The Synod of Bishops on the Family is almost upon us. Apart from the Second Vatican Council itself, it is hard to think of a gathering of bishops in recent times that has had such a build up to it.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis said that the family is experiencing a profound cultural crisis (see paragraph 66). Whatever you think about some of the ideas that have been proposed in connection with the synod, it is clear that the Church cannot just walk away from the crisis in family life today.
The Family Matters series of booklets from CTS also represents an attempt to respond to the challenges that so many of us face in our family lives.
Since it was launched nearly 10 years ago, the series has certainly found an audience. Over 30,000 copies of the booklets have now sold.
Let me highlight one aspect of the series of booklets for you. Pope Francis went on to say in Evangelii Gaudium that we tend now to see marriage just as a form of emotional satisfaction, a relationship that one can construct or modify as one pleases. Part of the purpose behind the series has been to demonstrate, in really very practical ways, that if we live out our lives in response to the initiative that God takes, then our difficulties assume quite different proportions.
The very first booklet in the series to be published was Passing on Faith to your Children. There are few things that are harder for a parent than when a son or daughter abandons the faith. This booklet reminds us that while we can take the initiative as parents, our young people need to actually realise that a full and whole-hearted practice of the faith leads to a flourishing life.
It is heart-rending for a grandmother or grandfather to see a grandchild kept at a distance from the Church. The Role of Christian Grandparents encourages grandparents to have hope for their grandchildren. Even if what you attempt seems too little, God can multiply your five loaves and two fish. There are also counterpart booklets for mothers and fathers, The Role of a Christian Mother and The Role of a Christian Father.
The crisis in the family is particularly keenly felt in relation to sexual morality. Sex Education: A Guide for Parents reminds us that this is not territory that we can just leave to our schools.
The most recent title in the series was published earlier this year, Facing Difficulties in Christian Family Life. Every difficulty that we encounter in our families can become a means to encounter Christ, even when the hardship itself remains.
The outcomes of the Synod will make a significant difference to life in the Church, and we need to pray from the depths of our hearts that God grants wisdom to our bishops, and to the Holy Father. It is also true, though, that each one of us is responsible for our own family life. Rather than just read about the Synod in the media, or perhaps grumble about positions that the bishops take, why not pick out a title or two from the series? See if God inspires something in your heart after reading Prayer in the Family or one of the other titles!