Rediscovering the beauty of family life

We have reached a boiling point in America: angry pro-abortion activists are descending on the private homes of Supreme Court Justices and disrupting church services. Newspapers and TV screens and social media are full of rage and anguish.

This is inevitable in a society in which people primarily act based on their emotions. Philosophers call this emotivism. Perhaps Italian philosopher Pier Giorgio Liverani defined it most accurately when he said, “In our society every desire becomes a right.” This is how I feel, so it must be true -- or -- I want this thing, therefore I must have it.

That we are facing an educational crisis in the areas of sexuality is obvious. The crisis of emotions, not so much.

When I first read this idea in a 2019 Vatican document called “Male and Female He Created Them,” I pronounced an emphatic “Yes!” to the declaration of a sexuality crisis. But I stared blankly at sentences about a crisis in “affectivity”. But, after consulting a Vatican phrase-book, it made sense. Affectivity is our emotional life – and it is obvious that so many of Gens X, Y and Z are experiencing an emotional crisis.

As I slogged my way through the document, dissecting each phrase whose meaning eluded me, an image of the beauty of the person in Christian anthropology began to shine through the pages. Our sexuality is integral to our personhood. It informs how we communicate, feel and express human love. For sexual education to be true and effective, it must integrate the totality of the person -- our biology, our emotions and our social and spiritual elements.

These elements are intertwined. To mess with one of them is to mess with all of them -- hence the link between emotions and sexuality. No wonder mental health problems are at an all-time high. No wonder dissatisfaction and anger are rampant. Just look at the rage on the faces of protesters in front of the Supreme Court.

The solution? It is understanding the beauty of the truth of our bodies to communicate it to others and to live a happy and fully human life. This is what the above document effectively does. Consider these two gems:

“Though made of body and soul, man is one. Through his bodily composition he gathers to himself the elements of the material world; thus they reach their crown through him, and through him raise their voice in free praise of the Creator.”

This shows both our relationship to the earth and our transcendence beyond the physical, biological level. How awe-inspiring is that? 

“The formation of one’s identity is itself based on the principle of otherness, since it is precisely the direct encounter between another ‘you’ who is not me that enables me to recognise the essence of the ‘I’ who is me. Difference, in fact, is a condition of all cognition, including cognition of one’s identity.”

We learn who we are through learning about others. Our family and society, just by being there, teach us who we are. Mind-blowing.

Learning about the beauty of sexuality does not just give us answers, it pierces our heart with its transcendence. It grounds us with its meaning.

So, yes, let's research woke ideology, critical (race) theory and their Marxist roots, but let's also make sure we spend even more time learning about what is good, beautiful and true. Resources are manifold -- Jason Evert’s The Chastity Project and Christopher West’s resources on the theology of the body, for instance.

Due to the distortion of sexuality, anyone interested in dating or raising a family in an authentically Christian way is, in effect, a pioneer. In addressing ideologically-specific issues, we can’t even turn to the generation older than us. While many have wisdom to share in other areas, they simply have not had to confront these very aggressive forces that have ramped up their influence in a mere few years.

So we need to band together, to toughen up, and to study.

I’d like to give a big plug here for Love Talks: Sexuality and Affectivity, an upcoming online congress by the International Federation for Family Development. It promises to be a great help. It should appeal to young professionals, singles, couples, fathers, mothers, grandparents, educators and more. It is open to people of all faiths and religions.

In 2007, my husband and I attended an IFFD Congress in Rome and were impressed by the high-caliber speakers.

This year’s conference is online, with about 40 brief talks of about 10 to 15 minutes. You don’t even have to leave your living room. For a modest fee, you can stream speakers such as Damon Owens, Shaunti Feldhan, and Dr Meg Meeker (her book Raising a Strong Daughter in a Toxic Culture is fantastic!).  

Talks are for those already married, those engaged and those just starting to date. While indirectly addressing toxic ideologies, they focus on discovering the beauty of sexuality and affectivity.

This is far more effective than simply lamenting our current situation for it helps us to discover the joy of being human and the beauty of family life. It raises our gaze above the stormy clouds so that we can bask in the grandeur of the sun of truth.

IFFD is all about discovering together the beauty of family life to inspire a more humane world. In dozens of countries around the world, it runs courses on parenting for children of all ages, for singles, for married couples and even for grandparents. It is also active in lobbying for the family at the United Nations and other international organisations.

Here’s Damon Owens, one of the American speakers. He runs a non-profit call Joyful Ever After which helps couples to renew and transform their marriages.


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