I am pleased to offer a few thoughts on the importance of Family Renewal Project as an apostolate for the Church and for the culture that we find ourselves surrounded by if not battling against its errors born of secularism and individualism. I have been blessed to be a part of Family Renewal Project since its beginning and serve as its chaplain. It is to be noted that I am composing my thoughts on the 50th anniversary of one of the most profound if not prophetic teachings to be penned by a Pope in the 20th Century. While his predications may have been prophetic, Blessed Paul VI taught an eternal truth about what the Church knows and believes to be revealed by God. Cardinal DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released the following statement this morning, “Fifty years ago, today, Blessed Paul VI issued the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. In it, he reaffirmed the beautiful truth that a husband and wife are called to give themselves completely to each other. Marriage reflects the love of God, which is faithful, generous, and life-giving. Through their vocation, spouses cooperate with God by being open to new human life.” The Cardinal’s words could have easily been lifted from the foundational beliefs forming the mission of Family Renewal Project. [Cardinal DiNardo’s entire statement is linked HERE.]
To understand the significance of any apostolate in the Church today including Family Renewal Project, it is helpful to define the mission of an apostolate. The name itself is revealing as its root is “apostle.” The work of an apostle – not only of the first followers of Christ but of all the faithful who carry on the original mission entrusted by Jesus Christ to the Twelve – to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). The apostolate belongs essentially to the order of grace. Its purpose is not temporal welfare, however noble, but to bring people to the knowledge and love of Christ and, through obedience to His teaching, help them attain life everlasting. To this end, the mission of Family Renewal Project is to rely on the order of grace that gives us access to God’s power through the work of the Holy Spirit. If it is truly of God and relies on His help along with the powerful intercessors in Heaven such as Saint John Paul II, many disciples will be made and will live the truth in freedom by the success of this apostolate.
In his “theology of the body,” based on discourses at his weekly general audiences during the first five years of his papacy, Saint John Paul II examined the first three books of Genesis to recommunicate a fundamental truth the Church has defended across the centuries — the inalienable dignity of the human person, the imago Dei [image of God], who is called to communion through his physical body. He takes us back to Genesis, encouraging us to see creation through the lens of God the Father and His eyes gazing upon the beauty of His image made visible in man and woman. Family renewal as an apostolate is a response to an “upside-down world” looking at the human person through the lens of selfishness that condemns sacrifice and belittles chastity, which leads to empty and vacant souls with no longing for eternal life. The doubts and emptiness are intimately and intrinsically connected to the culture’s view of sex, marriage, and procreation. The evidence of this truth is impossible to ignore: the rapid decline in marriage and fertility rates, matched by the promotion of same-sex “marriage” and the more recent campaign to separate gender identity from biological sex. Buffeted by these powerful secular currents, based on a relativized and individualistic conception of sexuality, Catholics are increasingly tempted to devise their own system of sexual ethics.
Instead of being concerned with what is really true (what God has revealed) there is a tendency to find comfort and solace in the expectation that no matter what we do, everything will turn out okay, and no one seems to get hurt in the misguided choices and decisions that are rightfully mine to make. Responsibility leading to freedom corrects this anthropology. Family Renewal Project serves as a corrective in today’s secular culture – not unlike the Twelve did in the 1st Century culture.
When Catholics – and all men and women – reverence the gift of life by living out their sexuality within marriage with an openness to the possibility of life — even at those times when this proves very challenging — they are affirming the goodness of creation and serving as God’s collaborators. Catholics may dismiss the Church’s ban on contraception as an arbitrary rule but what the Church teaches about the family, marriage, and sexuality tells us about who we are and what our communion with God should be in this life in preparation for the next.
As a member of the Family Renewal Project team – an apostolate for the Church and the Culture – please join us and pray for us so that all who are drawn to salvation in Christ will remember every day, “And He looked upon all He had made and saw that it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
– Very Rev. Martin A. Linebach