20 February 2008

More important to be a spouse than a parent

I'm off to Manila again tomorrow, this time to attend the National Board Meeting of Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME). I'll be visiting different parts of Luzon after that with my editorial staff. The following week I'll be in Ozamiz City, Mindanao, giving a directed retreat to four deacons from the Diocese of Dipolog.

An aside: very few Filipinos live on 'cartoon islands', the ones you see with a shipwrecked individual standing under the solitary coconut tree helplessly waving his tattered shirt at a ship on the horizon. Luzon, the main island in the north, is nearly as big as Britain and Mindanao, the main island in the south is bigger than Ireland, around the same size as Iceland. The Visayas, the group of islands in the centre of the country, are all large. Bacolod City, where I live, is on the island of Negros and it would probably take me two days to drive around the island if I were so inclined, which I'm not. I guess that people from the mainland of Britain and the mainland of Ireland have a different perception of what an island is from a mainland Canadian or American, for example, or a mainland European.

I made my WWME Weekend in Toronto in October 1982 while on a sabbatical year there and have been a team priest since then, with some inactive periods. You can find some testimonies by priest on an emagazine of WWME in the USA in the Priest's Corner. (The editor in me is thinking, 'Shouldn't that be Priests' Corner, with the apostrophe after the "s"?')

I have found my involvement over the years with WWME very helpful in living my life as a priest. The weekend emphasises the importance of the two sacraments: Matrimony and Holy Orders and how those called to live each support one another in being faithful to God's call. One thing I have become convinced of is that the most intimate and the most important of all human relationships is that between husband and wife. I sometimes think that the Church in speaking about the importance of the family doesn't stress enough the foundation of the family that is marriage.

In other words, it is more important to be a husband or wife than a father or mother. If a couple put their spousal relationship before everything else as God's will for them they cannot be but good parents if God grants them children. The Church honours St Joseph on his solemnity on 19 March (this year 15 March in most countries because of such an early Holy Week) as the Husband of Mary.

For the priest it means putting his relationship with Jesus the Risen Lord before everything else: When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep (Jn 21:15-17).


adelle said...

Fr. Sean, thank you for your wise reflection and sound theology inspired by your involvement with the WWME which applies to the two Sacraments"Priesthood and Marriage."

That, the intimate bonding with Christ becomes a basic foundation to meaningfully carry on one's calling/vocation in life. This also applies to all state of life if I want to find "deeper" meaning in my life.


Anonymous said...

I struggle with this one Fr..still thinking it's more important to be parent first????

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Thanks, Jackie, for your comment. During the wedding ceremony the couple exchange vows with one another and if they are of childbearing age promise to accept whatever children God may send them. (I know many heroic single parents, and I'm not referring to widowed parents here, but their becoming parents outside of marriage wasn't in accordance with God's will, though God stands by both parent and child with his unconditional love.)

It is God's will that children be born only to married couples and it is as spouses committed to each other in God's love 'until death do us part' that God calls a couple to be parents. Being parents is a consequence of being spouses.

Think of a priest who gives himself wholeheartedly in service to his people but neglects his relationship with the Lord, skips prayer 'because my work is my prayer' and so on. Is he living the life that God has called him to live?

'Do you love me, Peter?' Three times Jesus asked this question. The third time Peter felt hurt. but Jesus each time after asking the question then said 'Feed my lambs' or 'feed my sheep'.

I truly believe that the greatest form of parenting is husband and wife always having each other as the most important person in each other's life. Children cannot possibly suffer from this. This is God's revealed will. The spousal relationship is the only exclusive relationship to which God calls any two people.

In your blog you have frequently referred to decisions made together by Andrew and yourself for the sake of your family. In other words, you were taking responsibility for your family as spouses called, as spouses, to be the parents of a wonderful group of sons and daughters.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Fr sean..I will use this when I get chance..