Monday, March 21, 2016

"Put Not Your Faith in Princes"*

In addition to giving up Facebook for Lent (more on that soon), I've been doing both Matthew Kelly's Best Lent Ever and Bishop Barron's daily Lenten reflections. This is the second year I've done both of them as well as having done both Advent programs. I've found it easier to keep up with Bishop Barron's emails, since the Matthew Kelly program involves videos which refuse to work on my iPad, and I haven't always turned on my computer lately.  One day, after having fallen behind, I was trying to catch up on Best Lent ever videos, only to discover that all four videos from the two days I had missed were about parenting. Both of Matthew's videos and both of the bonus staff videos were about being parents. I didn't sign up for a program about how to be a better parent or the joys of parenting; I signed up for a program to help me be a better follower of Christ.

I have to admit that at first I was hurt and angry. But as I thought about it more, the more it bothered me. The assumption that parenting is something that everyone can relate to is becoming more and more obsolete. People are marrying later, having children later, if at all. More people are staying single, either by choice or as a result of circumstance. I can't say for certain, but it seems like more people are estranged from their families now than in previous times. It wouldn't have bothered me as much if one or two of the videos were about parenting, but that overwhelming focus on it left me not wanting to finish the program. I understand that we default to talking about God in parental language, by Christ's example, but how does that reach those who had an absent, neglectful, or abusive father? I understand drawing parallels between what God does as a parent and what human parents do; it helps make God more concrete, more understandable. Nothing is going to reach every single person, but maybe instead of always defaulting to referring to God as a good Father, how about we lay out what makes Him good? He loves us, truly unconditionally; He forgives us; He wants what is best for us; He is always faithful to us, always dependable. He always hears us, even when it doesn't feel like it. 

After I had calmed down, I wrote to the Dynamic Catholic Institute about that series of videos. I didn't know what I expected from their response, but it certainly wasn't what I got, which was a pro forma "it was just chance that it worked out that way and of course we love and respect our infertile brethren...(blah blah blah)" Yes, I was disappointed, until I realized that I was putting my trust in man. Dynamic Catholic does a lot of wonderful work, encouraging people to pray more and read the Bible and to give of themselves. And I love Bishop Barron's reflections; they challenge me to think about Scripture in a new way. But ultimately my trust should not be in them but in God. 

*Psalm 146:3, English Standard Version


  1. I am sorry Stephanie that you were hurt in that way. I am not familiar with those particular videos, but it definitely sounds like more than chance coincidence given they were 4 in a row. I do agree that there seems to be a lot of assumptions made today about parenting in Catholic media and unfortunately it often is at the detriment of talking about other vocations and paths to holiness. I will pray that God speaks in a special way to your heart this Holy Week and His words are better suited to your needs than that "blah, blah" stuff from the website.


  2. I think it was damaging for me at first to see God as a Father or hear so many examples of how God is like a parent because of my relationship with my father. It has taken therapy and spiritual direction to correct my view. I get frustrated too when most reflections for adults talk about parenting instead of just teaching people how to grow in virtue. Ultimately you are right, no one person, apologist, clergy or theologian is perfect so we must stay focused on Christ.

  3. I'm sorry that you ran into that! I think that we have to find better ways to have conversations. On the one hand, family is so attacked in this culture that the Church speaks out louder in defense of the family. On the other hand, given this culture, this default position puts a lot of people through a lot of pain. Whether it is because of pain in problems from their family of origin, or because of pain in their current relationships or lack thereof, and especially with everything that is going on in terms of widespread infertility. I think that we make more people feel even more alone than they already do. I know I have often felt this way, and it seems it is similar in infertility circles. What about those who have been through divorce or are struggling with homosex.ual attractions? We tell them to live a certain way, but give absolutely zero support to people who are already hurting and lonely. We're never going to be perfect, but thank you for speaking out about the need to try.