting present in the company of
those whom we have loved on earth, never again to be
separated from them for all eternity.
Faith - the Foundation
of Our Hope
All of this we can look forward to on one condition -
that we really believe it is true.
When St. Paul wrote that,
"Only faith can guarantee the
blessings that we hope for" (Hebrews 11:1), he
was saying more than most of us realize. He was saying that
our hope of eternal happiness in heaven is only as strong as
our faith in the existence of heaven is certain. A weak
faith produces a weak hope; a deep faith produces a firm
hope. Without faith, there can be no hope.
Our faith is both the condition
and the measure of our hope, no more and no
As we look around us at the world of business and
politics, the world of unsatisfied desires and pain; at the
world of selfishness, greed and crime -
we are tempted to
discouragement and thousands of Americans are
giving in to despair.
Early in this century,
made a very wise observation about the meaning
of hope. "As long as matters
are really hopeful," he said,
"hope is a mere flattery or
platitude. It is only when everything is hopeless that hope
begins to be a strength at all. Like all the Christian
virtues, it is as unreasonable as it is
The more hopeless things seem to be, the more we need
a strong faith to provide us with an unshakable hope that
everything in this world will pass away; that the sufferings
of this life are not to be compared with the glory that
awaits us in the life to come.
Hope is the confident desire of obtaining some future
good - finally the supreme good of everlasting life in the
family of the Holy Trinity. But our desire will be only as
confident as our minds are convinced that this is not
mythology or an empty dream.
The Family - Foundation
St. Paul again tells us that
faith comes from
hearing. Someone who already believes,
professes his faith in word or action, helps others receive
the faith - from God, of course, but through the one who
This is the ordinary course of Divine Providence.
Only believers reproduce
We see, therefore, that
the family is
certainly the source of our natural generation of education
as human beings. But it is also, and especially, the source
and support of our supernatural life and well-being. For it
is mainly through the family that we receive and grow in the
true faith without which the supernatural life would not
even be possible. That is why the faith of each member of
the family is so necessary to provide the sustenance in
faith that the other members of the family
First in this law of dependence are the
mother. The strength of their own Catholic
faith will determine the strength of their children's faith.
In the designs of God, they are the principal channels of
grace of faith to their children.
What is true in the course of nature is even more true
in the order of grace. Like reproduces like. In today's
world of widespread unbelief, this will mean nothing less
than heroic faith
in the parents if they hope to reproduce and preserve this
faith in their offspring.
It is here that we must at least
briefly explain what I have come to call the
four pillars of the Catholic
children, and selfless charity.
The first pillar
is the obligation that the husband and wife
assumed when they received the
Sacrament of Matrimony.
They promised God
that they would remain faithful to each other
in a world that has canonized infidelity and makes a mockery
of the marriage vows.
Remember that parents are channels of grace to their
children. This is far deeper
than merely giving good example. Father and
mother are to be conduits of supernatural light for the sons
and daughters they have brought into the world.
If there is one truth of the Catholic faith that
parents must teach their children it is the
indissolubility of Christian
Since apostolic times, whole nations have been lost to
the Catholic Church because married people wanted to divorce
and remarry. The Catholic
Church will survive only where Christ's difficult doctrine
on marital indissolubility is still believed and
Not every marriage, we know, is fruitful in children.
One of the heaviest sacrifices that childless couples have
to make is to accept God's will in their lives. They must
learn the secret of spiritual
parenthood and devote their zeal to teaching the faith to
other people's children.
But where the husband and wife can have offspring,
their generosity in reproducing themselves is the
single most effective
way of propagating the faith to their
All the orthodoxy of their
Catholicism will be lost on deaf ears unless
the children see their children see their parents living
what they profess to believe. Contraception is lethal for
the preservation of the true faith, in any age, and has been
given thunderous emphasis in our age. Infertility has been
reduced to an exact science and children have become a
liability in materially underdeveloped countries of the
Definition of Family as
In the Catholic philosophy of life,
a family of father, mother and
children is not a mere group of persons who
happen to be related by blood. A family is not just a
society of individuals who cohabit with one another.
In the mind of Christ, a family is to be a loving
community. This implies some
remarkable things. It implies there is someone
in authority in the family, someone who, with
makes the decisions for the family. It implies there is
among the members of the family. They share
with one another their hopes
and desires, and they are sure that their
confidence will not be
betrayed. It implies that the members of a
family, in a true sense, live together. They are in each
other's company, not grudgingly, but
together form an unmistakable
unity. On Pentecost Sunday, St. Luke tells us
in the Acts of the Apostles that the first Christians had
already begun to form a community - beginning with the
community of each Christian
family. What united these first Christian
families was their common faith. They were united by their
common allegiance "to the
teaching of the Apostles."
