Just a couple of weeks ago, we were victimized in another despicable, mass killing. Certainly, it was an act of tremendous betrayal. The pain and sorrow of that day brought families and neighbors together. Without the solace of faith or the support of family and friends,we cannot survive such horrible losses in our lives. In these moments we need to retire to that safe haven that we call home. It is our family that sustains us in difficult times and nurtures us in ordinary times. As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family this Sunday, our attention focuses on the holy trio – Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – and, at the same time we are called upon to reflect on the importance of family life.
As I gain more experience in my priesthood, I have come to an important conclusion. What we become as adults is determined to a great extent by what we experienced in our families. Too often people make mistakes in choosing a life partner because they do not pay sufficient attention to what his/her family environment was while growing up. There is no doubt that we are the products of our families. Nothing shapes us more strongly than our families and our upbringing.
First of all, the family is the school of faith. The Church calls the family the “domestic church.” At the end of the baptismal rite, the priest blesses the father of the child as he says: “Along with his wife, he will be the first teacher of the faith.” If the parents do not pass on the faith to their children, no one else can. Often we hear complaints that our children and young people are not committed to their faith. Without the support and the example of the parents, the children will not embrace their faith. What we do in the parish cannot take the place of what should occur in the home. The parish programs can only supplement and reinforce the faith that is passed on by the parents.
Second, the family is the school of love. When I talk to young adults about romantic relationships, I tell them that we prepare for romance within our family relationships. If I never learned to be a good son or daughter, brother or sister, I will not have the skills to be a competent romantic partner. The family provides for us a safe environment where we can acquire the skills of loving. It is within the family that we learn to fight and to make peace, to negotiate and to compromise, to argue and to disagree. We know well that sometimes family members may not even talk to each other. And yet, we are secure that we are loved. Even if we hurt each other, we know that we will be forgiven. With such a guarantee of unquestioning love, we can learn to love and hone our skills of relationships.
Third, the family is the school of wisdom. God, the omniscient, has ordained that we must live our life forward and not backwards. We do not have the benefit of hindsight. As a result, we need to learn from our mistakes. From the little mistakes we make as little babies in exploring our immediate environment to the bigger mistakes we commit as teens and as young adults, we feel safe thanks to the love of our family. Without such an assurance of relentless love and support, we would be afraid to make mistakes and grow through them. Besides, it is within the family that we acquire true wisdom. Parents and grandparents pass on their experience and wisdom to their children and grandchildren. The elders become mentors to the younger ones.
I ask all of you to make your family life your top priority, second only to your love for the Lord. If you want to know whether you make your family life your top priority, ask yourself a simple question: How much time do I invest in my family life? I encourage all families to include two important rituals as part of your daily routine: a time for family prayer and the family meal. As Father Peyton, the apostle of the rosary, used to say: “The family that prays together, stays together.” Make sure that you do not lose the habit of eating together, no matter how much effort it requires. It is around the dinner table that we share our stories, calm our fears and create family.
As the pastor, my fond hope and dream is to establish a serious ministry to families and married couples. The best way to assure the well-being of our children and the future of the Church is to strengthen marriage and sustain families. If you have any ideas or suggestions in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact me. Let us continue to pray for all our households. Let us commend to the Lord the young couples that get married at St Paul’s.
At this time of the year our hearts go out to all families that are struggling or hurting. We reach out to individuals whose families have rejected or abandoned them. Let us hold them in prayer. Only our God of compassion can mend their broken hearts and bring some comfort to their shattered spirits. Let us also pray for our entire country. Let us protect our children wherever they may be.
Wishing you the graces of this holy season!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...