Today, the traditional Roman calendar celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. This devotion to Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a family is rather modern in its expression. It is undoubtedly one of the providential ways in which God sends us in every age the devotions that we need most. Today, the family is endangered in its very existence. Forces hostile to the name of Christ, nay, hostile to man himself, seek to dismantle the family, considering it as a social construct inherited from what is derisively referred to as a patriarchal society. The destruction began with divorce, gained momentum with contraception, had victory in sight when it succeeded in making abortion legal and then a “right”, and won the day when it was totally severed from the very concept of what it is by same-sex “marriage”. The battle for the family has been lost. Lost, that is, in our western apostate societies which have bent the knee to the idols of the day. That battle however is only a battle in a war, one that we know leads to the ultimate victory of Christ the King and those who seek to follow Him.
The question might be asked: what role do monks play in that war? What do they do for the family? How can they, by running off into solitude and fleeing the responsibilities of a family, help the family.
The first thing to keep in mind is that monks also get married. A homily by St Augustine, which we will read next Sunday, makes it clear that those who have left the world to consecrate their chastity to Christ are “not without nuptials”. Their consecration to God is essentially a marriage with God; it is the realisation in time of the eternal nuptials that God will establish with all the elect in His Kingdom. It is this very reality which gives the monk so much love and esteem for the human family which mirrors on earth the fidelity and fecundity of the Most Holy Trinity. “Whoever denigrates marriage”, writes St. John Chrysostom, also diminishes the glory of virginity. Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be particularly good. It is something better than what is admitted to be good that is the most excellent good.”
As monks dedicated to Our Lady of Cana, we are particularly interested in the future of the family. The presence of Our Lord and Our Lady with the first apostles at that wedding inspires us with great veneration for the state of matrimony which Christ sanctified on that occasion. The example of faithful and generous married couples inspires us to be faithful to our own marriage with the Lord, and we hope, by our fidelity to be an inspiration to them to persevere when they meet with difficulties, tensions, sickness, death. Our retreats seek to be the privileged space where we seek to be a consolation and a bulwark to families. To fathers and mothers, spouses who long to conceive but who are frustrated in their desire, young men and women seeking a good spouse, we hope to provide the spiritual sustenance they need to move forward in their pursuit of God’s will in their lives.
May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, protect and bless all our families and all our communities, and lead us all together to the eternal fatherland where we will be in very truth the Family of God.