Archive for October, 2008
Report Shows Big Downside to Family Disintegration
By Father John Flynn, L.C.
ROME, SEPT. 10, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Marriage continues to decline in the United States, bringing with it numerous adverse consequences for individuals, and society in general. This is one of the main conclusions of a recent study.
The National Marriage Report released its annual publication “The State of Our Unions: The Social Health of Marriage in America 2007” this summer. The center is based at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
The authors of the study are two academics well-known for their writings on family and marriage issues: David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. They found that from 1970 to 2005 there was a decline of nearly 50% in the annual number of marriages per 1,000 unmarried adult women.
A significant proportion of this drop was simply due to delaying marriage until an older age. Nevertheless, more people simply don’t marry or are unmarried, due to cohabitation and a decrease in the numbers of divorced people to remarry.
The report cites estimates that about a quarter of unmarried women 25-39 are currently living with a partner, and an additional quarter have lived with a partner at some time in the past. As well, over half of all first marriages are now preceded by living together, compared with virtually none 50 years ago.
Cohabitation is more common among those of lower educational and income levels, as well as those who are less religious than their peers.
The report also rebuts a couple of myths often used by anti-family forces. The first myth is that living together before marriage is useful in order to find out whether the couple can get along, thereby avoiding a bad marriage and an eventual divorce. This is not borne out by the facts, the report observes.
“In fact, a substantial body of evidence indicates that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage,” the report comments.
The report admits that there are diverse opinions over how the data can be interpreted, but at a minimum the authors conclude: “What can be said for certain is that no evidence has yet been found that those who cohabit before marriage have stronger marriages than those who do not.”
The second myth refuted by the report is the affirmation that even though fewer are marrying, those who marry have higher quality marriages. Not so, reply Popenoe and Whitehead, noting that “the best available evidence on the topic” shows a decline over the last 25 years in the number of both men and women who affirm their marriages are “very happy.”
The report also reveals a growing social divide when it comes to marriage. Among those who have received a university education the institution of marriage has strengthened in the last couple of decades. College-educated women now marry at a higher rate compared with the rest of the population, and they are also less favorably inclined toward divorce than less educated women.
In addition, among those who delay marriage past age 30, college-educated women are the only ones more likely to have children after marriage rather than before.
There is, thus, a growing “marriage gap” in America, notes the report, between those who are well educated and those who are not.
In fact, for those without a university education, “the marriage situation remains gloomy,” according to the report. This is due to a combination of a continuing decline in marriage rates and a growing percentage of out-of-wedlock births. By the year 2000, fully 40% of high school drop-out mothers were living without husbands, compared with just 12% of college-graduate mothers, states the report.
Since hitting a high point in the early 1980s, divorce has moderately declined. Overall, the lifetime probability of a first marriage ending in divorce or separation remains between 40% and 50%. The risk of divorce, however, varies quite notably. The chances of divorce are much higher for those who are poor, people who are high-school drop outs, and couples who marry as teenagers. Couples who have a family background of divorce, as well as those who have no religious affiliation, are also more likely to divorce.
In addition to the personal consequences, the breakdown in marriage and family life over the last few decades has had a severe economic impact. A section of the report looks at the economic benefits of marriage for society.
“Married couples create more economic assets on average than do otherwise similar singles or cohabiting couples,” argues the report. Married couples live more frugally, as opposed to two adults living as singles, and they also save and invest more for the future. Men also tend to become more economically productive after marriage, earning between 10% and 40% more than do single men with similar education and job histories.
The increase in divorce has also resulted in more inequality and poverty. The report points out that a large body of research has shown that both divorce and unmarried childbearing increase child poverty. One study even went so far as to show that if family structure had not changed between 1960 and 1998, the black child poverty rate in 1998 would have been 28.4% rather than 45.6%, and the white child poverty rate would have been 11.4% rather than 15.4%.
