History shows that the bishops, in particular, won’t be a lot of help, starting with St. Peter that fateful night when he couldn’t admit to a serving maid that he knew Our Lord. Still. It might happen that a priest would be willing to read this encyclical, for instance, with you, and that would be a good thing. (105).
God, it turns out, didn’t order the world so that if you aren’t the President you are helpless. He didn’t order reality so that if you don’t have earthly power, you are pretty much sunk.
He did the opposite. He confounded the wise, you know? (I Corinthians 1:27) He made the littlest things of the utmost importance.
He made reality so that a man who humbly does a sort of unpleasant job for the sake of his family is in fact the real lord of the manor, with many dependents (ones he may never see or meet in this world) and much fruitfulness. A man of no account in the world of law-making or no voice in the even more important world of preaching and spiritual leadership can yet be the builder of a rich culture and the sower of prosperous fields.
If you don’t really think this is true and real — that it is actually His plan to use the weak to confound the mighty — then you will miss precisely what it is you say you seek — a way to do important things!
This is the key to understanding how it is that a woman’s call to love the little place of her home is such a great and even momentous action in the world — if you have ears to hear it. If you can love the hidden and resist the lure of the oversized and loud and lucrative claim to fame, you will have the privilege to know how it can be that one woman, one family, one home — yours — can change and build and restore.
In 112 and 113 especially, we have strong reminders of the bad things that happen if we neglect to have a good home and the good things that will happen if we try to have a good home.
God wills that… the father be truly a father, and the mother truly a mother; through their devout love and unwearying care, the home, though it suffer the want and hardship of this valley of tears, may become for the children in its own way a foretaste of that paradise of delight in which the Creator placed the first men of the human race. Thus will they be able to bring up their children as perfect men and perfect Christians; they will instill into them a sound understanding of the Catholic Church, and will give them such a disposition and love for their fatherland as duty and gratitude demand. (113)
All the things of the earth: The state (“their fatherland”), the Church (the spiritual community), and the person in his context of the family — all these depend on how things are lived in the home — and what the children are taught by their devoted parents. Because, as we keep repeating, the whole of humanity, every person, passes through the family, God willing, on his or her way to heaven.
I know that the question of how — how to live this family life (even in “want and hardship”) — is the burning question, once we’ve gone and made the commitment. (Occasionally, the reverse happens: Folks live the little things well and then realize they’ve gone and built themselves a good life. What a blessing!)
I can remember sitting with my baby and basically saying, “The spirit is willing but the flesh has no idea how to proceed.” Cue many years of re-inventing that particular wheel, and many tears.
And so, dear reader, that is why this blog even exists, which is what I reminded myself when I was wondering how the heck to wrap things up. “Oh, right, I have a blog about this.”
We’re just trying to answer the question, “What now?” in our own, blind-leading-the-blind, well-how-about-making-your-menus-and-resting-on-Sundays sort of way.
We try to keep the ranting about how bad things are “out there” to a minimum, on the theory that what really matters is what we do “in here.” My thought for you, even as I read this encyclical and wonder just what dear old Pius XI would think of the state of things today, prophetic as he was, is the same as my thought for me: Let’s take our sweet Lord at His word, and go do unto some little ones.
And we just hope it helps. It’s all we’ve got!