Jun 21, 2015 / 15:03 pm
Ahead of the highly anticipated Synod on the Family in October, many dioceses and Catholic media producers are finding new ways to ramp up their resources on marriage and family life.
Saint Anthony Communications, a Catholic media company in the United Kingdom, is looking to do just that with its latest project, "Marriage: God's Design for Life and Love," a DVD which addresses the Church's teachings on marriage, sexuality, and family life.
"I think that so much of what is contained within the DVD has, for a large extent, not been taught in Catholic parishes, certainly across the Western world," Christian Holden, director and co-founder of Saint Anthony Communications, told CNA June 11.
"I think for most people, they would know sort of the outlines of what the Catholic Church teaches; in brief what the church opposes, perhaps, but they wouldn't necessarily be able to articulate why the Church upholds certain things, or why it opposes certain things like contraception and cohabitation," he observed.
With the collaboration of the British Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, Saint Anthony Communications was able to give a copy of the DVD to each parish in the United Kingdom, and 1,000 copies were sent to Australia and distributed there through the local Confraternity of Catholic Clergy. The DVD will soon be sent throughout the parishes of Ireland.
Just a few months ago, in March, hundreds of priests in the U.K. sensed that confusion among the laity about Church teaching on marriage was so rampant that they signed an open letter to the Synod fathers, stating their firm commitment to "unwavering fidelity to the traditional doctrines regarding marriage and the true meaning of human sexuality, founded on the Word of God and taught by the Church's Magisterium for two millennia."
And in May, historically-Catholic Ireland became the first country to ratify gay marriage by popular vote.
Amid this confusion, Holden said he hopes the film will showcase Church teaching in a way that is "gentle and charitable, and always upholding the dignity of the human person."
"I think the Church's vision for marriage and sexuality and the family is such a beautiful, wholesome vision, but it's so little known," Holden said. "I think some people perhaps have the perception that the church is imposing a whole series of rules – you shall not, you shall not."
He urged that there is, however, a different way of considering the matter – that the Church "is teaching the design of God for our lives, for the fullness in our lives, for our growth in holiness."
"And it is only by living that fully, that we will find the happiness we truly seek."
Besides the U.K. and Ireland, Saint Anthony Communications hopes to find opportunities within the United States and Canada to similarly distribute the project.
"We realize it's a big project, it's beyond our means. We need someone else, someone in the States who really sees the value and importance of this project, and be willing to roll with it," Holden explained.
He has called the film "a chance to set out the often hidden Catholic teaching in a simple and accessible way. The DVD explains why we teach what we teach, to offset confusion caused by inadequate and diluted teaching in the past, and offer hope for the future."
The 43-minute film, which is divided into three sections, manages to cover a wide range of topics, including marriage, cohabitation, divorce and remarriage, contraception, children and family life, and same-sex attraction.
Featured in the film are Cardinal Raymond Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury.
Interviews also feature Fr. Marcus Holden; Fr. Andrew Pinsent; Louise Kirk of Alive to the World; Fiona Mansford of Jericho Tree; and Edmund Adamus, director of the Westminster archdiocese's office for marriage and family.
The purpose of the film is three-fold: to be used in marriage preparation courses; as an additional catechetical resource for religious education; and as a tool for the new evangelization.
The first section, titled God's Design for Marriage, explains how marriage is a natural, procreative union that has occurred throughout history and was elevated by Christ to become for Christians a sacrament, making it indissoluble.
Holden, who has been married for ten years and has five children, believes the biggest struggles facing young people today regarding marriage and sexuality include a society that "breeds in people a mentality of selfishness," the "contraceptive mentality," and the "lack of commitment to God."
"For anyone thinking of a call to the vocation of marriage, it is a beautiful gift," Holden said. "Each and every day brings something new – new challenges, new beautiful moments: in particular having children come into your life and then raising them."
"Perhaps my best piece of advice that I could offer anyone thinking of entering and growing in holiness through a vocation to marriage, is to enter it in the spirit of sacrifice, of sacrificial love, of self-giving, in total self-giving to your spouse. And I think the more one gives of themselves in their marriage, the more they will gain, the more they will grow, and flourish. On the second strand of that, keep faith: keep God at the very center of their marriage at all times."
The second section of the film, Challenges to Marriage, tackles contemporary society's misunderstandings of sexuality, including its promotion of contraception, cohabitation, and divorce and remarriage. It also discusses natural family planning, and same-sex attraction.
The contraceptive mentality "affects so much … in the way we live and love, and the way we treat other people," Holden stated.
"Particularly, it becomes more destructive within the bond of marriage, in that with contraception we change the nature of the sexual act," he said, reflecting that once the unitive and procreative aspects of the act ruptured, "we lose the proper order of both."
"When sexual pleasure has primacy in our lives, we can quickly justify all kinds of other things, and so I think that's very dangerous."
The film's third section, The Family and the Future, highlights faith in the family, growing together in holiness, and hope for the future.
"It's beautiful. All sorts of things go on in daily life – the trials, the arguments, the fighting of the children – but lots of beautiful moments, as well," Holden reflected. "Gems of self-giving that you see in them, gems of kindness that they show to each other, or in their prayer – beautiful little utterances in their prayer life."
During an interview for the film, Cardinal Burke acknowledged that people are now "living in very difficult times," but that we should not dismay.
"We can't permit ourselves to be discouraged, because we know that Christ is always at work in the lives of those who have entered marriage with sincerity and is very strongly at work in these families that are striving to live their vocation as fully and perfectly as possible."
The film has been produced in the interim between the extraordinary and ordinary Synods on the Family, the latter of which will be held in October. A spokesman for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy said it "responds to the call of the Holy Father to support marriage and the family, currently challenged and misunderstood."
"The content is just basic Catholic teaching which everyone has a right to hear," the spokesman continued. "It is a clear, unambiguous and bold presentation, but always given with charity and without polemics. Now is not the time for hiding the true and beautiful vision of marriage and the family for the healing of our societies."
"Marriage: God's Design for Life and Love" is available from Saint Anthony Communications on DVD, in a multi-region format that can be played on both US and UK players, for GBP 9.95 ($15.80). Saint Anthony Communications is now in its 20th year of creating and providing Catholic catechesis, providing a selection of DVDs, CDs, and books that explore faith, life, and culture.