Divorce also means higher costs for governments, due to such factors as welfare payments and increased juvenile delinquency. The nation’s 1.4 million divorces in 2002 are estimated to have cost taxpayers more than $30 billion, the report affirms.
The increase in single-parent families also imposes a high cost on children. By 2006 some 28% of American children lived with just one parent. “This means that more children each year are not living in families that include their own married, biological parents, which by all available empirical evidence is the gold standard for insuring optimal outcomes in a child’s development,” commented Popenoe in his introductory essay to the report.
Popenoe also asks how the breakdown in marriage and the family could be repaired. One way to do this is through a cultural transformation led by religion. With the passing of years, Popenoe continues, the United States and other countries have become ever more secular and individualistic. This is particularly the case among young people.
Strengthening religion and the family is one of Benedict XVI’s common themes. The family is a priority of the new evangelization, he declared July 5 to a group of bishops from the Dominican Republic present in Rome for their five-yearly visit.
The Pontiff said, “The Church desires that the family truly be the place where the person is born, matures and is educated for life, and where parents, by loving their children tenderly, prepare them for healthy interpersonal relationships which embody moral and human values in the midst of a society so heavily marked by hedonism and religious indifference.”
More recently, when responding to questions Sept. 1 posed by the youth gathered for an encounter with the Pope in Loreto, Italy, Benedict XVI stated that the marginalization affecting so many people today in part is due to the fragmentation of families.
The family, he pointed out, “should not only be a place where generations meet, but also where they learn to live, learn the essential virtues, and this is in danger.” We need to make sure the family survives and is once more at the center of society, the Pope urged. A task more urgent than ever in the light of current trends.
Interview on Benedict XVI’s Pilgrimage to Mariazell
VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Virgin Mary teaches the faithful to look to Christ, which is also the message of the shrine of Mariazell in Austria, according to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn.
In view of Benedict XVI’s visit to Austria today through Sunday, the archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian bishops’ conference spoke to ZENIT about the Pope’s pilgrimage and the situation of the Church in Austria.
Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.
Q: The Holy Father’s visit to Austria is a pilgrimage to Mariazell. What importance does Mary have in the Christian life?
Cardinal Schönborn: The motto “Turn your gaze toward Christ” is deeply inspired by Mariazell. If you look at the “full of grace” statue in Mariazell, the 850-year-old small statue of Linden wood, without festal vestments, without the opulent robes it is usually clothed in, you can see a simple figure of this smiling and mysterious Mother of God, and on her lap a child with an apple in his hand, symbol of the reign of divine power. And Mary is clearly pointing to the baby. That means that she is saying to us what she said at Cana — “Do whatever he tells you” — and she teaches us to look to Christ.
She is looking at us but she is pointing to Christ. In a certain sense she is calling to us: “Look there, look at my son.” And I think that this is the motto that Pope John Paul II chose for his entire life and especially for his pontificate. “Totus tuus” means to Christ through Mary. She shows us the way. Therefore let us begin Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage, and with the Holy Father, to Mariazell, and to the Am Hof Plaza before the Mariensaeule.
On Dec. 8, 2006, feast of the Immaculate Conception, we began a novena that will last until Sept. 8, in preparation for the feast day of Mariazell and for the Holy Father’s visit.
Q: You recently implied that the scarcity of children is a problem. How can society be more favorable to childhood?
Cardinal Schönborn: It is above all a big problem for a society that compromises its future by not having a sufficient number of children. We know well: Almost all of Europe must face the problem of falling demographics, which is being helped by strong immigration. It is a decision that involves all of society that is already facing the “No Future” problem.
Why are we in this situation today when the situation is Austria is so positive and there is support for families like never before? At no other time in history has there been a lack of norms like we have today. And despite that, families once had more children than they have today.
Certainly the drama of abortion plays an important role, but along with that I would add the fact of people not wanting children, saying no to children through contraception.
