Book Review: The Choice of the Family by Jean Laffitte

2015, “The Choice of the Family: A Call to Wholeness, Abundant Life, and Enduring Happiness.”

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I saw this book and picked it up because the title posed an unusual juxtaposition of the words “choice” and “family.” For someone immersed in the regular, secular media, like I am, “choice” is a word associated with abortion, not usually with traditional family structures. This interview with Jean Laffitte, Bishop and Head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, instead aims to show that he sees accurately the challenges facing the family as well as its importance as an authentic path for personal development and holiness, rather than a mere default position that people slip into out of lack of resistance.

The Choice of the Family takes up the call of Pope St. John Paul II’s 1981 encyclical Familiaris Consortio, which said:

“Since God’s plan for marriage and the family touches men and women in the concreteness of their daily existence in specific social and cultural situations, the Church ought to apply herself to understanding the situations within which marriage and the family are lived today, in order to fulfill her task of serving.”

From the opening which goes through Laffitte’s background and his studies at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Life, the book highlights that the family is an under-studied and under-recognized force in social life and also how clearly Laffitte sees the struggles facing men and women in family life today.

The Significance of the Family

So often we do not appreciate just how much we receive from our families. The modern age is typically conceived of as comprised of atomized individuals. Yet in actuality, each of us is born into specific constraints, gifts and relations that come from our families. Carl Anderson’s, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, summarizes it well in his statement in the Introduction:

Each family exists within a living ecology–a unique environment shaped by the dynamism of its members, who present a variety of age, health, maturity, responsibility….No institution in society can shape and, in so many ways, determine a person’s life to the same extent as the man and woman who give one life, and the family with which one shares one’s formative years.”

The family we are born into gives us the foundational relationships in our lives, brings us up in a history of culture and lived experience whether these concepts are consciously acknowledged or not.

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My essay, 2 places: The Desert Spirituality of Motherhood

This essay was first published on my usual home, The Truth and Charity Forum of HLI. Then the editors at Ethika Politika liked it and requested a few revisions and to republish. Here are links to both.

The Desert Spirituality of Motherhood on the Truth and Charity Forum:

“When St. Anthony of the Desert went out to the Egyptian wilderness to be alone with God, he probably didn’t think that he was setting an example for mothers. But I believe that he did. St. Anthony gave up the comforts of society in order to face himself and let God purify him. Perhaps this is not so different from the path of mothers and families and, by extension, all people striving to live in accord with truth and God.”

The Desert Spirituality of Motherhood on Ethika Politika

“And for what good? To be at the service of life, the greatest earthly good, and also at the service of the Lord, who created life. To bind oneself to a family, to a spouse and to children is really like a religious vow: It gives up a great many goods in order to grow in the good of commitment and formation. To do it well, it will take everything we have, and then some. It will lead us into the desert of our souls and present the furnace of solitude. It is here that we will stare darkness in the face and fall back onto Christ.”

-Finding our true vocation is a lifelong process I think. What has your journey been like?