"It's necessary to rediscover the plan drawn by God for the family, to reaffirm its greatness and irreplaceability at the service of life and society" (Pope Francis).
On Friday, May 15, the world will observe The International Day of Families; a day that "provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting them...this day is an opportunity to highlight different areas of interest and importance to families" (UN).
Today, google our Catholic Catechism and reflect on paragraphs 2197-2257 - the 4th Commandment; the Family in God's plan; the Family and Society; the duties of Family members; the Family and the Kingdom; and the Authorities in Civil Society. Reflect also on the Holy Family, a model for all our families. May is the month that is dedicated to our Mother, Mary. Let us ask her to intercede with Her Son, Jesus, for us, so that our families, and those of others, will be safe during this challenging period.
Paragraph 2207 & 2208 state: "The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life... The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs"
Archbishop Thomas Wenski rightly states that: "for the flourishing of human society, the family is not optional - even for God. When God chose to reveal himself, he did so within a family. He didn't need Joseph to make Jesus - for the Word became flesh in the Virgin Mary's womb by the power of the Holy Spirit and not through any human agency. But God judged it necessary that Jesus be raised by Joseph who was married to his mother, Mary.
"The family then - founded on the marriage of a man and a woman - is the path where children best can encounter and know God; it is a school of faith and of values; it is where the mutual self-giving and faithfulness of husband and wife provides a secure and protected home for children to best grow in virtue and to assume their own responsibilities as members of society and as citizens of a country."
Now is the time to try to strengthen our family bonds. I received a call from a former student of mine in London, whose mother and son both died of COVID-19 recently. She is beside herself with grief and guilt. She had been estranged from him, her only child, for a few years after he had told her that he was a homosexual. Although he lived a few streets away from her, she was so angry with his lifestyle choice, that she cut him off totally. He was 25 years of age when he died.
I had encouraged her over and over to reach out to her son, who was God's gift to her. I had sent her material to read to support her e.g. the US Bishops' Pastoral Message: "Always our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual children and suggestions for Pastoral Ministers" ( www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/homosexuality/always-our-children.cfm ).
The Message "urges families to draw upon the reservoirs of faith, hope, and love as they face uncharted futures. It asks them to recognise that the Church offers enormous spiritual resources to strengthen and support them at this moment in their family's life and in the days to come...it is an outstretched hand of the bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family to parents and other family members, offering them a fresh look at the grace present in family life and the unfailing mercy of Christ our Lord..."
As Pope Francis said in his post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia: "...no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love." And while familystructure has changed over the years, let us not judge others, but reach out in love to all families. As we battle the impact of COVID-19, remember that to build right relationships, we must open our hearts to be inclusive of ALL God's children.
Leela Ramdeen is Chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, (CCSJ) and Director of CREDI
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