Address - Knights of Da Gama - 25th April 2015 - Fr John's Homilies

Address - Knights of Da Gama - 25th April 2015
  1. The Extraordinary General Assembly on the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World held in October 2014 spoke often of Truth in relation to the family. Truth is actually mentioned 16 times in the summary document.


  1. Truth was held in relationship with beauty, with hope, with faithfulness, with mercy and as the Word of God made flesh, the Christ, the God who is Love.


  1. Love is cornerstone of our humanity; only love protects us enough to grow and change. And increasingly, it's the element often absent from our otherwise fortunate lives. Living in a society that satisfies material wants we didn't even know we had, throws into glaringly high relief our need to find acceptance and meaning through deep human contact.


  1. Love remains something we all long for, at least on the receiving end, but that we also seem to have so much trouble finding, or recognizing, or holding onto.


  1. Each one of us needs someone to share our laughter, someone to be a best friend as well as a lover, someone who'll not only listen to our doubts and celebrate our triumphs but also jump in the car for impromptu getaways.


  1. This compatibility does not hinge on some personal inventory of traits. Compatibility isn't something you have. It's something you make. It's a process, one that you negotiate as you go along. Again and again. It's a disposition, an attitude, a willingness to work together.


  1. Love operates best when we add a certain spirit, when we consciously shape our relationships through an attitude of goodwill. Here, experts weigh in:


  1. When people are divorcing, they'll say, "We have nothing in common." But they have kids, a house and 30 years of shared experience. Values about money and children run very deep and are important.


  1. Sensitivity to the issue of compatibility may be in and of itself a sign of trouble. Research shows that there is no difference in the objective level of compatibility between those couples who are unhappy and those who are happy.


  1. From the book The Secret Life of Families by Evan IrabetBlack, we note that there's no question that family secrets are destructive. But it matters mightily when and how you reveal them.



  1. As a priest, I'm a professional secret-keeper. I'm often the very first person with whom someone risks telling a long held secret. Several decades of guiding people struggling with secrets have taught me that they have an awesome if paradoxical power to unite people and to divide them.


  1. From government conspiracies to couples having affairs, secrets permeate every level of society. Secrets have existed throughout time, but the nature of secrets has recently changed in our society. Today's families face special dilemmas about secrecy, privacy, silence, and openness.


  1. We live in a culture whose messages about secrecy are truly confounding. If cultural norms once made shameful secrets out of too many events in human life, we are now struggling with the reverse: the assumption that telling secrets no matter how, when, or to whom, is morally superior to keeping them and that it is automatically healing.


  1. My own experience, however, has shown me that telling secrets in the wrong way or at the wrong time can be remarkably painful and destructive.


  1. The questions we need to concern ourselves with are: When should I keep a secret? How do I tell a secret without hurting anyone? How do I know the time is right?


  1. I've learned the answers as I've witnessed, sometimes with terror, more often with joy, and always with deep respect, families making the courageous journey from secrecy to openness.


  1. Secrets are kept or opened for many complex motives, from self-serving abuses of power to altruistic protection of others. Understanding the best ways and situations in which to reveal a family secret can help you decide when and how to do so.


  1. Although we encounter secrets in every area of life, they are perhaps most destructive when kept in the home. Families are support systems; our identity and ability to form close relationships with others depend upon the trust and communication we feel with loved ones. If family members keep secrets from each other, or from the outside world, the emotional fallout can last a lifetime.


  1. There are four main ways that family secrets shape and scar us:
  2. they can divide family members, permanently estranging them;
  3. they can discourage individuals from sharing information with anyone outside the family, inhibiting formation of intimate relationships;
  4. they can freeze development at crucial points in life, preventing the growth of self and identity;
  5. they can lead to painful miscommunication within a family, causing unnecessary guilt and doubt.
  6. A person who seeks to undo the damage caused by family secrets must accept that revealing a secret is not a betrayal but a necessity.


  1. Many secrets are essential to establishing bonds between two people. When siblings keep secrets from their parents, for example, they attain a sense of independence and a feeling of closeness. But the creation of any secret between two people in a family actually forms a triangle: it always excludes, and therefore involves another.