In the last 40 years Europe has said “no” three times to its future: the first time with the pill, the second time with abortion and the third time with homosexual marriage. Irrespective of the moral judgments of these phenomenon, it is simply a “de facto” no to the future.
The yes to the future can only mean a yes to children. I think that there is a growing awareness among Europeans that this is a necessary decision. The yes to the future is already a good thing, if you think the future has a chance.
Q: The Center for Families in the Archdiocese of Cologne has existed for some time. What are the specific initiatives of the Archdiocese of Vienna to support families?
Cardinal Schönborn: Naturally many initiatives exist in favor of the family, for example, associations of families or family workshops. Different religious movements have familial organizations, like the Schoenstatt movement. The religious movements of renewal are also strongly focused on families. But I believe that there is something more. It has to do with seeing.
Jesus said to his first disciples: “Come and see!” We need to see, we need to be able to touch — otherwise you don’t live it.
I spent some of my vacation time with a young family who has just had their sixth child. Naturally it is a life with many sacrifices, but it is certainly more vital than what happens if we are afraid of every new life. I think of the experiences of families in similar situations who, with full knowledge, say yes, even if it is linked to enormous opposition from those around them. With our lives we witness that it is good, that having children is good.
Naturally it is tiring. But it is rewarding, gratifying. And I think that the life of families in similar situations encourages others to try it. And strangely, it is not a problem of economics.
Naturally it is difficult with six children. But thank God in Austria there is good support for families. Some things could be better, more constructive, but it is fundamental to live it and make it possible for others. “Come and see!”
I see it in many families that have three, four, five, six children or more. The impression one has is that the future is here, hope is here, life is here. This is the way in which society should live: solidarity, mutual respect, mutual assistance; the logical experience that we need to forgo certain things.
These are the values that we absolutely need, so that society will become a society worthy of life and love. It is there that we find them, where we learn them. Woe to the society in which these values are lost, because it will be an evil society, ruthless.
Q: What are you expecting from the Holy Father’s visit?
Cardinal Schönborn: Strengthening of the faith, joy in the faith and encouragement in walking the way of faith, with the Church and in the Church, and not on a path we make for ourselves.
Interview on Benedict XVI’s Upcoming Trip
VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Christoph Schönborn says Benedict XVI is the last of the great Second Vatican Council theologians, and that the Pope’s words are always both important and fascinating.
In view of Benedict XVI’s visit to Austria this Friday through Sunday, the archbishop of Vienna and president of the Austrian bishops’ conference spoke to ZENIT about the Pope, the man and the successor of Peter.
Part 2 of this interview will be published Friday.
Q: Everyone is talking about the Pope’s upcoming visit. Who is the real Benedict XVI?
Cardinal Schönborn: He is very simple. He is the successor of the Apostle Peter and therefore for us, he is the Vicar of Christ, the Lord’s representative here on earth in the visible Church.
This is at the same time incomprehensible and immense, but it is the secret of the Petrine ministry. Whoever meets with him, whatever country he is from, whatever language he speaks — all of that is important, but it is secondary. For us he is, above all, according to the faith of the Church, Peter among us, with all the depth, greatness and strength of what Jesus prophesied to Peter, of the ministry that he entrusted to him, a ministry that continues to exist beyond the historical figure of Peter.
Q: How are your meetings with the Holy Father?
Cardinal Schönborn: Very normal. He is a man I have known for 35 years, under whom I studied and with whom I have worked for many years, a man that throughout the years, I learned to know and deeply esteem and greatly admire. But April 19, 2005, in his life and in our lives, something greater happened — he was chosen as the successor of Peter. This naturally represents a new dimension, which is evident in meeting with him. He is the man, the teacher, the cardinal that I know well and have known for many years, and at the same time, he is Peter.
Q: You have known Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI for many years. What distinguishes him as a man?
