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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

       Monday, August 9 2004 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Second of the four basic
mind-food groups: Family

The most interesting fellow traveler to Eastern Orthodoxy that I've met since I began my own journey 10 years ago this summer was a Western Pennsylvania journalist who had been a highly successful freelance writer for Playboy magazine when he married. Unchurched, he and his wife approached the subject of bringing up children like any other academic subject in their highly educated milieu when their first child came along. They decided that giving a child values, even religion, was a proper thing to do, especially in these troubled times, so they set out to choose a church. Between Protestant and Catholic, they chose the latter because it seemed more stable and serious about the faith.

In the course of their catechism, the couple were quick studies. The husband quickly agreed with the priest that Playboy would have to be left behind if he was to become a Christian. But as he read and studied Christianity he began asking difficult questions, relating to why the church had evolved so far from what it appears to have been like in histories of the church of its first centuries. The priest suggested he try a "Byzantine Catholic" congregation in greater Johnstown, because that branch of the Roman church preserves a more traditional liturgy than the post-Vatican-II western rite churches. But still he had questions about doctrinal evolution that were hard to answer in a post-Vatican-II Catholic world, and when the priest sent him to a bishop, the bishop couldn't satisfy him either, and ended up recommending that he look into the Orthodox Church. That's where I found him.

Though I like to chuckle over this story and retell it to John Golias (my best Catholic friend from the days when we went to different schools together in our Blacklick Valley youth), my point is not about Catholic/Orthodox distinctives or comparisons but the prior point you may have skipped over. Here is a highly educated couple whose conversion—salvation, in my opinion—has come by way of their turning toward the needs of their children, the family.

I believe the Apostle Paul is alluding to this when he writes to the church in Corinth: "the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" (1 Corinthians 7:14-16). Many a man, including my own father, has sought the Lord because of the testimony or lifestyle of his wife, and many wives who've been unsure what to believe end up believing because of the faith exemplified by their husbands (I believe my own family affords an example of this, also).

The second-ranked subtext around which lives revolve is just that: family. Nothing in human history has been more important, and nothing has built the church more than the desire of parents to give a stable foundation for living to their children and, confessing themselves inadequate to do it alone, look for help from the believing community and its Head, whom they come to know as their Lord. And by that process, more whole families have been saved than through any other means. The New Testament mentions believing fathers who are baptized, with their whole households (Acts 18:8).

In the previous installment I said the quest for God and Godliness, the highest path in life, is traditionally the path taken by monastics. But in the ancient church tradition, the emphasis has always been that the family is just as high a calling as the monastery, and its ministries—sacrifices, ascetical practices—are no less demanding on the ego and for humility of those who in the family fulfill their calling to love one another as Christ first loved them.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 

Articles in this series, The Four Basic Mind-Food Groups:
     Introduction  |  Subtext God  |  Subtext Family  |  Subtext Self  |  Subtext Nihil

Deadline driven

I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.

Sent by Julie Masterson  

Thought for today

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.

Henry Ford 

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