  1. When family members suspect that important information is being withheld from them, they may pursue the content of the secret in ways that violate privacy. A mother reads her daughter's diary. A husband rifles through his wife's purse. Relationships corrode with suspicion.


  1. Conversely, family members may respond to a secret with silence and distance, which affect areas of life that have nothing to do with the secret.


  1. Either way, the secret wedges a boulder between those who know it and those who don't. To remove this obstacle, families must break the triangle formation.


  1. All families have some secrets from the outside world. Yours, no doubt, has shared jokes and stories told only within the family circle. You also have a zone of privacy that demarcates inside from outside, building your family's sense of identity.


  1. But if a dangerous secret, one concerning an individual in immediate physical or emotional jeopardy is held within your house, the boundaries between family and the rest of the world become rigid and impenetrable.


  1. Friends and relatives are not invited in, and family members' forays out are limited. "Don't tell anyone our business" becomes the family motto.


  1. Some families create inviolable rules to keep information hidden, making it impossible for members to ask for assistance or to use needed resources in the outside world. Even problems that do not touch on the secret may go unresolved if resolution requires outside help.


  1. When a family's secret is an ongoing condition, such as drug addiction, physical abuse, an illness; then both family relationships and interactions with the outside world are profoundly affected.


  1. Family members must then organize their everyday lives around the needs of the secret while performing the breath-taking feat of pretending not to notice anything is out of the ordinary.


  1. Conversation is superficial, since what is truly important cannot be discussed. Members become paralyzed, unable to develop relationships with others or to deepen the relationships within the family.


  1. Since individual well-being takes a backseat to group fidelity, being the family member who challenges internal secrets is difficult. Taking the risk of opening a long-held secret to friends and loved ones may seem like an act of betrayal. The anticipated catastrophe of exclusion from the family stops many people, often long after leaving home.


  1. But breaking the rules of family secrecy is necessary to ensure the achievement of freedom and honesty crucial to making and sustaining authentic relationships.


  1. A client's relationship with a therapist or priest can be an excellent arena to dissolve shame, find acceptance and empathy, and seek new resources for support and strength.


  1. At the same time, sharing secrets only with professionals may negatively affect marriage and other relationships. Important issues may be discussed more in therapy, for example, than at home. Instead of being a dress rehearsal for life, therapy becomes the show.


  1. Imagine if your sister made a secret with you on the eve of your wedding and told you that you must not tell your husband. Or you are dragged into a secret about your parents just when you are taking tentative steps into the outside world.


  1. If a secret is made at a key point in development, the natural unfolding of self and relationships may be frozen. The shifting of boundaries that ordinarily would occur is suspended, creating a developmental deep freeze.


  1. Every family experiences developmental stages. These are most evident when someone enters the family by marriage or other committed relationship, birth, or adoption, and when someone exits the family by leaving home or through separation or death.


  1. Such entrances and exits require that a family reinvent itself in order to accommodate new roles. The stages of development are not discrete events but rather processes that take place over time. When that process goes well, complex adjustments occur in every corner of the family. When a secret is made in the midst of this process, adjustment screeches to a halt.



  1. While there is no such thing as the perfect moment to open a secret, there are better occasions than a life-cycle ritual, such as a wedding or graduation. Because family relationships are already shifting, rituals may seem a perfect time to open a secret.


  1. The excitement of a major life change, however, will prevent resolution of the secret. Either the importance of the secret will be lost in the event, or the secret will diminish the importance of the ritual.


  1. For family members to have the strength to handle a life-altering secret, it should be told during a normal time in everyday life. Otherwise, development linked to a life passage will stop in its tracks.


  1. When secrets are as much a part of families as birthdays, it may seem impossible to extricate them from the daily routine. But it can be done.


  1. Each time we meet with Christ in the confessional, I'm moved by the courage people bring to this endeavour, by the human desire to heal and to connect.


  1. My dear brothers, I am so pleased that we have the wives here with us this morning to hear these words.


  1. The promises and the pledges that we undertake as Catholic gentleman of the Knights of da Gama are as beautiful as they are life-changing. Let us open the doors of our ritual elevations not only to our wives who are one with us, but also to our children who need to experience the reality of the commitments we undertake.