Cardinal Schönborn: I could mention many things. In his memoirs he wrote in a very modest but wise way about his life. He is very restrained in manifesting personal matters. He does not talk much about his life, but its deep Christian roots are notable. You can tell that he comes from a family profoundly formed by faith, a family united in faith and love.
I had the opportunity to get to know his sister Maria well, who died unexpectedly on Nov. 2, 1991. The three siblings were very close and they must have had parents who profoundly shaped them.
Who is the Pope based on his personal history? He is a particularly gifted and intelligent theologian. I do not hesitate to say that he is the last of the great theologians of the Council generation — de Lubac, Congar, Rahner, von Balthasar. He was the youngest in a long line of theologians who influenced the Second Vatican Council and he is certainly one of the greatest because of his spiritual and theological abilities.
Q: During your meeting with Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo you discussed the details of his upcoming trip. What is the Holy Father expecting?
Cardinal Schönborn: He will let us know and I think this is good. When Benedict XVI speaks, it is necessary to pay close attention, because what he has to say is always very clear, important, incisive and very personal and fascinating. I don’t know what he will say to us. It is good to be open.
What I can say with certainty is that we will receive enough material for further reflection.
Q: What kind of Church will the Pope find? What is, in your opinion, the situation of the Church in Austria?
Cardinal Schönborn: Only Our Lord can say what the situation of the Church is for sure, because faith has him for its aim. In that sense, hearts and their relationship with God is a mystery. No statistic is able to measure this. But naturally we live in a time when religious sociology, the psychology of religion, and statistics play an important role, and therefore one studies how to pose religion to the young, to adults and to the elderly.
Since the 1950s there has been enormous change, but not only in the Church, also in society. We live in a very different society.
Let me offer an example: In our diocese we have a rural area and an urban area, the great city of Vienna and neighboring areas that belong to the Archdiocese of Vienna. Fifty years ago, these areas were farmland; today they make up a large part of the outskirts of Vienna. This is a radical change, linked to the professional, social and family lives of many people. The number of farmers has diminished greatly, and this has impacted religious practice.
I think that today the challenge, in a highly secularized society, is living Christianity, the Christian faith almost as an alternative, as a countercultural society.
Father Kolodiejchuk on Joy in Suffering
ROME, SEPT. 5, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Without suffering, our work would just be social work, not the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption, said Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The founder of the Missionaries of Charity expressed this in a letter written to a spiritual director, now published with many others letters in a volume titled “Come Be My Light,” edited and presented by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk.
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Kolodiejchuk, a Missionary of Charity priest and the postulator for the cause of canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, discusses his new book and the interior life Mother Teresa kept hidden from the world.
Part 1 of this interview was published Tuesday.
Q: The name of the book, “Come Be My Light,” was a request Jesus made to Mother Teresa. How did her redemptive suffering for others in such extreme darkness connect with her particular charism?
Father Kolodiejchuk: During the 1950s, Mother surrendered and accepted the darkness. Father Neuner [one of her spiritual directors] helped her to understand it by linking the darkness with her charism, of satiating Jesus’ thirst.
She used to say that the greatest poverty was to feel unloved, unwanted, uncared for, and that’s exactly what she was experiencing in her relationship with Jesus.
Her reparatory suffering, or suffering for others, was part of her living her charism for the poorest of the poor.
So for her, the suffering was not only to identify with the physical and material poverty, but even on the interior level, she identified with the unloved, the lonely, the rejected.
She gave up her own interior light for those living in darkness, saying, “I know this is only feelings.”
In one letter to Jesus, she wrote: “Jesus hear My prayer — if this pleases You — If my pain and suffering — my darkness and separation gives You a drop of Consolation — My own Jesus do with me as You wish — as long as You wish without a single glance at my feelings and Pain.
“I am your own. Imprint on my soul and life the sufferings of Your heart. Don’t mind my feelings — Don’t mind even, my pain.