Forces Hostile to the
Even as we are speaking about the family as the
seminary of hope, we have no illusions about the hostile
forces at work to destroy or, at least, weaken the
At root, these forces in the realm of ideas
that are alien to the Catholic philosophy of life.
· There is a
misguided notion of independence of the spouses in
relation to each other.
· There is
a serious misconception about the authority of the
parents in the family.
· There is
the scandal of divorce and so called "remarriage." As one
of my co-ed students, who was planning to marry after
graduation from the state university where I was
teaching, once told me, "My greatest fear is that I will
become like my mother who will divorce her third husband
shortly after my own wedding day!"
· There is
the scourge of a contraceptive mentality. This, in turn
has promoted sterilization and led to the legalization of
Pope John Paul II identifies what he called "the root"
of these hostile forces and phenomena:
is] a corruption of the idea and experience of
freedom. Freedom is conceived not as a capacity for
realizing the truth of God's plan for marriage and the
family. Rather it is seen as an autonomous power of
self affirmation, often against others, for one's own
selfish well-being." (Familiaris
On these premises, freedom becomes what Lucifer
asserted at the dawn of angelic history,
("I will not
To know this is to appreciate the gravity of the
crisis affecting the family. It is also to see the
transcendent need for sound Catholic instruction of family
and for the family in the face of such demonic powers let
loose in our day.
Catholic Instruction of
As faithful sons and daughters of Mother Church, we
know what follows when families are not taught, as the Holy
Father says, that "freedom is a
capacity for realizing the truth of God's plan for marriage
and the family."
Instead of knowing that God's plan is to lead families
to heaven by doing His Will,
people are being taught to do
their own will. The result has been
pandemonium, which literally means
is the literary term for the abode of the demons. In the
English language, it is the center of vice, a place of
lawlessness and anarchy. Is it too much to say that where
self-will has replaced the divine will as the purpose of
human freedom, the consequence has been pandemonium?
The conclusion from all this is obvious.
Families must be taught that we
have a free will in order to do God's will on earth
and, thereby, reach a heavenly
Here is the grave responsibility we have before God.
As bishops and priests, religious and laity, single and
married, we must become active
apostles of religious instruction to
Parents and children are being exposed to so much
erroneous thinking, it is no wonder that family life in once
flourishing Christian countries is disintegrating.
True ideas have good consequences. False ideas have bad
We who have the true faith, which is the only
foundation for real hope, have the obligation to teach this
faith to the myriads of families that are literally
walking in darkness
and sitting in the shadow of death.
We also have a second
grave responsibility. It is to provide parents
with the necessary tools of instruction on teaching the
Catholic faith to their children.
In secularized countries like the U.S.,
many parents have no
choice. They must
provide homeschooling if they want their children to remain
Catholic and grow in their love and practice of the Catholic
What we need is another St.
Elizabeth Ann Seton to restore the Catholic school system
in our country. But that is unpredictable,
uncertain and totally hidden in the providence of
God wants us to convince parents that they have the
primary duty to
provide for the religious education of their children. But
we must make sure it is
authentic Christian education, based on revealed truth as
interpreted by the Catholic Church.
In order to achieve this, the parents will have to be
organized. I do not hesitate to
say they have to be mobilized. Why? Because
the propagators of untruth are highly organized and they are
St. Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises, has the key
meditation on what he calls the
Two Standards. He
tells the exercitant to make a mental representation of two
leaders, Christ and Lucifer, each calling on his followers
to rally under his standard.
Lucifer summons innumerable demons and scatters them,
some to one city, some to another, throughout the whole
world. He tells his minions to lay snares for people
everywhere so that no place, so state of life, and no
individual is overlooked. The
demons are to tempt human beings to set their hopes on the
possessions of this world, and in this way
lead them, through pride, into sin and the loss of their
Christ, on the other hand, calls
on His followers to
"spread His sacred
doctrine among all
His strategy is the opposite of Lucifer's.
Those who are really under His standard are to be inspired
to love the Cross, to be detached from the empty pleasures
and honors of this world, and to set their hopes on the
world that will never end.
Our privilege is to be on the
side of Christ in this cosmic battle for
souls. It is the most ferocious
in the history of Christianity. But we must be
ready to pay the price in the sacrifice of time and money,
of ease and convenience, of energy and human respect if we
are to overcome the demonic forces at work in the modern
The center of this
conflict is over the family. The
heart of this conflict
is over the truth. The
good of this
conflict is eternity. The
victory in this
conflict is assured, on the one condition that
we are ready to die for Christ - who died on the Cross to
save us from hell and to give us heaven as the hope of our
Fr. John Hardon,
S.J., a noted theologian and home education advocate, is
also the author of numerous books. He resides in Detroit,
Michigan, often assisting at Mass at the Assumption of
Our Lady (Grotto) Church.
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