Church Documents: Gaudium Et Spes
Can you smell it? It’s the changing of seasons in the natural cycle of the Earth. I will grow to enjoy it, I always do, but I dread the coming of Fall and the settling in of Winter. It typically seems to me that the icy grips of Old Man Winter are much more stubborn that the light touch of Summer joy.
I also become uncomfortable with this particular change due to my Melancholic nature that tends to reflect on loss more so than what is gained; it’s a gentle reminder in the Natural cycle to cultivate a sense of joy in the midst of summertime sadness, of which I harvest in spades. Naturally, our human nature picks up on this as well and I don’t think it’s any accident that the cycle of Back to School and the end of summertime fun dovetails this time of year.
We had great joy this summer mixed with much work and time spent indoors (the absolute worst in my book!) but for very good reasons. This has also been a summer of anticipation as our middle child, Beers Boy #3, prepared to leave the comforts of home to venture out into the world of academia and manhood. Praise God he is studying to serve Him in all ways, like his brothers before him. We all have cause for joy, but a mother gets to ‘Ponder all things in her heart’ and it oftentimes is sad. We moms sacrifice our entire lives, right down to the cells in our bodies, to bring forth life: nurture it, form it, feed it, soothe it, admonish it, on and on right to the point that we must watch it go and trust in God that we’ve done our job well.
This son leaving tips our scales to more are out of the house than living at home. That’s a very strange feeling since we now are the size of a typical American family, which is very disconcerting to me because if I had to go through raising my sons with only two, I would be a clingy mess; it’s only through having many kids did I learn to let go of the stuff that doesn’t matter and hold on to the things that do. Maybe (hopefully) for others that isn’t the case, that one learned these lessons without filling the house with children, but I’m guessing that it may not be.
I am so glad to see kids and hear their laughter across the street again, it’s especially nice when I have left my teenager and his slit eyes barely awake dragging himself out the door to go to school - at least someone is excited to learn! Yet, having only 4 chairs around the table and making a single batch of pancakes will take some time getting used to. Hopefully I am up for the challenge!
God has many great things ordained into the Holy Sacrament of Marriage. Our culture wishes to corrupt this magnificent Gift to man and it is our job as Catholic Christians to not let that happen. Mass attendance is primary in the begetting and raising of children because most of what we do, I would propose even up to 98%, falls short. My children learn by example and the only example worth passing on is my fidelity to Christ. We are human and inclined to sin - the only One who can set us right is God. My reception of the Holy Eucharist teaches my children much more than anyone or anything else ever could. My attire, my demeanor, my attitude toward Mass, it all matters.
Our Church gives us a wealth of study on what it means to be family and find a vocation. Yes, my husband and I have two sons currently studying for the priesthood, devoting a life to marrying his bride, The Church; but we have more who are discerning specific vocations to married life and society, no less devoting a life to the begetting of a society for Christ. So, too, does this also mean that I must continue to discern where God is leading me and what role I am now to play in society and the community. One of the greatest documents to work this out with is Gaudium Et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. It was promulgated by Pope Paul VI and is rich with wisdom and teachings that are more than relevant right now. If I look out in society and see the rapid rise in Atheism (which, by the way, is a real and present dangerous issue) I must look back at myself and see what I am to do about it. Actually, any societal ill must be viewed with that lens because, after all, we are the hands and feet of Christ.
As I was re-reading it the other day, I came across some admonition that I failed to notice before (emphasis mine):
“Hence believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism. To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion.”
This means me and I must confront that truth. Do I share the joy of the Gospel in my life and mannerism? Do I do my job and foster my intellect so I don’t teach errors of the Faith? Do I foster the precepts of the Church as a matter of love and devotion for the example of my children? Do I love Christ with all my being and order all aspects of my life to reflect that?
Gaudium Et Spes has marvelous things to say about the dignity of man, the community of mankind, the role of Church in the modern world and even the proper development of culture. It is incredibly easy to read and worth printing out off the Vatican website to peruse at your leisure. This season is difficult for me to get through and ripe with reflection. For me, this is a fantastic time when my heart is weak with the loss of yet another voice in my house. I challenge you to take the time and see what God is calling you to grow in.