“If my separation from You, brings others to You and in their love and company — you find joy and pleasure — why Jesus, I am willing with all my heart to suffer all that I suffer — not only now, but for all eternity, if this was possible.”
In a letter to her sisters, she makes the charism of the order more explicit, saying: “My dear children, without suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption — Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death.
“All that He has taken upon Himself, and has carried it in the darkest night. Only by being one with us He has redeemed up.
“We are allowed to do the same: All the desolation of Poor people, not only their Material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed and we must have our share in it, pray thus when you find it hard — ‘I wish to live in this world which is far from God, which has turned so much from the light of Jesus, to help them — to take upon me something of their suffering.'”
And that captures what I consider her mission statement: “If I ever become a Saint — I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from Heaven — to [light] the light of those in darkness on earth…”
This is how she understood her darkness. A lot of the things she said make more sense and have a much deeper meaning now that we know these things.
Q: So what do you say to those who call her experience a crisis of faith, that she didn’t really believe in God, or somehow imply that her darkness was a sign of psychological instability?
Father Kolodiejchuk: It wasn’t a crisis of faith, or that she lacked faith, but that she had a trial of faith where she experienced the feeling that she did not believe in God.
This trial required a lot of human maturity, otherwise she wouldn’t have been able to do it. She would have become unbalanced.
As Father Garrigou-Lagrange said, it is possible to have seemingly contradictory feelings at the same time.
It is possible to have “objective Christian joy,” as Carol Zaleski called it, while at the same time going through the trial or feeling of having no faith.
There are not two people here, but one person with feelings on different levels.
We can really be living the cross in someway — it is painful, and it hurts, and just because we can spiritualize it does not take way the pain, but one can be joyful because one is living with Jesus. And that is not false.
This is how and why Mother lived a life so full of joy.
Q: As the postulator of her cause for canonization, when do you think we might be able to call her St. Teresa of Calcutta?
Father Kolodiejchuk: We need one more miracle — we have looked at a few, but none has been clear enough. There was one for beatification but we are waiting for the second.
Perhaps God has been waiting for the book to come out first, because people knew that Mother Teresa was holy but because of her ordinariness and simplicity of expression, they did not have an understanding of how holy.
I heard about two priests talking the other day. One said he was never a big fan of Mother Teresa because he thought she was just pious, devout, and did nice, admirable works, but then when he heard about her interior life, it changed everything for him.
Now we have more of an idea how developed she was spiritually, and now something of her deeper characteristics are being revealed.
Once the miracle comes in, it could take a couple of years, although the Pope could do it faster if he wanted to.
Q: What has happened to the order since Mother’s death?
Father Kolodiejchuk: The order has grown by almost 1,000 sisters, from around 3,850 at her death to 4,800 today, and we’ve added over 150 houses in 14 more countries.
God’s work goes on.
The Light of Mother Teresa’s Darkness, Part 1
Father Kolodiejchuk on Unity With Jesus
ROME, SEPT. 4, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Feeling or not feeling love, Mother Teresa of Calcutta knew that she was united with Jesus, for her mind was fixed on him and him alone.
The founder of the Missionaries of Charity expressed this in a letter written to a spiritual director, now published with many other letters in a volume titled “Come Be My Light,” edited and presented by Father Brian Kolodiejchuk.
In this interview with ZENIT, Father Kolodiejchuk, a Missionary of Charity priest and the postulator for the cause of canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, discusses his new book and the interior life Mother Teresa kept hidden from the world.
Q: The extraordinary interior life of Mother Teresa was discovered after her death. Aside from her spiritual directors, how was this life, especially her suffering of spiritual darkness, kept from all who knew her?
Father Kolodiejchuk: No one had any idea of her interior life because her spiritual directors held onto these letters. The Jesuits have some, some were at the archbishop’s house, and Father Joseph Neuner, another spiritual director, had some.
These letters were discovered when we went looking for the documents for the cause.
When she was alive, Mother Teresa asked that her biographical information not be shared.
