Today, seven couples from Guam and eleven of their children, ranging from eleven years to four months old are in Valencia, Spain to participate in the Fifth World Meeting of Families. They have accepted the call of the Holy Father who is very concerned with the situation of the families worldwide and traveled to far away Spain to represent Micronesia. They all follow the Neocatechumenal Way in their respective parishes – Agana, Barrigada and Tamuning.
This World Meeting is another invention of Pope John Paul II. It is convoked every three years to celebrate God’s gift of the family. Hundreds of thousands of families have traveled from the entire world to pray, dialogue, and deepen their understanding of the Christian family’s role as domestic church in the world of today. Pope Benedict XVI is there also.
“The future of humanity passes by way of the family,” John Paul the Great proclaimed when he announced the first of these Encounters.
The theme is very relevant: “The transmission of faith in the family”. This is where perhaps we have failed miserably. Our grandparents in the sixties had faith. However the social and cultural changes that happened in these last decades brought havoc to the faith of the children. And many times we feel lost.
What was considered as sin is being accepted as normal. Just this morning, a mother was telling me how much she is suffering because her daughter – she is 18- left home, became pregnant and is now living at her boyfriend’s mother’s house. “Is the mother a Catholic?” I asked perhaps naively. “Yes,” was the odd answer, “and she goes to mass every day!” The thought that passed through my mind was how can a Catholic mother allow her son to live with a girl without being married in her own home? Has adultery become OK for us Catholics? How can I transform my home into a place of sin?!
The other day a father asked me for advice. His son was going to get married ‘in the park’. He felt he should not attend because attending would be condoning a situation that was not right. ‘Weddings happen in Church in a celebration presided by a priest’, he argued. The mother, again a daily mass Catholic, disagreed. “We should attend and support our son,” she retorted. He was much divided.
Christianity has a vision and values that the parents can and should transmit to their children. This is ‘a very noble mission that we cannot shirk from’. Parents are the first evangelizers of children.
In the Vatican website (www.vatican.va) there is a whole section dedicated to the family. It contains catechesis and speeches of the Pope that are simply beautiful.
“As the generator of children, the family becomes the first and principal institution entrusted with transmitting the saving mystery of God to them. For this reason, parents are the authentic transmitters of the faith they profess to their children. The great saints were usually born into deeply Christian families.”
“In the earliest times of Christianity … the parents’ witness played a decisive role, to the point that the family became the place par excellence where the Church transmitted the faith.”
“Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of educating is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own “ego”.”
One of the best recommendations I ever heard about children came from someone who was not a parent at all, but rather a nun. It was offered by Mother Teresa. She was speaking about her work amongst the poor when a member of the audience, clearly wanting to assist her in her work, stood up and asked, “You have done so much to make the world a better place. What can we do?”
Mother Teresa smiled and said simply, “Love your children.” The questioner looked puzzled and was about to speak again, when Mother Teresa quietly continued saying “There are other things you can do,” she said, “but that is the best. Love your children. Love your children as much as you can. That is the best.”
One of the most common complaints I hear from families is that they are not close. They may be close in proximity, but still not feel close as a family. They are close to each other physically but not emotionally.
Closeness obviously is not about latitude; it’s about attitude. We feel close when we feel understood, when we feel loved and when we simply enjoy being together. It is a trait that grows over time only if it is watered constantly by honest sharing and true listening.
Like love it has to be based on truth. Education is not possible without the light of the truth. Love does not mean letting our children do what the heck they want to do. It means directing them and teaching them to discern what is good and what is bad, teaching them wisdom.
This is transmission of faith. Difficult sometimes but always worthwhile. Faith enables persons to be persons because it lets God be God.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.