by Ken Rolheiser
Family, Church and the car pool lane

Picture this family: the woman is suspected of adultery; the man plans a quiet divorce; their son gets into trouble with the authorities and is unjustly executed by the state. And this was the family of Jesus.

As you may guess from the above example, turning to God is essential for a successful family life. Matthew’s Gospel says, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (18:20). If God is in your midst, what are your chances of success?

“The family that prays together, stays together,” Father Patrick Peyton of Family Rosary Crusade used to say. Research cites a study that the divorce rate for couples who attend church regularly and pray on a daily basis account for less than one divorce in every 1105 marriages.

Far from scaring anyone away from the sacrament of marriage, I want to point out the blessing that this union can create. But I won’t pull any punches either. If it was not for prayer and God’s partnership in our 47 year marriage, my wife and I we would not be celebrating.

The cost of looking after one delinquent in a state home is approximately $90,000 per year, with no guarantee of success. Did you know that a man and a woman in a home that provides love and respect can do this job successfully for a fraction of the cost.

A home where love and respect are the cornerstones creates the conditions for successful child-rearing. Pope Francis says: "The whole purpose of our life is a mission of love; it is to love one another and to allow ourselves to be loved... And the family unit is the most sacred of places."

Of marriage, Father Brendan McGuire says, “We call it the Sacrament of Matrimony because it is the most sacred of places where we as individuals grow up and learn the security of being loved as a child; there is nothing so precious as having that safe environment and knowing that we are loved and that we can love in return.”

McGuire does not minimize the challenges. In “Marriage – Carpool of Life” he says, “The car pool lane of marriage takes you to eternal life!” Once you are in it you cannot get out.

“There are huge sets of concrete bumpers in the lane… If you change lanes, you will lose some part of your car… The car pool lane in LA is a great metaphor for marriage! Once you are in it-you are not getting out of it without some severe damage -you are in it till the end!”

There are particular situations involving abuse where a marriage needs an off ramp, but it is not good for the children and there is a cost, McGuire concedes.

Again, my purpose here is not to discourage the marriage vocation choice, but to understand that there is a purpose for the “car pool lane”. The trip is freer, less complicated as you speed through the miles that otherwise can be tedious or dragging you down, as sluggish traffic will.

There is a freedom and joy in living within the rules and barriers set down by the Catholic Church, and other Christian Churches, in regard to the vocation and sacrament of marriage.

Marriage is a wonderful path. Love and respect in a home where God can live will provide the environment for family growth.

(576 words)