The importance of family life is often overlooked due to the fact that most of the interactions are hidden. The subtle variances in day-to-day life are often labeled “mundane” and the culture seems to encourage parents to chase after their own, often fleeting, happiness without thinking of how it could affect the family.
Most of us know at least one married person who was not happy in their current situation, found happiness outside of the marriage, and went through the process of divorce. Regardless of the circumstances, the pain of the divorce echoes throughout the family. If children are involved, this wound follows them into adulthood. (For more on this topic, check out ThemBeforeUs.)
As a response to the cultural war against marriage and family, the Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix promulgated an apostolic exhortation on December 30, 2018 called Complete My Joy. Though Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted writes it specifically to the husbands and wives, mothers and fathers of the Diocese of Phoenix, anyone who is a part of a family, interacts with a family, or has a family should read this. Bishop Olmsted is a spiritual powerhouse and not afraid to charitably preach the truth.
A few years ago he released an Apostalic Exhortation to men called Into the Breach and there are quite a few truth bombs in it. Also, a fun fact, he worked under Pope St. John Paul II in the 90s at the Vatican, so obviously he must be cool.
I recently stumbled across a podcast with Bishop Olmsted doing an interview about his apostolic exhortation, and loved what he has to say about his influences and the reason behind writing this document.
Bishop Olmsted credits his parent’s deep faith and their approach to family life as his earliest and biggest influence. He goes on to talk about how lucky he was to be raised in a stable, loving home where there was never any doubt that his parents would be there for each other and for the children. He was very aware that this wasn’t the case for every family, and we can see that even more so now; he went on to say that people don’t even know what the structure and dynamic of a family should look like because so many of us come from broken or unstable homes.
God revealed to us the beauty and plan for marriage in the first two chapters of the Bible and because we have lost sense of what marriage is for, we have lost sense of who we are. There is a need for our society to turn back to God and take a deeper look at who we are in Christ. Bishop Olmsted goes on to explain that there is a close link between who God is and who we are. To that point, Bishop explains “marriage is called to be an icon of the Trinity.”
Jesus tells us that when we pray to God, we should pray to Him as Father. The Father only speaks twice in the New Testament and both times we hear Him refer to Jesus as “my beloved son.” God reveals Himself in the New Testament to be both Father and Son. It’s evident that God reveals Himself to us in familial terms. If a family has difficulty in regards to relationship, then the children from that family are going to need healing. They grow up with a distorted view of who God is because of the dysfunction of their family life. Bishop Olmsted continues with linking in spiritual motherhood and fatherhood, saying it is essential and has the potential to change a person’s relationship with God and make a difference in their lives.
As a young mother and fairly newly-wed, I feel the woes of the mundane, monotony that is family life, and can sympathize with those who feel the weight of the battle raging against marriage and motherhood. The Bishop’s words of encouragement come at a pivotal moment in history, where we need to exert every effort to protect the fundamental cell of society. If this short summary leaves you wanting more, I encourage you to go download the full exhortation here. The Diocese also has it uploaded on Soundcloud so you could listen to it as a recording here.