In just a few days, from October 5th-19th, Pope Francis will hold a very special and rare event. An extraordinary synod, a meeting of select bishops to discuss matters of extreme and immediate importance will be held.
Pope Paul VI reinstated the synod in 1965 to receive advice on specific subjects. Since that time, only two extraordinary synods have been held: one in 1969, to establish methods for better communication between the Holy See and the national bishops’ conferences and one in 1985, as a mark for the 20th anniversary of Vatican II, which led to the compilation of the Catholic Catechism a few years later.
Pope Francis has called 2014’s synod to address Pastoral Challenges to the Family in Context of Evangelization, and no one was happier to hear of this extraordinary synod than I.
I have heard mixed reactions to Pope Francis and wonder at both sides who are so quick to judge. I don’t know enough about this man to suggest he will change Catholic doctrine as some say. What I do know something about is the suffering that accompanies the breakdown of the family and the huge obstacles to promoting our beautiful and solid faith that accompany that breakdown.
I know that when either spouse puts individual needs above the marital commitment, refuses to accept responsibility, or turns his back on faith, total and utter devastation leaves those left behind with broken hearts. I have held my children as they cried for long nights, and they have held me in much the same manner. Together, my boys and I have weathered storms that come in sudden flashes of anger and pain rocking our world without the buffer a second adult in the home provides.
At those moments which often last years not hours, it is hard to give glory to God.
Today, five years later after my husband’s abandonment, I have a new job. We have housing and food and a car.
We are among the very fortunate few.
Pope Francis is leading flocks of men, women, and children all over the world with far fewer opportunities and far less support than my boys and I have. He is witnessing the rise in sex outside of marriage, cohabitation, materialism, surprise pregnancy and subsequent death through abortion as well as effects of the caste system, dowries, and more.
While we sit in our comfy homes, scanning articles on laptops or tablets, we forget the real challenges that affect so many solely because of the breakdown of the family. We forget that right now half a world away and right down our street, someone is struggling physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually because of the breakdown of the family.
My little one just turned five and started kindergarten. My oldest is applying to college for a possible engineering-physics double major. My two oldest will begin their Eagle Scout projects, and, within about 10 days, I received a full time teaching job in a Catholic school. My blog, Single Mom Smiling, was picked up by an advertising network, and the results of our annulment finally arrived. God’s timing has been incredible and His plans have proven far greater than mine were for my marriage.
I tell you this, not to brag, but because life here appears Good – and it is, but it is still far from easy.
There are many times that I am exhausted and completely overwhelmed. I worry about my health, what I am feeding the boys, how their schoolwork is when I can’t check it, who brushed his teeth and for how long, if they cleaned their rooms, and…the list is endless.
And somewhere in there, in the midst of trying to figure out all the physical demands children have during the day, I try to remember to lead them spiritually as well, knowing I must put extra effort in to their spiritual development since they are now at risk for repeating the cycle of divorce.
Finding time and energy for that is a challenge to say the least, and we are the fortunate ones.
Millions of others have it far worse. Millions of others will fight for food, will go to bed alone and one day turn to another mistaking lust for love because they don’t know the difference. Millions of others will stray farther from God because they grew up not witnessing His Love.
Millions of children will never see their parents receive the Sacraments. They will never understand the gift of marriage and the Love that binds two people who make such a commitment. They will never understand that being held to another person through a Sacrament is not being chained to another; it is being freed by the support of the other.
They will never understand that the Love of a home with a Mother-Father-Child(ren) is the reflection of God the Father’s Love for us. They will never understand that, even though Jesus is God, He was still given an earthly Mother AND Father to help Him through this world.
Even many of those children of faithful parents will never be taught spiritually because after the breakdown of the family mere survival requires such physical demands that there is often not enough left over to provide spiritually.
Pope Francis has seen this.
He has seen the need to adopt changes to the way the Church ministers to those contemplating marriage and those struggling within the confines of it. He has heard testimony of those who have suffered through divorce, an annulment process that often inflicts greater damage, and the intense loneliness, depression, and hopelessness that results in night after night of abandonment.
Pope Francis has seen that too often those struggling from the breakdown of the family also feel neglected, abandoned, scarred by their Church in their greatest hour of need, and Pope Francis has seen that those people too often then choose to divorce their Catholic faith turning to the arms of another religion or swearing off God all together.
I have seen that too and believe that, if we truly want to start a New Evangelization, we must begin in the home, in the family. Thank you Pope Francis for facing tough issues.
I will be praying for the synod and for families this October and am looking forward to seeing what comes out of this synod! Will you join me? To read the Preparatory Document for the Synod on the Family, please go here.