In reading the Catechism this morning, I came across a little paragraph that has spoken volumes to me throughout this day. It might strike you as obvious and non-descript. That's the way truth is lots of times.
It was this paragraph, number 1898: "Every human community needs an authority to govern it. The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society."
This is from article two (Participation in Social Life) of chapter two (The Human Community) of section one (Man's Vocation: Life in the Spirit) of part three (Life in Christ) of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Social life is a fairly broad category, and perhaps political issues come first to mind when reading this subsection on authority. But first in my mind as I read is the authority of parents. There are lots of other good things said about what authority is and is not, but this phrase struck me today: its role is to ensure the common good.
I have written before about my ponderings of what authority is all about. Especially this post and this one from about a year ago. Perhaps I am just very slow to truly grasp things, or perhaps today I just received a special grace gift to have this sink in more deeply and more joyfully than in the past. But it just clicked in me: 1) Yes, I am in a position of authority vis a vis my children. 2) There is a God-given purpose for this authority I have. 3) It is not for me to get my jollies out of having power to control others. 4) It is not for me to get my way or to have things easy for me. 5) It is so that all of us together in this family can have the best possible common good.
A few caveats, just for the sake of my pondering in print. I share this authority with my husband, and it needs to be a joint working for the good of all. And of course, littlies are often not going to appreciate that the common good is just that. So it's not quite democratic rule. But what a richness if kids can learn from a young age to aim for the common good in whatever group they find themselves a part. To be honest, 5) is so new in my conscious brain that I almost can't picture how it functions in our life. I'm sure it has, from time to time, occurred by accident. I hope it starts occurring more frequently on purpose henceforth.
I've felt a struggle, long term, whenever I've meditated on authority and its function. I've been attracted to a strong voice of authority, and enjoyed a secure feeling of "real authority." Unfortunately, though, it wasn't. Real, that is. It was more about power and control, fear and submission. (I've tried dishing it out this way too, and it hasn't been any more real.) Still, I've felt a huge emotional need for an authority figure. But now I see that a true figure of authority is one who loves me personally. One who helps me be what God calls me to be.
I thought today (didn't connect the dots until just this moment) of the overwhelming experience of being in the presence of John Paul the Great. I was within the same square mile with him three times in my life: once in Rome, once in the Philippines, and once in Toronto. I was a bit lost in Rome as I was a brand spankin' new Catholic and was overwhelmed by everything my senses picked up. But both the other times, there was this profound sense that he was my Papa. I've seen pictures of young people looking at him and crying with this seemingly inexplicable bursting of their hearts, as if they are throwing themselves at the heart of God and finding there, finally, True Love. I realize God graced this man with a charism that simply emanated from him. Authority. Love. Fatherhood. He was a Father to at least one, if not two, three or four lost generations.
And this is the same grace God calls me to exercise and walk in. Not for the whole world, but just for my (currently) two bright and bouncy kiddos. To love them personally. My person loving their persons. And all of us learning to work together so that we are all the best and the happiest we can be. Not falling off the path toward cowardice nor violence, but stepping forward with charity (CCC 1889).
What can I say? Thank you, Lord, for truth.