Children have the remarkably annoying habit of interrogating us don’t they? They’re obsessed with the fundamental nature of things, why the world is the way it is, and how to logically connect it all together. The endless “why”? questions. It can be maddening at times. The way they can question the punishments we mete out, the routes we take when driving, and the food we eat; why the TV cannot be on, what’s wrong with staying up and not going to bed, and so on and so forth, you get the picture. I empathize with parents who resort to the tried-and-true “Because I said so” reply; I really do but it’s rarely an explanation that will satisfy and in the end it just becomes a sort of excuse for not putting greater effort in to helping them see the bigger picture or going through that struggle with them (like God’s patient wrestling with Jacob in Genesis 32: 22-32) so that they naturally arrive at the same place as you do, even if we or they might have to swallow some humble pie at the end of it.
Not only should I (try to) answer my children’s questions to help their cognitive development, I should even help them formulate better and harder questions! It isn’t like I don’t have questions of my own that I pester God with: How was the world created? How can we be happy? Why is there suffering? Why is so much evil in the Church permitted? These are tough questions, but I’m better off for having asked them and brought them to my prayers and worship and I do believe that God respects it when we ask such questions and even at times show Him our anger and frustration when life seems hard going. Even someone like the biblical figure Job, who gets an answer along the lines of, “You’ll understand when you grow up,” is listened to and engaged by God. God’s answer is never “because I said so.”
And that’s the challenge the authority in the Church faces now. Like a parent who knows they cannot brush off the inquisitive mind or challenging behaviour of a child by simply saying “because I say so,” neither can the Church simply say “because this is what we believe” or “as the Code of Canon Law says” etc. Not that these things, like tradition and discipline are not true, they obviously are. But it’s a question of how we impart that truth so that, in time, the beauty and wisdom of Catholic truth wells up from within a person and is confirmed by the voice of God in other things, rather than just what might feel like a cold set of rules imposed from without. As I said last July ‘effective communication and dialogue’ can only come about if, as St John Paul II said, we don’t invent a new programme but simply declare the Person of Jesus Christ by whom and only in whom we can be saved. That doesn’t mean amending, adjusting, reformulating the image and message of Jesus to our own whims and caprices, but praying for, working at and humbling ourselves repeatedly towards a deep, deep serious conversion to Him. And the key to supercharge our conversion to Jesus is, chastity, cultivating a purity of mind, heart, and body that will bring all the other virtues and values to fuller expression and new life in our souls and with all whom we interact. As Pope Francis states in Amoris Laetitia:
“Chastity proves invaluable for the genuine growth of love between persons.” (Para. 206). That’s putting it mildly, for when we look at the impact and power of this virtue in the lives of the Saints, what the pope is saying, or rather how he says it, can come across as a bit of an understatement, but its essential truth is there. And if it’s true for individuals, it’s true for families. Why else would St. John Paul II have declared in Familiaris Consortio (the lens through which we must read Amoris Laetitia) that families can and must “release formidable energies.” It is a moral and spiritual power that is not possible without chastity.