Every year, I set my sights, toward the end of December, on coming up with a Word of the Year. This year I hemmed and hawed. I thought I had it several times, but then it slipped away, feeling ill-fitting.
In the waning hours of 2019, I finally realized what word I needed to focus on in 2020: Family. Once I let this word into my heart, a million little doors opened in my head on how I could commit to family in the next 12 months: firstly, to my own, and secondly, to communicating the beautiful message of family on a wider level.
The fact that our five children, ages 14 to 24, are moving further from the nest inspires me not to think of my family less, but more. As they prepare for flight, I want them to know more than ever that this nest we’ve been building twig by twig will always be a sanctuary for them.
My sister’s first grandchild, who arrived in December, also likely contributed. New life has a way of infusing renewed hope into a family; not just into the lives of his or her parents, but into the entire extended family. I did not anticipate the joy I’d feel in watching my own daughter hold this sweet little addition and experience the welcoming on her face.
All of this brings to mind an initiative that has become important to me in recent years; a movement that in very small ways I’ve been part of since its inception, and which I want to introduce to you here and now, with hopes of sharing much more in the future. It’s called the Marriage Reality Movement, and its purpose is to reintroduce marriage to our culture.
Hopefully, you’ll immediately see the connection to my word for 2020 and marriage, for marriage forms the bedrock of family.
The founder of the movement, Bill May, was a mentor, and though our collaborating was usually long distance, I was privileged to meet him in the halls of the World Meeting of Families conference in Philadelphia in 2015, and again on the plane ride home from that conference when we were seated near one another. During those several hours together, Bill shared his vision and its beginnings. What a privilege that was – a surprise divine appointment!
Sadly, the very month my husband underwent a critical heart surgery this past May, Bill was undergoing his own heart procedure and did not survive the recovery process. This news was especially devastating to me given my admiration and love for Bill, and understanding so well the fragility of a major surgery. Almost immediately, however, I knew that Bill’s death meant I would be needed in some way, more than ever, to help carry his vision forward.
I’m going to keep it very simple for now, because reintroducing something that has been part of reality since the beginning of humanity, but which humanity itself has forgotten to be a reality, will take time. It will take learning a new language — one the culture will find foreign at first. It will take an openness to a vision beyond what we can see, a prayerful heart, and a desire to learn truth. But in the end, it will be beautiful and I think you’ll be as grateful as I have been.
What Bill recognized, and what I think we as Catholics and Christians know, is that marriage has, in many ways, been abandoned. We know, too, that the family is in crisis, and that many have given up hope that it can ever be restored.
Bill was an eternal optimist, a prayerful man, and of all things a businessman who somehow found himself in the center of one of our time’s greatest moral discussions, about one of the most important realities: marriage. He was admittedly an unworthy and unqualified servant who caught sight of God’s surprising plan for recovering marriage — not in a way that would alienate anyone, but in a way that could bring healing for many.
It begins by meditating on Luke 10:21: “At that very moment he rejoiced [in] the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.'”
It is through the eyes of children, and only that, that we’ll be able to peer into the mind of God concerning marriage. I invite you to peruse the website Bill started before his death: http://takebackmarriage.org/ There, you will find resources, a chance to connect, and an introduction to what I will expound on more in coming months.
For now, know that what Bill wanted to share, and will share through those who caught sight of his vision, is beautiful, exciting, inspiring, and worthy of discovering.
Bill was thoughtful about choosing a name for this movement. He chose “reality” as part of the title based on what Pope Francis wrote in Evangelium Gaudium, section 231: “Realities are greater than ideas. Realities simply are, whereas ideas are worked out.”
Many things are called realities these days, but true realities are not just any new idea, something that sounds reasonable. Realities simply are and always have been. Marriage is one such reality that always has been and cannot, in truth, be “redefined.” This is especially important where it concerns children and family. I look forward to unraveling more of what Bill had set out to do, with God’s leading, in the coming months.
God bless you and your families in this fresh, new, hopeful year of 2020!
Q4U: I’d love to answer any questions you might have about Marriage Reality Movement. Or, share about a beautiful family moment you experienced this past Christmas season.