December 28, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of The Holy Family
Reading I (Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14) Reading II (Colossians 3:12-21)
Gospel (St. Luke 2:41-52)
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. And while, in its objective form, one would look at this and say it is a beautiful feast to be able to celebrate Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and everything that they stood for, I think we need to look at it in a different form as well because in our day it has become perhaps one of the most important feasts of all. When you look at some of the feast days of the Church, we have things like the Feast of the Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, and Christ the King. We have these different feasts that are there specifically as a point of being able, not only to celebrate what it is that we believe, but to teach what we believe. This particular feast was instituted because Pope Leo XIII, about a hundred years ago, could see what was happening to the family. He saw the attack against the family and instituted this feast as a means of trying to encourage families in order to try to lay a foundation so that families would remain solid and fight against the current of modern society.
When we look at what is going on in the family, there are certainly areas that any of us can recognize as being major problems. One looks, for instance, at things like adultery or divorce. It is probably pretty obvious, I think, to all of us that these gravitate against the nature of the family and that they are going to destroy the family if they persist. But there are lots of other things that get in the way, things that lead to these problems; and so it is not merely these sorts of things alone that we have to focus on as Catholic people, but we have to focus on a lot of other things because most often problems like divorce and adultery are only the culmination of a lot of other things that have led up to it. And so if we look at what goes on within the family, we ask ourselves, first of all, “What is the primary means of the formation of the conscience of most children in America?” It is the television set! And it is CD’s. It is their filthy music and it is the garbage that they are watching on TV. People tell me today that many of the television programs that are sitcoms on prime-time, as they call it, demonstrate the family to be two homosexuals and some kids. That is not a family. I do not care what the Supreme Court or anyone else says, that is not a family. A family is a male and a female who are married to one another and their children; that is what a family is about. We are trying in America desperately under Satan’s influence to redefine what a family is, and we are trying to say that it is anything other than what it is. When it actually comes down to looking at a real family, then we try to say that is not a family but everything else is.
Now having said that, we also need to point out that there are certainly many good and innocent people who are in bad situations that they do not want to be in. They have been abandoned. It was not their choice that their family would be in the condition it is in. And these heroic souls are trying to keep things together for their kids to provide in the best way for them. They would be the first to say that this is not the way they ever envisioned their family and it is not the way they want it to be. But it is the circumstances they find themselves in and they are trying to make the best of it, living life as a single parent or whatever the case may be.
But we need to look at what has happened because of the circumstances in our society. What is at the root of the problems that we are dealing with in the destruction of the family? It starts out by changing the morals of people, changing the mindset. Karl Marx, back a number of years ago when he wrote his Communist Manifesto, said that the primary way the family and therefore the society is going to be changed, is to get mothers out of the home and into the workplace. Women need to be working full time so that someone other than the mother is forming the children. He understood that very well. And in America, what they did was to have a false inflation so that women had to work, trying to make it just about impossible for a family to live on one income; forcing women, therefore, to leave the home and to go out and work full time. Now there are certainly lots of circumstances where it is not a necessity for that to happen, and there are some where it is necessary. But there are plenty of circumstances where, because of the materialism of our society, it is a choice that some people are making. After all, if the woman was not working you would not be able to have the mansion, the two BMW’s, the huge cabin, the yacht, ten TV sets, twelve telephones, and whatever else we have got hanging all over us. “If she quit her $50,000 a year job, we’d lose all of those things and we’d actually have to live in a smaller house and have more modest things. And, after all, what’s more important, kids or things?” So, of course, we have made our choice for things thinking that more things will make our children happy, that more things will be better for them than a mother. It does not work. It is a complete and dismal failure, and we need to recognize that. It is about time that we admit it and if that means we have to sell our huge mansion and two BMW’s and actually have a smaller home and more modest vehicles, then praise God! It is not about impressing the neighbors; it is about getting to heaven and forming children to be good and upright citizens and people with a solid foundation and morals and the teaching that they need. That is only going to come from having a stable marriage, from having a stable family life.
So the media is primary. What is happening within the family – getting the mother out of the family – is primary to what is going on. But then there are other things. When the parents are not involved in the way that they should be, what happens automatically is that children will not be disciplined. We have gotten to the point now where parents want to be friends of their children rather than to be parents of their children. We live in a situation that I could not have dreamed of when I was a kid (and I am not that old yet), that is, parents live in fear of their children. They cannot discipline them because they know fully well that the kids might pick up the phone and dial 911 and accuse the parents of child abuse because “Mom said ‘no’ that I can’t do this. Isn’t that mean? She’s abusive.” And these unfortunate souls that work at these places for the government will take the children away so they can investigate for six months or so what happened in the family. The mother was so incredibly mean and unthinking that she would actually say “no” to her child’s ridiculous request. And unless they decide that the mother was not really at fault, or the father, then they will give the kids back, but that is after they have been gone for several months, or the parent was removed from the family for several months. Do you think that parent is ever going to say “no” to those kids again?
