Focus On Family Life - January 2010

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FOCUS ON FAMILY LIFE 2010 PART 1

By Rev. Fr. Andrew Manickam O.F.M Cap.

Pope John Paul II in his homily for Jubilee of Families said, “The family is placed at the centre of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love. The family therefore is at the heart of the church’s mission and of her concern for humanity.

The family is the great gift of God, an original gift, marked by his blessing. As scripture tells us, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.
In order for us to understand this great gift of God, we go back to the understanding of the gift of matrimony.

When a man and a woman bind themselves to each other without reservation in their decision to be faithful “in sickness and in health” in good times and in bad to the exclusion of every other physical love, they become cooperative with the Creator in bringing new life into the world.

You Parents can look with love at your children and say “this is flesh of my flesh” and only you could say that.

How can we not see the power of this expression? The biblical term “flesh” calls to mind not only man’s bodily nature but also a true union of their persons. A union, which is so deep that it, brings forth another life. That deep union procreates life and brings new life into the world for humanity.

Precisely because of this, your life is defined by your fatherly and motherly desire and duty to give your children the best in a loving home, an upbringing, a good education and a healthy and positive start on the road of life, now and for eternity.

Above all through Baptism, you make it possible for your children to become God’s beloved sons and daughters, mystically united with Christ, incorporated into His church. I’m sure you are conscious of that.

Consider how important it is for you to foster the life of faith and the life of grace in yourselves and in you children.

The gift of children makes the marriage blossom. Children really are the “ springtime of the family and society” They crown the total partnership of life, which makes husband and wife ‘one flesh’. Yes children bring joy to their families but this joy can be short lived if parents do not play an important part in the development of faith.

This is true both of the born from the natural relationship of the spouses and those desired through adoption.
Children are not an ‘accessory’ to the project of married life. They are not an ‘option’ but a supreme gift inscribed in the very structure of the conjugal union. We need a few spiritual tools or values that can strengthen our human families. I will share with you some of these tools that requires in order to have a solid foundation in family life in my second part of my reflection which will be posted some time next week. “Let’s Build Our Family Together”.

Focus on Family Life Part II

With Rev. Fr. Andrew Manickam OFM Cap.

Here are a few suggestions for families to strengthen the value and holiness of family life.

The first is prayer: both personal and family prayer. Prayer raises our minds and hearts to God to thank Him for His blessings, to ask Him for His help.
It brings the saving power of Jesus Christ into the decisions and actions of everyday life.

One prayer I recommend in particular for families is the Rosary. And especially the Joyful Mysteries, which help us to meditate on the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Uniting her will with the will of God, Mary conceived the Christ Child and became the model of every mother carrying her unborn child..

By visiting her cousin Elizabeth, Mary took to another family the healing presence of Jesus. Mary gave birth to the infant Jesus in the humblest of circumstances and presented Him to Simeon in the temple, as every baby may be presented to God in baptism.

Mary and Joseph worried over the lost child before they found him in the Temple, so that parents of all generations would know that the trials and sorrows of family life are on the road to closer union with Jesus.

To use a phrase made famous by the late Fr. Patrick Peyton: ‘The family that prays together, stays together’. I suppose many do not believe in this phrase anymore.

After prayer has been successfully laid in the foundation, parents can introduce to their children what I call ‘practicing rituals.’ This is the second foundation in family life.
This is also a link to prayer and faith. All religions have rituals. Jesus celebrated the Passover, Muslims turn and pray facing Mecca five times a day, Hindus place some ashes on their forehead, and Catholics consume Holy Communion.

Religious rituals are the gestures and actions that communicate faith with and without words. Rituals can be as simple as saying grace over the evening meal or dropping to your knees before a picture window to welcome in the day God has made. You can create your own elaborate family custom to express your faith.

A child will learn a ritual at first early in childhood, they may not link that ritual to their actual sense of communion with God, but that ritual gets in there in a very deep way and becomes central to their development.

Around middle adolescence there is a coming together of the relationship between God and ritual. It becomes a process and place where the child can enhance and relate to their relationship with God. So parents, find ways to celebrate these rituals with your children.

The third important thing is ‘Model your Faith’. God gave children eyes to see the world that He made. They use these eyes to watch every little thing their parents do.
Parents are a child’s first teacher. Unfortunately many of the things a child learns from his parents are unintentional.

We never know where important messages will come from. Education happens in the margins of life, in the casual remark and in the small incident. We are teaching at every moment, whether we want to or not. The only question is what we will teach.

You’ve got to live your faith. A father can preach the golden rule to his children, but his words are lost the day when he loses his patience after a simple misunderstanding or after he vigorously gloats after zipping into a parking space for which another driver had patiently waited.

“Not merely what we say, but our daily actions carry our true teachings”. As in the old phrase, “Faith is not just taught, but caught”. We never know when the message will seep into the heart.

The fourth important thing to do is ‘talk about your faith’
By talking to your children about their faith, their values, their beliefs, parents can develop a faith that is modern, honest, a faith true to the tradition and to the search for God.

It is recommended to have weekly family gatherings/meetings where parents share their spiritual stories. Not your favorite story about Cain or Abel, but the trials and tribulations you faced during the week and the strategies behind how you handled your difficulties in accordance with your faith.

Children need to learn their parents’ spiritual stories, they learn by example not by instruction.

Families can also go on a spiritual journey. You need not pack your bags and head for the Holy City or Vatican City. The neighborhood park will do. You can also go for outings, in some weekends where song/story can help broaden your knowledge of God.
Families might even consider incorporating this religious aspect into their annual family vacations. The bottom line is religion can build strong foundations in children.
And the learning does not end once the church doors are shut behind your children.

We need a push to think creatively about ways to explore spirituality together with our families.
Every strengthening of family bonds is a victory for society. I appeal to all of you to promote these values in your family life as you continue to promote respect for the mystery of life and love which God has of life and love which God has entrusted in a special way to families.

Another suggestion I make to families is to use the C.C.C to learn about the faith and to answer the questions that come up, especially the moral questions, which confronts everyone today.

Dear parents, you are educators because you are parents and I pray that parents may fulfil their vocation to be the first and most important teacher of faith to their children. Families in difficulties or couples in irregular situations also have a claim on the church’s pastoral care. Other stronger and spiritually mature families can play a wonderful role in bringing encouragement and help to such couples and families.

Every strengthening of family bonds is a victory for society. I appeal to all of you to promote respect for the mystery of life and love, which God has entrusted in a special way to families.

Let me end this sharing by inviting you to take the family of Nazareth as your example. Although called to an incomparable mission, it traveled the same path as you do, amid joys and sufferings, prayer and work, hopes and distressing trials, which always rooted in fidelity to God’s will.
May your families continue to grow as a true ‘domestic church’ offering praise to God everyday and spreading a beneficial and regenerating flow of love throughout
society.

May Mary, Queen of the family always accompany you with her motherly hand.
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