She asked Archbishop Ferdinand Perier of Calcutta not to tell another bishop about how things had begun. She said, “Please don’t give him anything from the beginning, because once people come to know the beginning, like the locutions, then the focus would be on me and not on Jesus.”
She kept saying, “God’s work. This is God’s work.”
Even the closest sisters had no idea of her interior life. Many would have thought that she would have had a great intimacy with God to keep her going in light of the difficulties of the order and the material poverty she suffered.
Q: The book discusses Mother’s secret vow that she made early in her vocation, where she promised not to refuse God anything on pain of mortal sin. What role did this play in her life?
Father Kolodiejchuk: Mother Teresa made this vow, in 1942, to never refuse God anything.
Her inspiration letters from Jesus soon followed. In one of them, if not both of them, Jesus says, picking up on her vow, “Wilt thou refuse to do this for me?”
So the vow is the background to her vocation. Then you see in the inspiration letters where Jesus makes her call clear.
She then pushes forward because she knows what Jesus wants. She is motivated by thought of his longing and his pain because the poor don’t know him, so they don’t want him.
This was one of the pillars that kept her going through the trials of the darkness. Because of her certainty of her call and this vow in one of the letters she says, “I was at the point of breaking and then I remembered the vow, and that picked me up.”
Q: There has been a lot of discussion about Mother Teresa’s “dark night.” It is described in your book as a “martyrdom of desire.” This element, her thirsting for God, has largely been missed. Can you describe this?
Father Kolodiejchuk: A good book to read to understand some of these things is Father Thomas Dubay’s “Fire Within.”
In Father Dubay’s book, he speaks of the real pain of loss and a pain of longing, with the pain of longing being more painful.
As Father Dubay explains, in the path to authentic union with God, there is the purgative stage called the dark night, after this a soul then goes to a stage of ecstasy and true union with God.
The purgative stage for Mother Teresa seems to have been during her time of formation at Loretto.
At the time of her profession, she said her companion was most often the darkness. The kind of letters that you read there, in the dark night, are typical letters you would read of someone in the dark night.
Father Celeste Van Exem, her spiritual director at the time, said that maybe in 1946 or 1945 she was already close to ecstasy.
After that, there is a reference to when the inspirations and locutions came, when the difficulty against faith stopped.
Later she wrote to Father Neuner, explaining: “And then you know how it worked out. And there, as if our Lord just gave himself to me to the full. The sweetness and consolation and union of those 6 months passed but too soon.”
So, Mother Teresa had six months of intense union, after the locutions and ecstasy. She was already in the real transforming union. At this point, the darkness returned.
But now, however, the darkness she experienced was within that union with God — so it wasn’t that she had the union and then lost it. She lost the consolation of the union and alternated between the pain of loss and a deep longing, a real thirst.
As Father Dubay said, “At times the contemplation is delightful, and at other times it is a strong thirsting for him.” But in Mother Teresa’s case, apart from one month in 1958, she did not have this consolation of union.
There is one letter in which she said: “No Father, I am not alone, I have His darkness, I have His pain, I have a terrible longing for God. To love and not to be loved, I know I have Jesus in the unbroken union, for my mind is fixed on him and him alone.”
Her experience of darkness within union is very rare even among the saints because for most, the end is union without it.
Her suffering, then, to use the Dominican theologian Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s term, is reparatory, much more for the sins of others, not purificatory, for her own sins. She is united to Jesus in enough faith and love to share in his experience in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.
Mother Teresa made the comment that the suffering in the Garden was worse than the suffering on the cross. And now we understand where that was coming from, because she understood Jesus’ longing for souls.
The important thing is that it is union, and as Carol Zaleski pointed out in her article in First Things, this kind of trial is a new kind of trial. It is a modern kind of experience for the saints over the last 100 years or so, to suffer the feeling that one does not have any faith, and that religion is not true.