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Archives Family event focused on Christian love

Nov. 7, 2018

By Suzanne Pietropaoli
Staff Writer

OGDENSBURG – A day-long event devoted to “The Catholic Family: God’s Answer for Our Time” drew people fromWomen of Grace around the diocese to St. Mary’s Cathedral on October 13.

There, Women of Grace founder Johnette Bencovic Williams, and associates Susan Brinkmann and Thomas Sullivan, offered factual, faithful, and hope-filled reflections on bringing the light of faith to family life and the issues that affect it.

“We live in a very confused time,” Williams acknowledged in the opening presentation. “But God has entrusted us with the beautiful divine duty of proclaiming his truth.”

Little wonder that people are perplexed: “We are caught up in a primordial battle between good and evil, fighting principalities that sow confusion,” she said.

Williams recounted the darkness that followed her own loss of faith in college, when she briefly lived the lies of the sexual revolution.

But God drew her back to himself and gifted her with Ephesians 1:3-4: “Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavens…God chose us in him before the world began, to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be full of love.”

This, Williams explained, is who God created each one of us to be: specially chosen by him to share his life and love – a sharing that rests on our cooperation with God’s plan for the human family.

This is what Adam and Eve rejected in the garden, where they chose the empty promises of the devil over the perfect love of God. This disobedience disrupted their relationship with God, with one another, and with the created world. These original disruptions remain in a world where unbelief is increasingly widespread, where marriage has been redefined, and where gender identity issues separate us from our own biology.

“When we seek solutions outside of God to deal with our problems, we actually make them worse,” Williams said. “In heaven there are saints who struggled with same-sex attraction, but God used this to make them great saints.Becoming a saint is all about love – not feelings, not eros, which focuses on one’s own pleasure.

The love that makes us saints is, as St. John Paul II wrote, ‘an act of total self-donation,’ the kind of love that was poured out for us in Christ on the cross, the love that is oriented toward the flourishing of the beloved. So, marriage is not 50-50, but a total gift of one spouse to the other. God created us male and female, orienting our bodies so we could participate in bringing to life new human persons made in his image. Any deliberately sterile relationship is not a marriage.”

As Susan Brinkmann explained in her presentation, many of these ideas have been tried before.

“Since Marxism sought to destroy the nuclear family, Russia early promoted divorce, abortion, ‘free love,’ and single parenting, with disastrous results,” she said. “Economic activity decreased drastically in a short period and the government moved quickly to change policies and save their country. To all Russia’s errors, we have now added easy contraception, pornography and gender confusion.

“But this can change: these ‘loves’ do not satisfy the longing of the human heart to give and to receive agape love. No one does love like Jesus Christ! Agape is at the heart of every Catholic teaching, including those on hot-button issues: self-sacrificing love that looks to the good of the other for all eternity. This definition of love excludes all expressions of sex outside of marriage. But agape love is not easy or politically correct; it will cost you.”

“Yet if eros is best,” Brinkmann asks, “why do we have a culture of divorce, suicide, substance abuse, porn, skyrocketing rates of STDs, sexual violence? These are not the fruits of love, but of out-of-control eros. Marriage is the bedrock of all societies; for that we need self-giving love—not merely the ‘love’ that makes me feel good, as in cohabitation. Neither church nor state created marriage. It grows out of how God created us as man and woman. If lived in agape love, open to life, marriage creates stable families and stable societies.”

To understand and live God’s plan is impossible without grace, which comes through the sacraments and prayer.
Presenter Thomas Sullivan used a military metaphor to explain: “In Baptism we are enlisted in the army of God; in Confirmation, we are equipped for battle. St. Paul reminds us that ‘our battle is against the principalities and rulers of this world.’ Spiritual warfare is an ongoing battle in every life. To win the victory, we must be sober and alert, and put on the armor of God – through prayer, penance, and the sacraments, especially Eucharist and Reconciliation. The Rosary is a very powerful weapon against the enemy that wants to destroy us.”

“God asks us to be the light that shines in darkness,” Williams said in her final talk. “This information is very countercultural and very challenging. Contraception is used in Catholic families, but God wants more from us. He doesn’t want any territory of our hearts to be hidden from him. The love of husband and wife is a sign that points to a higher reality. Don’t frustrate this beautiful divine mystery. Use Natural Family Planning to learn how our bodies work; NFP is good science! Remember that the secret to happy married life is contained in Ephesians 5, where God challenges us to love our spouses according to the Divine plan. Men, be willing to die to self for your families. Bring your children to Mass and confession; lead the rosary. Cherish your wives! Ladies, act in such a way that your man would walk through the Sahara Desert for you: respect him! Don’t mother or smother him.”

“Remember that marriage is your vocation, the way you are sanctified and purified. This involves the cross! It is also the way to heaven. Every marriage has a two-fold mission. The interior mission is purification and sanctification in us and in the family God gives us. The external mission is for the benefit of the world at large. When others can look at our families and say, ‘See these Christians, how they love one another,’ we become a beacon of hope in an age of confusion.”


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