You see, they have succeeded quite well in being able to undermine things along these lines so kids are not being disciplined. They sit in front of the TV for hours and hours and hours. They play violent video games for hours and hours and hours. They sit in their own little world with their headphones on listening to trash music. Their minds are being molded by people who are into the worship of Satan, and they sing all about it in their filthy songs. If you ask kids why they listen to that, all they can tell you is that they like it. “I don’t listen to the words,” they say, “I just like the music.” A lie – because all of those words go in and they have a profound effect and so does the music, which has a purpose; and it is addictive, which is why the kids cannot give it up. If they were being supervised, a lot of those things would not happen; but because they are on their own, nobody is there to tell them “no”.
Then we have a problem with immodesty in our society. For whatever reason, we have determined in this society that a woman does not have dignity unless she looks a certain way. And it is not enough to have a body that is shaped a certain way, but then it needs to be flaunted. So we have girls now wearing pants that somehow defy gravity and stay up but their bellies are hanging out, their chests are hanging out, their shoulders are bare, and then we wonder why the men are looking at all kinds of things that they should not be looking at. That is not to justify the men in their lack of custody of the eyes, because we have boys walking around with pants that are hanging halfway down to their knees and their shirts halfway open to their belly buttons. It has become the worship of the body. We have exchanged the very purpose of our being, which is love, for something which is not. Now, two kids in the back seat of a car, we say that is “making love”. It has nothing to do with love at all – it is lust. But we have exchanged anything that even remotely reflects the love of a husband and a wife and we have just called all of it “love” so that our young people really have no concept of what love is because they think that love is sex because that is the only way they ever hear the word used in the media.
Pornography has become a huge factor in the destruction of marriage and family. We have to stop and remember what it is that a couple vows on the day they get married: that they are going to love one another, that they are going to be faithful to one another. Fidelity does not simply mean not committing adultery. Fidelity is a matter of the heart and of the mind, as well as of the body. Whether it be pornography, immodestly dressed women, or even modestly dressed women, if one is staring at women in an inappropriate manner, number one, you have taken your eyes and your heart off of your wife and you are placing them on someone else; number two, you have to ask yourself, “If this is the way that I’m looking at one woman, how can I claim to be loving my wife? How can I lust after one woman and think that I can love another?” If one woman is an object, so is the next. You are not going to be able to look at your wife in a pure and proper manner and love her in the way that she should be loved if you are looking at other women in a lustful way and treating them as objects. And so what happens is that it begins to pull apart the couple. Even in the most intimate area of their life, it becomes two people using one another for selfish pleasure rather than two people loving one another and giving themselves to one another as a gift. And since that area of marital intimacy is to be a prayer, it is the physical re-pronunciation of the vows of holy matrimony every time that a couple will enter into that union, when it is two people selfishly approaching one another, it is not an act of love in the first place, even within marriage. It is two people violating one another, sinning against one another, using one another. So it pulls apart the marriage rather than putting it closer together. It destroys the fibers and the union of the marriage.
But it does not stop there. Contraception is the number one cause of divorce in our society. More than one-third of all the couples in America of childbearing age have been sterilized. Even more tragically, among Catholics it is even higher than that. The one Church that says it is a mortal sin has more people than any other church that are sterilized. So we see that there is a problem of faith and a problem of obedience. If the parents cannot be obedient to God, why would we expect that children are going to be obedient to parents? Satan knows that very well. There is a schismatic priest out on the East Coast who calls himself a bishop, and in order to make money the guy tries to do exorcisms. Satan looks right at him when he is trying to do an exorcism (when somebody is actually possessed) and he says, “I don’t have to leave. If you can’t be obedient to your superiors, I don’t have to be obedient to you!” and then the man actually has to call a priest who is an exorcist and ask him to do the exorcism because he cannot. But instead of recognizing the wayward nature of his error, he just continues on and plays his little game. It is exactly what happens when we contracept, when we sterilize, when we violate one another in any other way. You can look at all the statistics and recognize the pattern that is there. It is obvious to anyone with two eyes that contraception has completely destroyed marriage in America, but we ignore it. Just yesterday, the governor of Minnesota ordered that his people from the Council for the Family would meet with a group of doctors because the pro-abortion doctors are saying that there really is not any evidence to suggest that women have higher rates of breast cancer if they have had an abortion, and, after all, the governor had that put on the website. So again, you see the same pattern. It is the denial of truth in order to continue the lie. That is what is happening in families where the parents have chosen a lie. To contracept is to violate your marriage vows. It is not an act of love, and you have made a vow to love one another. How can a marriage survive if the couple is not loving, if the very thing that is supposed to unite your marriage is putting something in the way of it? What kind of marriage is there when there is a barrier between the two of you?
