Fr. Britto's Blog

Family Built on the Rock

As we celebrate Christmas, our eyes are drawn to the nativity scene where there are three principal figures: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They are a family. After we have rejoiced in the birth of the Savior, the Church invites us to celebrate this Holy Family not only because it ushers in our redemption, but also because it serves as a model for our own family life. Even though this family is extraordinary, the three persons of this Holy Family led a normal life, much like our own.

In giving us this feast of the Holy Family, the Church invites us to focus our attention on our families. Without proper family life, the fabric of society itself can become tattered. 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 did 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. 

All of us can emphatically declare that many problems in our society can be traced back to the breakdown of the family. When the comfort of a secure home is taken away from children, they grow up fearful and uncertain. In spite of the Church’s teachings on marriage and family life, Catholics are facing the same problems that couples and families are dealing with in the larger society. Mother Church cannot pretend that these problems do not exist. By calling on all Catholics to fix their gaze on the Holy Family, the Church is hoping to build better families that can be a haven of comfort for children and a sure path to heaven for all family members. 

All of us belong to families of one type or another. How do we keep ourselves healthy and strong?  How do we build good, faith-filled families? When I write my columns, I draw my inspiration from several sources. This week I am drawing from a homily that our Deacon Bob delivered during our Sunday Masses five years ago. Based on the Pope’s talks and writings, he offered four suggestions to build our families on the Rock that is Christ.

  • Be a family of love. If love is what nurtures and nourishes us, children must find it in the home. I often say that the family is the first school of love. We should feel safe within the family because we know that we will not be rejected or abandoned, no matter what we do. The first task of husband and wife is to make real the very love of God for their children. Pope Francis writes: “In the family we learn how to love, to forgive, to be generous and open, not closed and selfish.” Once a mother held up the new iPad for the family and said, “In our home this is not called iPad, but our Pad.” Within the family “I” disappears to make room for “we”. 
  • Be a family of forgiveness. As a priest, I have celebrated certain funerals where the father or mother is in the casket but the children are not speaking to one another. If we cannot find forgiveness within the family, where else can we hope to find it? I jokingly tell couples that people get married so that they don’t have to fight with strangers. Often, we hurt the people we love. That is why we need forgiveness. Our Holy Father is very realistic as he acknowledges the tensions and strains of family life. He writes: “Sometimes plates fly. But we shouldn’t be sad about this, it is human nature. The secret is this: love is stronger than an argument. Don’t end your day without making peace. Always make peace.” 
  • Be a family of care. Even though sometimes we fall short of the ideal, we all hope that we can be caring of each other just like the Holy Family. It is because of the family that a house becomes a home. We feel safe in it because we experience care and concern within its walls. Around the dinner table, the ideal family gathers everyday to heal its wounds, to share the stories and to forge stronger bonds. When everyone is cared for within the home, family members extend their concern towards those outside the family. Grateful for all that they have been blessed with, they seek to alleviate the pain of others. Once again Pope Francis challenges us with these words: “None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice. The family provides a living opportunity to practice care for others.”
  • Be a family of prayer. Growing up in India, I was fortunate that both my parents were deeply prayerful. Not a day went by when our dad did not make us kneel down for family prayer that often lasted thirty minutes. In order to be able to be a family of love, forgiveness and care, we need to be a family of prayer. Pope Francis says, “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.” The Servant of God, Father Patrick Peyton, the apostle of the Family Rosary Crusade, used to say: “The family that prays together, stays together.” Those words are absolutely true.

May the Holy Family watch over all our families! May we build our families on the Rock, on the teachings and example of Jesus Christ!

Who is Fr. Britto?

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...

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