"As the family goes, so goes the nation."
Blessed Pope John Paul said that once on a visit to this country.
Family: the love that begins with a man and woman, a commitment made to each other and to the future by bearing children, a nucleus, a nourishing clan from which springs more love and commitment and continual strength. A chain that promises support even when the separate links are geographically removed from one another.
Someone said that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother. I believe it, because I witnessed it. My dad adored and honored my mother through near constant financial and emotional struggles while raising us kids, and they have now been married 40 years. They just went to Paris to celebrate.
I am the fruit of a lifelong, for better or worse commitment, as is my husband, and I have seen the harvest of such relationships through others. We recently had a young woman to dinner, a confident woman who is embarking on a great new chapter in her life, and she spoke throughout the evening often of her family. She was proud of her familial, spiritual, emotional roots. They were strong; she knows it, and we felt it in her words and expression. She knows who and where she came from, the safety net is there, and though she hasn't been immune to heartbreak, she has been better able to learn from it and continue on her personal journey with courage, and what's more, with hope. Her parents and grandparents gave her the tools and have her back.
The idea of this commitment, of marriage, seems irrelevant to society - an old-fashioned notion, an archaic idea from a less tolerant, more rigid age that believed in sin and didn't know how to efficiently prevent pregnancy. But marriage will only become unnecessary if humanity stops producing offspring as a race, if we are doomed to extinction and can no longer look to the future or hope, because children have an innate need to know, love and respect their parents as their foundation. It is instilled by God, because parents, for good or ill, are a child's first instructors, their initial survival experts, should be that first brilliant illumination of God's love for them.
I was recently shopping for my new niece with my daughters. Two young saleswomen were tending the shop and discussing their toddlers.
"Are you married to your baby's daddy?" one asked the other.
"No, are you?"
My heart sank, and it plunged more when one said to the other, "My boyfriend wants to get married, but I said, 'What's the rush? We don't have money for a wedding right now.' "
I believe in saying prayers spontaneously. For the homeless guy on the street corner, for the young man being held by security and yelling about it in the supermarket, for these young foolish women who don't understand what they are denying their children, their partners or themselves.
It's so common, I know, and I would be disheartened except that I remember how often in the gospels it was recorded that Christ sat down to a meal with sinners gladly and taught them, pulled them along by his beautiful Grace, and how they responded with abundant hope.
But seeds of love, respect and fidelity are still being sown. You can imagine our joy when my husband and I lately discovered that we will have the wonderful opportunity of celebrating a marriage on his side of the family with the extended family. It's joy bestowed by the Creator, a strengthening of the body of Christ, another steadfast link in the chain that connects us to our Heavenly Father and to each other and to the promise of the future.