And then, of course, if it is okay for parents to be doing immoral things, they do not seem to think that it is a problem for their kids to be doing immoral things. We have gotten to the point now where parents are encouraging children to do horrible things. They have gotten to the point of saying, “Well, they’re going to do it anyway so I may as well try to help them be safe about it.” The teenage kids that I have talked to say, “I had no intention of doing this, but because my parents told me that they knew I was going to do it anyway, I figured, ‘Well, then I might as well!’” When parents do not hold kids to a high level of responsibility, kids will rise to the lowest level that is expected of them. We do not expect anything of our kids; therefore, we do not get anything from them. Kids are capable of incredible things if we challenge them, if we hold them to a higher expectation and a responsibility. You will be amazed at what your kids are capable of doing. But if you do not assume that they can do it, they will not. Now I could go on and on and on, but I think the point is pretty evident. We have got everything turned backwards.
One other point that I just cannot pass up making is when you look at the readings today and you see the way that the family is to be arranged – wives are to be subordinate to their husbands, husbands are to love their wives, children are to be obedient to their parents, parents are to love their children, on and on it goes – we have turned it all backwards in our society. It starts with the lie that started right from the beginning of creation. It is one of the punishments of Original Sin that the relationship between men and women is going to be turned backwards and upside down. Look it up; it is in Genesis 3. It is the punishment of the woman, who is relational by nature. Right from the start, Satan began by putting a lie into both the minds of the male and the female: Women are not equal. The men began to believe that lie and so did the women. We have finally come to the point in America where we have been able to say, “If women are not equal, then what do they need to do to become equal? They need to be like men.” So women dress like men and act like men and they are as irresponsible as men, and now we can say that they are equal. The feminists tell us that it is freedom for a woman to contracept because now she can be used by more men, but we will say that she can be “happy” doing that. I have not seen a single one that is happy about any of it. Yet they are so convinced by the media that this is going to make them happy that they keep going out and doing the same unfortunate things and being used and violated over and over again, yet this is freedom. That is called license, not freedom.
Once we decided that women indeed are not equal to men, which is exactly the opposite of what God says in Genesis 1 – He created both of us in His own image and likeness, and created us equal – and once the feminists decided how that equality could come about, that women should be men, nature abhors a vacuum, so what are the men going to do? They are going to become women. It is exactly what has happened. Now we have got these wimpy, effeminate, disgusting men running around, and we have got these masculine women running around. Everyone is disgusted by both! Nobody is happy, and nobody seems to be able to figure out what the problem is. If men would be men and women would be women, the whole problem would be turned around. But what do we do with our kids? We have got them all messed up because they do not know what it means to be a boy or a girl. The psychologists are telling us that there is no difference, really, between boys and girls other than what is physical, and any differences that we try to put on them is the fault of the parents for raising them to think that girls are actually different than boys and vice versa. We have bought the lie!
Look at the readings today and live the way that you were created to live. We have the opportunity as Catholic people to stand up for what is right and true in the face of the current tide. We have an opportunity to stand up and say, “I’m going to live in my family the way that God intended me to live, not the way that Satan wants me to live.” The media, for the most part, are dupes of the devil. If that is how you are learning family life, look at the Bible instead. Look at the Church; the entire Church is placed at the service of the family, everything in the Church. When you look at Her objective teaching, it is directed at the family. Unfortunately, there are many priests and religious who do not live it that way; it is as though everything should be directed around them. That is wrong. Priests and religious are to be at the service, ultimately, of the family. The Church is the family of God, and the family is the domestic church. Everything is placed at the service of the family because the family is the foundation of both the Church and society. And the devil knows if he can break the family he can break the Church and he can break the society. Look around. Look at his success rate. The only ones who can do something about this are the families. To stand up and say, “I’m not going to do it the devil’s way any longer. I’m going to live in my family according to the way that God had determined the family is to be. I’m going to accept my own dignity as a male or a female, as a mother or a father, and I am going to live according to that dignity that God Himself has given me. I don’t have to apologize for being a mom and I don’t have to apologize for being a woman. I don’t have to apologize for being a dad or for being a male.” It is time that we stand up and accept what God has given to us and live it. That is the only hope, not only for your own individual family, but it is the only hope for society, it is the only hope for the Church. It all rests upon the family.
So it is time that we live according to the way that God intends us to live. Shun the sins, get rid of them, and save your family. Grow in love with one another, develop the relationship between husband and wife, and truly seek to be selfless, which is what you promised on the day you got married, to serve one another out of love, to put yourself last and to put the others first. It is not the American way but it is God’s way. We have to look and ask the simple question, “Which has proven itself to be true? The way that people lived family life for thousands and thousands of years, where there was almost no divorce and not a whole lot of problems, or the way we have been living it for the last 70 years?” The statistics are pretty evident. All you have to do is walk outside to see the reality of what we have done to the family. Instead of continuing to try to put a round peg into a square hole, it is time that we switched the hole and put the peg where it belongs and put the family into the way that God wants the family to be, not into what our world is trying to tell us the family ought to be. It is time that we stand up and acknowledge the goodness of what is there and believe in that and live it. So as we celebrate this wonderful feast today, in the midst of all the bad news (and there could be more), we need to look at the good. The good is what God has created and what God wants for you and for your family. It is not too late. Prayer and charity will be able to cover a multitude of sins and it can turn your family around and put it on the track that God wants it on.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.