Strengthening the Family

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  1/1/2005
 

The human body is composed of many cells carefully joined together. If the cells are healthy, the body is healthy. If the cells are sick, the body is sick.

The basic cell of human society is the family. To have a strong society, we need strong families.

What is the Family? The "family" is not something man-made. It is God-made. When God creates human beings, He creates them to belong to a family. People do not have the option to choose whether they want to belong to a family or not. The structure of the family is also designed by God Himself. It consists of a man and a woman joined in marriage, who accept and nurture the gift of new life. Nowadays, efforts are being made to re-define the family. Alternate "family structures" are proposed -- such as those based on homosexual unions. These are wrong and are not in accord with God's designs.

The strength of the family depends on the strength of the marriage relationship. To defend family life means first of all to defend the sacredness and permanence of the marriage bond, which is always exclusive and open to the gift of children.

Where is the Family? We are at a point now where family life has seriously deteriorated. To try to strengthen the family, we first have to FIND the family. With life moving at such a hectic pace, families are not together as much. When older children have their own car and have fast-food available, they no longer feel the need of being with the family. Everyone is much more independent nowadays, and we almost have to remind ourselves of the need for the family to be together.

Four Major Evils. Many things threaten family life and literally tear it apart. Let us focus on just four of these widespread evils.

Abortion is the primary evil, because it directly kills the most defenseless member of the family while he/she is in the womb. Ironically, the womb, which should be the most caring, merciful, and safe place to be, has become the most dangerous place. How can we expect to have peace in the family, in the nation, and in the world, as long as there is no peace in the womb? Abortion is always wrong and there are no exceptions. Women deserve a better choice than abortion, and alternatives are available. (As an example, the national hotline 1-800-848-LOVE is ready to help 24 hours a day.)

Contraception is also an evil which is never justified, because it attacks the gift of fertility, holds back on the total self-giving required in marriage, and places the couple in the position of saying to God, "You shall not create!" A much better approach to planning a family is the use of modern Natural Family Planning.

Euthanasia is a major evil which destroys the family by killing its members who are ill. Here we are not speaking about refusing burdensome and useless treatments. Rather, we are speaking about starving people to death or giving lethal injections because someone ( not always the patient! ) has decided that the sick person's life is not worth living. This is happening NOW, and must be resisted. We resist this trend when we take the loving, self-sacrificing position that we are always to protect and care for life, and that it is even more worthy of care when it is burdened by sickness or incapacity.

Divorce is another obvious threat to the family. Not all those who are divorced are guilty of causing the divorce; some, in fact, would be in physical danger by remaining with a violent spouse. Yet we must come against the "divorce mentality" which says, "If this marriage doesn't work out, I'll just get out of it." "Just"! It sounds so easy. Legally, it is made easier and easier. But socially, psychological, morally and spiritually this is disastrous. Marriage and the family are not based on a "maybe". Marriage and family are forever and must be based on a covenant that cannot be broken.

Some spouses fight and argue so much that they conclude it is better for the children that they divorce, so the children don't see the fighting. This is a false conclusion. It is better for the children to have both Mom and Dad present to them on a daily basis. Sure, they may see fighting and tension, but when Mom and Dad stay together nevertheless, the children also see commitment, perseverance, and courage in their parents' being faithful to their commitment to each other and to their children, despite difficulties.

Practical Suggestions to Strengthen Your Family Life

  1. Have a family night each week, on which nobody has any commitments to anything but each other. Do things together. If this is "impossible", maybe we are committed to too many things!

2. Mom and Dad need time just with each other, to do things they enjoy and to foster their love for each other. Don't let the marriage run on "automatic pilot". Nourish it.

3. Pray together as a family. Maybe a quick "Our Father" together in the morning before everyone leaves, and a table grace before meals at dinner. It only takes a few seconds, but makes a world of difference!

4. Don't wait only for special occasions like Christmas, birthdays, or anniversaries to give cards and gifts to family members. Surprise them at other times! "What's the occasion?" they might ask. Answer, "The occasion is that I love you!"

5. Welcome one another home. At the end of the work or school day, have a few minutes to greet each other, talk a little about the day, smile and encourage each other, before going on to the next activity.

6. Bring out the photo albums and family videos more often! Look at your wedding pictures, or films of the children's baptism, etc. Pictures and videos bring back good memories, stir good conversation, make us laugh, and help family members to know and appreciate one another better.

7. Seek and listen to the advice and experience of the oldest members in the family. The elderly have a lot to offer us. Society has changed but human nature has not, and their insights into human life can save us from a lot of mistakes!

May Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the Holy Family, bless us and our families, now and forever!