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Complete My Joy_Cover

On the Feast of the Holy Family, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted promulgated Complete My Joy, an Apostolic Exhortation to husbands and wives, mothers and fathers in the Diocese of Phoenix, This exhortation is relevant to all husbands and wives, mothers and fathers.

Listen to Bishop Olmstead describe his reason for writing this exhortation.

Complete My Joy – Official Trailer

It is a great privilege and a great duty, that we strengthen and encourage [husbands and wives, mothers and fathers], and that we remind them that their vocation is a vital contribution to the world. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

This exhortation is a follow-on to Stand in the Breach, his 2015 clarion call to men to engage in the battle for the family. We previously blogged on this exhortation which can be read here and here.

Bishop Olmsted begins Complete My Joy by counting the “blessings of being raised in a faithful and united Catholic family,” where his parents provided the stability to “grow as their son and as a son of God.” He adds, “My brothers and sisters never worried about [our parents] commitment to each other and to God” (1). Would that all children would have a chance to grow and be loved in such a supportive environment.

Bishop Olmsted says that some of his “most meaningful moments are those when God sent me to walk with and minister to families amidst the ups and downs of family. He says that the “family is where we feel the deepest joys as well as the deepest pain … because of the deep love that comes from family” (2).

Bishop Olmsted urges “that you read this exhortation prayerfully and slowly, with a listening heart” so that “you can receive what the Lord has for you” (5) in what whatever your family situation. Many “have yet to hear family life presented as a beautiful, noble and joy-filled life that can certainly be lived with God’s grace” (5).

The meat of the exhortation begins with “God’s Remarkable Plan” for the family, the domestic church, as an image of the Trinity (7). St. John Paul II in his 1981 exhortation The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World (Familiaris Consortio), said that the “family has the mission to guard, reveal, and communicate love,” becoming “a living reflection of, and a real sharing in God’s love”[1] (9). “God wants to increase a profound communion of love in your family that corresponds to the deepest desires of your heart (7),” says Bishop Olmsted.

Quoting Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Bishop Olmsted stresses that he “makes this point even more explicitly when he says, ‘God is Trinity. The human family is…the icon of the Trinity because of the love between its members and the fruitfulness of that love’[2]” (10). “Though the family, husband and wife-your family-is, by its nature, a communion of love and life,” says Bishop Olmsted (10).

In a culture that doubts the very existence of God, where is the clearest sign that God “is indeed present and that He is love?” (11). Bishop Olmsted says it is the family: “He placed it in the family, man and woman united in life-long marriage, bringing the child, a fruit of their love or foster/adoptive generosity, into their little community, growing love in the world, growing visible light to counter the darkness” (11).

St. John Paul II described the family as a “little Church.” “This is another indicator of your dignity and the adventure of your mission,” (12) says Bishop Olmsted!

Thus, the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith…the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates…the future of evangelization depends in great part on the Church of the home.[3] 12

If this is the natural order of things, why is it so difficult for families to live out its God-given mission? One word: Sin. Since God has used the family as an example of His love in the world, Satan attacks the family. If he can destroy the family, he is destroying the very image of God. Bishop Olmsted stresses this point…

Family life exists now on a spiritual battlefield. You have as spouses and parents the choice either to engage the challenge as an adventure or to abandon the field in some way. There is no escape from this choice-not to choose is, in fact, to choose retreat…we shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, that this leader of the evil angels would aggressively target the family with all of his cunning and resources. St. Paul assures us that it is Satan who is behind the great battles that we face, ‘Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with…the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12)” 13, 14

“Before her death in 2005, Sr. Lucia, one of the three visionaries visited by Our Lady at Fatima, wrote in a letter to Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, ‘the final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about Marriage and the Family’” (15), Bishop Olmsted noted. You can read more on Sr. Lucia’s vision, and how to specifically pray for your family, on our blog posts from July 31, 2016 and October 13, 2017.

Bishop Olmsted reminds us that we should not be discouraged by this because “where sin increases, grace abounds all the more” (Rom 5:20) and “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:38).

The breaches in the civilization of love and culture of life are many, but they call us not to despair. Rather, they challenge us to unflagging trust in the Lord and Giver of life, to radical reliance on God’s grace and mercy, and to personal engagement in the domestic church on behalf of life and love. 17

We will continue our discussion of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s Apostolic Exhortation Complete My Joy next time.

[1] John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, §17.

[2] Benedict XVI, Homily on Holy Family Sunday, Dec. 28, 2009.

[3] Familiaris Consortio, §51-52.