Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
The pregnant season, Part Two
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By Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
December 15, 2013

They were homeless but grateful that they had found some housing while she was expecting. They planned to return home after the child was born. They knew they could count on the father to make all the arrangements for their return home after he had registered the family in the city of his birth as required by law. They did not anticipate after the child's birth that they would suddenly have to leave and not return to their home but find another place to live. They were not wealthy, but fortunately some visitors whom they did not know had given their newborn some gifts including gold which could now pay the costs of their relocation and sustain them until the father could find work to support his family. A single mother or parent today in such circumstances would have found the situation nearly impossible unlike Mary, Jesus, her son and his step-father, Joseph.

Families don't work well without both parents, fathers and mothers, in raising children. Contrary to popular belief people in general don't work well even on their own no matter how self-sufficient they think they may be. It is also a well known fact that married spouses live longer according to the United States Census Bureau. Like Joseph, Mary and Jesus – families with fathers, mothers and children can draw more strength and resources from each other no matter what trials they may endure. Children rely on their parents and learn the 'ins and the outs' of the most basic human relations in a whole family for which there is no substitute in society. Sadly, today, whole families, fathers, mothers and children, are no longer the norm especially single parents with children which government and others have tried to assist with no real success. Who, for instance, can give a single mother a father when she needs one? Last week one grown woman on Craigslist actually advertised, "I want to rent a mom and dad for the holidays" and offered $8 an hour for the job. Jackie Turner, the woman who placed the ad wasn't looking for a father and a mother for a young child but for herself, at least for the holidays. Jackie, age 26, is a college student in Rocklin, California with a perfect 4.0 grade point average who "came from a broken home and was abused as a child. . . . [She said she] will pay a substitute mom and dad . . . to fill that void not having a family left." (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/woman-craigslist-ad-rent-mom-dad-article-1.15 40683#ixzz2nC77ze8Q).
    On the outside, it looks like I'm the American dream kid, but I have a back story that most people wouldn't believe if they looked at me today . . . . I was in gang life, on the streets, fighting, doing drugs, just making a mess of my life' [she said] adding that she was arrested for grand theft in Sacramento. After spending nearly a year in jail, she'd had enough. She went to a camp for troubled young adults in Grass Valley called Christian Encounter Ministries. Now she's a presidential scholar at William Jessup University . . . . An incredible turnaround, to be sure. Still, she adds, 'There's still something deep inside of me. There's this void, my biological parents aren't here, and it's kept this hole inside of me. I want to rent a mom and dad. . . . just to sit, just to listen. Just to cry with me, no strings beyond that. I've never felt the touch of my Mom hugging me and holding me. I don't know what it's like to look in my dad's eyes and feel love instead of hatred, and just wants to feel loved'.

    (http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2013/12/woman-lonely-and-abused-as-child-pos ts-craigslist-ad-to-rent-fam/#sthash.ZuL2eAyS.dpuf).
The story I have recounted here drew a great response. Jackie received invitations from many families who were willing "to take her in for free." (Ibid.)

You and I know this is not an isolated story, the story of the irreplaceable bond of father, mother and child no matter what the age of the child. We are all children, first children of God and then children of our biological mothers and fathers. There is no escaping the fact, but there are attempts to undermine the natural family in our country. (Same sex marriages without biological children of their own are not families.) The history of this degradation of family began with Adam and Eve. In their selfishness and pride, Adam blamed Eve for his sin and Eve blamed a snake. Having disowned their personal responsibility their firstborn, Cain who killed his younger brother, Abel, out of jealousy. The breakup of families reaches back to the beginning of creation. (cf. Genesis 1–2). We know, too, that God the Father did not spare his Son in his effort to repair our broken-ness sacrificing his Son for us his adopted sons and daughters. Where is the love today – sacrificing one's own life for the sake of a spouse or a child in 'no fault divorce'? Isn't that what immature children do – rather than accept their responsibility they tell mom or dad, "It broke." That broken thing in question by some magical power 'broke itself.' This popular mind set has infected our social mores, a disorientation of values. The mantra of "sexual orientation," for example, for many is an magical "escape clause' excusing so much bad behavior that many are blinded by the real effects of their actions. What does "safe sex," for instance, proffer – only sex 'out of control' which is dangerous to human beings?

