A ‘safe haven’ for our families

By Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, Clarion Herald

Pornography is detrimental to both the physical and spiritual life of each individual and the greater community.

To directly address the harms of pornography and to provide resources to support and protect individuals, marriages and families in overcoming pornography and making their homes safe, I am asking all parishes to celebrate, for the first time, “Safe Haven Sunday” beginning with the first Sunday of Lent (Feb. 17-18).

This day – “Equipping the Family, Safeguarding Children” – will be an opportunity to bring to light the issue of pornography, as well as equip marriages and families with the tools they need to restore their homes as safe havens.

In their document “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography,” the U.S. bishops state that “the use of pornography by anyone in the home deprives the home of its role as a safe haven and has negative effects throughout a family’s life and across generations.”

The inappropriate use of technology in the home deprives it of this role and is the greatest threat to the sanctity of marriages and families today. Pornography and other online threats are often one click away, and parents can feel overwhelmed with not knowing how to best protect their children in our fast-paced digital world.

Many parishes in the archdiocese will distribute the book, “Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture,” to parishioners after Masses on Feb. 17-18. In addition to aiding parents in fostering fruitful conversation in their home, this book invites parishioners to join a seven-day text opt-in email campaign that provides short, practical videos that will help parents protect their children from online dangers.

Parishioners can take a step to create a safe haven in their homes by joining “The Equipped 7-Day Challenge: A Digital Crash Course,” by texting SECURE to 66866 to receive seven days of e-mailed digital tips.

There is an informational video that further explains the purpose of Safe Haven Sunday: https://vimeo.com/246323113/96845c79a8. Resources for the implementation of Safe Haven Sunday are provided in cooperation with our partner, Covenant Eyes.

For the last two years, we have looked at the widespread problem of pornography in society and have begun taking steps to help families and individuals understand and combat the problem. We began last March with a day for school principals, pastors, IT directors, counselors and campus ministers.

Then, in November, 4,000 teachers from every Catholic school in the archdiocese attended an in-service day where the issue of pornography was discussed.

Safe Haven Sunday is our next step in offering this information to the broader Catholic community. It is intended to be an annual initiative in our parishes, with new implementation materials released each year.

Early exposure, lifelong effects

Studies show that pornography changes the way children and adults think about sex and marriage. A recent survey of American teens indicated they believe “not recycling” is now a worse issue than watching pornography. It is time to reclaim virtue and protect our young people from the tempting pull of inappropriate online content.

We are taking a comprehensive approach to Safe Haven Sunday. We have prepared General Intercessions that can be added to the Prayers of the Faithful. Two of the intercessions are for those who suffer from addictions, “that they may seek support and come to know God’s healing”; and for those who struggle with pornography, “that they may come to an appreciation of human dignity and experience conversion of heart which Christ offers.”

We have prepared a Safe Haven Sunday prayer card, which bears the image of St. Anne and St. Joachim, the parents of the Blessed Mother. The prayer for individuals and families is as follows:

“Loving Father,

“Thank you for the gift of marriage and family life. We entrust to you our home, where our marriage and family live and grow. We ask you to make it a safe haven for all who live and enter these walls. May our home be a holy place for both young and old to be formed in the truth regarding life, love, sex and marriage. May each of our members be protected from and guided in seeking to avoid pornography, while embracing the freedom and purity of life in Christ.

“If there are past wounds that have occurred due to the availability of pornography on our family’s devices or lack of awareness, we ask you to send forth your Spirit to heal, bless, renew and consecrate this home as a safe haven with your son Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, today, tomorrow and always.

“We ask this in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Saints Joachim and Anne and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Amen.”

The readings for the First Sunday of Lent offer us assurance of God’s help in our struggles. The Gospel of Mark (1:12-15) paints the picture of Jesus being led out into the desert to be tempted, and Jesus triumphed. He exposed and defeated the devil. When we respond to God’s promptings, when we are open and honest with ourselves and others, when we bring our struggles, sins and topics into the light, we defeat the devil. We expose his lies and break the chains he has on us.

Please join us with your prayers and presence as we prepare for this unique event. To learn more, contact the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Office of Marriage and Family Life at tmccaffery@arch-no.org or visit nolacatholic.org.

Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to clarionherald@clarionherald.org.

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