On the second Sunday of October, the Polish
National Catholic Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Christian Family. This Solemnity was instituted at the Third General Synod held at Chicago,
Illinois in 1914. This feast day, together with that of the Institution of the Polish National Catholic on the second Sunday of March and the feast of the Fatherland on the second Sunday of May were approved by the Synod. The minutes of the Synod say, “The
Synod did not only receive the information, but with enthusiasm supported the thought given by Bishop Hodur.” (P.N.C.C.: The Minutes of the First Eleven General Synods, pg. 91)
During the past many weeks within the Sunday readings of the liturgy we have been spending some time on the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, regarding the kingdom of God through His parables. We have learned that bringing about the kingdom of God, which in actuality means accomplishing the reign of God in our own lives, can happen in an abundance of ways. We saw in the parable of the sower that the seed is spread abundantly, but it produces a yield only when it falls on good soil. But then, of course, this begs the questions, where is the good soil to be found, especially within our own lives today.
It is here that we come to the Solemnity of the Christian Family within our Holy Church. When we ask the question, ‘Where do I begin to build the kingdom of God?”; “Where does the reign of God first begin to take hold?” the answer starts with the Christian Family. It is here that we can begin to show our own enthusiastic support, like the Third General Synod delegates mentioned, with this work within the Christian Family.
While recognizing that sometimes our families do not measure up to the Creator’s plan, we also know that in the ideal situation, it is within the family that a child first learns of the ways of love and the Christian ideal of serving others as a joy. We pray this in the Opening Prayer of the Solemnity of the Christian Family when we say, “God, our Heavenly Father, You have blessed each of us with the gift of family that through our family life we may learn to love and care for others.”
The results of this prayer though are something that must be considered. Certainly the object of the prayer is that children, and others as well, will be brought up to love and express care and service for others. We also pray that this love and care will ultimately be extended outside of the nuclear family, to the extended family, the parish family and the entire Christian community as well. Again we pray, “Open our eyes to recognize in all people the bonds of kinship, may we unselfishly serve them who with us have been made co-heirs with Christ.” We are called to see within our relationship to Christ, a true and strong Christian family relationship with our brothers and sisters in the faith.
It is certainly my hope and prayer that this is being accomplished within our families and within our parishes. And I intend this not only for the young children, but for all of us who are still continuing to strive in the ways of perfection to better love and better serve one another. I will certainly admit that I have much yet to accomplish in setting my heart and my life right in the ways of Almighty God and all of us should probably admit the same. We should pray this prayer with our families often, so that as we continue on this journey of increasing love and increasing service we may recognize our own family life, our extended family life and our parish family life as an important part of this work.
We can see that there is also another side to this situation, and this amounts to our helping others to be guided in the ways of love, care and service. Again in the Prayer after Communion on the Solemnity of the Christian Family we pray, “…we entrust to Your loving care and correction the members of our families, both near and far. Supply their needs, guide their steps, keep them safe in body and soul.” While we pray that our Heavenly Father will supply these things we must also realize that they will be accomplished through the actions of those already within the family. Each of us, as members of our own families and members of our parish families, are called to supply their needs, guide their steps and keep them safe. Let us now take a quick look at each of these items.
We are called to supply the needs of those around us. We, of course, begin with the loving-kindness that we show to our immediate family and those with whom we share our daily life. And we also seek to extend this to those members of our family who no longer live with us. Are we caring for our parents, or our brothers and sisters, if they live a distance from us? Do we have such concern for our extended relatives? We then also seek to extend this even further. Are those with whom we share a parish life or worship life in any need? Do we seek to meet the needs of those who live within our own communities and neighborhoods?
But to meet the physical needs of those around us is also only a first step. We are called within the prayer to guide their steps. This means that part of the love we share as a Christian Family is to concern ourselves with the education of those around us, and this especially means moral education and guidance. Of course this begins with our children, making sure that they participate in the Christian education programs of the parish like the School of Christian Living. It extends to the sacramental preparation as the young members of our families and our parishes get ready to receive the Sacraments of Penance, Eucharist and Confirmation. And we must think that this is not only to make sure that our own children attend these important parts of our parish life, but also that we encourage others. Sometimes this encouragement must include an offer to chauffeur children so that they can attend these important classes. Sometimes this encouragement means that we must offer ourselves to teach a catechetical class or School of Christian Living class so that there is someone to offer this important ministry. Sometimes this encouragement means that we will attend a class along with our children and other youth to show them just how important these life lessons are in “guiding their steps” along the road of life with our Lord.
Lastly we pray that Almighty God will “keep them safe in body and soul.” Again, in many ways, this is a work that will fall to us as parents and guardians for children or as fellow Christians in a journey of a Christian life. The Lord has entrusted to parents and guardians a precious life which must be cared for, loved and nurtured. But that same precious life is placed within a larger extended parish family which also shares a responsibility for their protection, guidance and safety. This same can also be said for those within the parish, the community or the neighborhood which surrounds us and our families.
I know that some might be thinking that it’s all just too much. How can I be all of these things to all of these people? And the answer is that we can’t. But we also can’t just throw up our hands and do nothing. We are called as members of the Christian Family to act and we can certainly take up some role. We can certainly accomplish some act of loving-kindness for those members of our parish family around us. Maybe it’s being an SOCL teacher. Maybe it’s making sure that families are supported in helping to bring their children to catechetical classes. Maybe it’s outreach to the community with a clothing drive, or help with meals. There are so very many ways that we can support our parish family or our wider community family.
As a response to the Solemnity of the Christian Family, I encourage each and every parish of our Polish National Catholic Church, as a part of our Discipleship 2020 program this year, to consider what is needed: within the lives of your parish families, within the life of the parish itself and within your local community. And then begin to seek those individuals, members of your parish family, to accomplish this work of loving-kindness, this work of family support, this work of community involvement. And my brothers and sisters, I ask each of you to search your hearts to see where you can offer yourself for some good work within the parish family. Where you can “meet their needs, guide their steps and keep them safe?” This is what we are called to as a Christian Family, a parish family united in the love and worship of Almighty God through Jesus Christ.
Now that we have celebrated the Solemnity of the Christian Family, let us make the Christian Family, our own families and the parish family, a priority in love, in faith, in care and in service.