Remember the song from the 70s "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one your with." Today they don't call it love but "hooking up." Essentially, this behavior is not only immoral but self-destructive. We know our human faculties and appetites are defined and fulfilled by their objects. Our eyes seek light, but to stare at the sun would eventually blind us. When we are hungry our bodies tell us we need nourishment, but uncontrolled eating and drinking bypass the need for nourishment and focus on the pleasure of eating and drinking which explains why eating disorders degenerate into coronary disease and diabetes. An obese child at fourteen shortens his life span by twenty years. Apply the same principle to sexual desire, a desirable good for a married couple who take responsibility for themselves and their children but not for those who desire only the pleasure of sex which incurs infidelity, promiscuity, multiple marriages, poverty, venereal disease, aids and the corruption of men and women made in the image of God. In today's ensuing chaos many of our confused millennia generation no longer marry but cohabit, sometimes with the blessing of parents and family and are happily greeted at a family gathering. No one wishes to offend anyone.

Sexual exploitation today is everywhere in the media and entertainment, often violent, gratuitous and unrelated to the storyline but wedged into the 'entertainment' to maintain some kind of base sensual interest. Our sensibilities are numbed and our precautions are compromised. In time we become accustomed to the exploitation particularly of children who are drawn into compromising lifestyles, dating in high school, wearing provocative clothing and flirting. In time we consider it innocent behavior. Then we are surprised – or not – how many teenagers are sexually active and become pregnant and have abortions.

In its proper context the awe and beauty of marriage and marital relations should be the heart of parents' relationship with their children and their children's relationships with their parents. How many Jackie Turners out there feel, "the void . . . the hole inside" as she described. In the creation story God draws man into the mystery of life reflected in his own nature that "It is not good for man to be alone." (Genesis 2: 18). It is a discovery we all need to make in this world and fulfill in the world to come. It is the province of fathers and mothers to share this mystery with their children, "of two becoming one" which Adam, while still in God's good grace, recognized when he beheld for the first time his other self:
    This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called 'woman,' for out of man this one has been taken." That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body. The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame. (Genesis 2: 23-25).
Marriage is the sign of the highest form of friendship which Jesus declared to his Apostles, "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15). When Jesus was questioned, Why did his disciples not fast as others he defended their relationship to him saying, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them." (John 9:15). A number of Jesus parables examined this relationship of guests invited to a marriage, one, the invitation of guests to the wedding of a king's son and, another, the maids and guests of the bridegroom who missed the wedding celebration. (cf. Matthew 22:1-14; 25:1-12).

The touching story of Jackie Turner which I shared with you is silently repeated many times in our society when men and women, married and unmarried, have children but fail to understand or accept their relationship to each other before God and their relationship to their children by not becoming wholly "one in body," "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" as Jesus made clear. When questioned about the grounds for divorce Jesus repeated what his Father had created in the garden with Adam and Eve saying, "a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Matthew 19:5-7). The marital act ordinarily consummates and validates a marriage but is not the sum and substance of marriage. Friendship was the essence of Mary's and Joseph's relationship and Jesus relationship with them as Christ is our bridegroom in the family of the church.

© Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

 

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Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

I am the founder and director of the Families For Families Retreat House, a refuge for anyone who wants to rethink his or her life in a quiet non-demanding environment in an historic house c.1709 when life was less complicated. I am also and primarily a Catholic priest having been a college and university teacher, business-owner and executive among other things. I received my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English literature from Saint John's University, Jamaica, New York and completed post-graduate studies at Kansas State University. Contact me at FatherTomSays@gmail.com.

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