Is the Holy Family Still a Relevant Role Model?

In a previous post, I told you a little bit about my Catholic side.

I told you that I have owned hardbound copies of the Vatican II Daily Missal and Vatican II Sunday Missal, published by The Daughters of St. Paul, for more than twenty years.  I told you that I enjoy the general commentaries on the day’s liturgical theme, the specific synopses of the readings, and the daily meditations.

Sadly, both of these volumes are now out of date.  The revised English translation, or Third Edition, of the Roman Missal was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church in November 2011.  Through countless years of research and careful study, the original text of the entire Roman Missal has been more faithfully and carefully translated.

I still enjoy and appreciate having my own missal.  My smart phone serves as a worthwhile, if imperfect, substitute for the Daily Missal.  I did purchase a replacement for the Sunday liturgies.  My new translation is the Saint Joseph Sunday Missal, published by Catholic Book Publishing Corp.  This missal also includes Mass themes and commentaries.  They are written by Rev. John C. Kersten, S.V.D.

You know how you prefer one author to another?  You gravitate toward a particular writer because you enjoy their writing style?  Or maybe what they’re trying to tell you?  There’s a noticeable difference in the style and spirit of the commentaries between my old and new missals.

Just like there’s a difference between apology and apologetics.

Possibly, it’s simply a matter of writing style and my interpretation of the writer’s meaning.  But I often find myself questioning or confused by the commentaries in the Saint Joseph Sunday Missal.

For instance, here’s a sampling from Sunday, December 29, Feast of the Holy Family.  The first reading was from the Old Testament book of Sirach (3:2-6, 12-14).  The passage speaks of our duty to honor our father and revere our mother.  To my simple mind, this is seemingly straightforward, common sense advice.

The second reading, from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians (3:12-21), gives direction on God’s plan for family life.  It focuses our attention on love, peace, and thankfulness.

The Gospel, from Matthew (2:13-15, 19-23), tells of the instructions Joseph receives to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt and later to return with his family to Israel.

Beyond the obvious celebration of the family, the feast reminds us of the importance of the family unit to all classes of society. The Church encouraged and formalized the idea of family as an autonomous, self-contained unit and marriage as a personal, exclusive relationship between one man and one woman, with each person having equal rights and obligations.

That concept is often overlooked.  It has been misunderstood and improperly interpreted since Vatican II, and still is today.

The notion that the Church created or has blindly insisted upon an antiquated, unequal, patriarchal relationship between man and woman is a modern misconception.  In fact, societies that have failed to recognize the vital nature of the self-contained family structure have destroyed themselves.  Note the destruction of Greek and Roman society.

So when I read the introductory comments by Rev. Kersten in my new St. Joseph Sunday Missal that these readings “necessarily reflect the patriarchal family pattern, hence the subordinationist family ethic” and that “(w)e should distinguish between the core of the Christian ethic and the cloth in which it is wrapped,” I found myself disagreeing with a writer who no doubt is better educated on this subject than I.

When I further read that “(b)y keeping in mind that the point of (the first reading from the Book of Sirach) is conditioned by time and culture, a modern Christian can succeed in learning from it,” I found myself confused and disappointed that the message being conveyed to the lay reader of the Missal was that these beautiful ancient words were somehow no longer applicable to our relationship between father, mother, and child.  Somehow, we must view these primitive words in a new way, given our enlightened modern society.

It seems to me that we are doomed to repeat the past failures of so-called “enlightened” societies who convinced themselves and others that the basic family unit was no longer essential to a free society.

The books of the Torah and later the Old Testament, and finally the New Testament, with the promulgations of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, serve as the basis of the new way of thinking.  Much of what our “modern” society has allegedly discovered in recent years has been tried and done before.

And has failed.

May we not make the same mistake.  We’re headed that way.

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