Vatican II defines the family as “The Domestic Church.” Saint Pope John Paul II asserts: “The family is the basic building block of society.” It’s also true to say: “How the family goes is the way that society goes.” World history has given evident proof to the fact that when the family comes unraveled then it is not long before the whole fabric of the society will also begin to come unraveled. Therefore, this being the case, we should do all that we possibly can to fight virulently for the future of the world by fighting for the edification and the sanctification of the family. All of us must do our part!
This short essay will offer five clear and concrete ways by which we can seek to form holy and solid families, keenly aware of the fact that the future of society and the world at large depends on the future of the family. May Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph, the perfect family, the Holy Family, be both model and stimulus for our work!
1. Marriage Preparation
Unfortunately, in recent years the marriage preparation courses for couples planning on receiving the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony has been lacking almost to the point of being non-existent! One concrete suggestion: the formation of a team of “Marriage-mentors”.
By the term “Marriage mentors” we mean that every couple that has decided on Marriage should have someone to guide them on this wonderful vocation that we call Marriage. In concrete, every Parish should have a team of “Marriage mentors,” couples that have a deep spiritual life, love for the family, practical experience in their own marriage vocation, and an authentic love for the Church and the Sacramental life that will prepare a couple for marriage. This program might entail meeting with the future couple with the mentors on a weekly basis for several months. In the meeting they can pray and study together to understand exactly what is the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. In the professional life, mentors and trainers are absolutely indispensable. Of even greater importance is having marriage mentors prepare couples to embark on the wonderful, but challenging vocation of Holy Matrimony.
2. The Holy Eucharist
The greatest action that connect us to our eternal life with the Lord that someone can do is to receive worthily, and with love and devotion, the most Holy Eucharist. This is the greatest of all of the Sacraments because it is truly and substantially the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
A couple that attends Mass and receives the Holy Eucharist is really receiving the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. You might even say there is a Spiritual Heart Transplant that occurs. If received worthily, both man and woman are filled with the love of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. This love will be manifested in their encounters, conversations, and in all that they do. Nothing more noble and sublime then to have the Sacred Heart of Jesus, burning furnace of charity, burning within our own hearts. A wonderful practice, if time permits, is the reception of the most Holy Eucharist on a daily basis! Why not make a trial run!
3. Working to Please the Other
Love must be manifested in concrete actions. Both husband and wife should make it a point, every day of their married life, to try to do some action that will please or make happy the other. A kind word, a well-deserved compliment, a radiant smile, a small gift, a fervent prayer, a little sacrifice — all of these are small but very important gestures that can really build up the family life. Every night before retiring, already have in mind some concrete gesture you will do for your spouse to make him/her happy. Jesus reminds us that he who is faithful in the small things will be faithful in the large as well!
4. The Art of Listening with Love
Many marriages go on the rocks as a result of poor communication or, worse yet, no communication at all! Both husband and wife must learn the art of listening to the other. What should be avoided at all costs is interrupting the other when he/she is communicating what is in her mind or heart and is of great importance. Also of capital importance is to avoid prejudging and condemning while the other is speaking! Charity demands respect for the other, most especially, when the other is speaking.
As a priest, I have noticed on various occasions that a person will come in to speak with me to unravel or unload many problems. It might happen that this person unloads with forceful words, tears, the pounding of the desk, the raising of the voice for a good half-hour. During the course of this unloading, I will often barely express a word, but only listen attentively and with a charitable ear. Then the person gets up relieved and alleviated, thanking me for having helped to resolve his/her problem.
Many people in the world today have nobody on earth to listen to them. This is true even among married couples who have seem to have given up dialogue and communication with one another. Let us all strive to cultivate the art of listening with love. How vitally important this is to safeguard the vocation of Holy Matrimony!
5. Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!
Only God is perfect and the just man falls seven times a day. Both husband and wife will fail at times; this is part of being human! Jesus tells us what we have to do: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” The most famous prayer, from the Heart of Jesus Himself is the Our Father, in which we pray: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In other words, husband and wife must form the habit if being merciful toward the other when he/she fails. If we live out mercy then God will be merciful to us. It is a two-way street! The English poet, Alexander Pope expressed it succinctly: “To err us human, to forgive us divine.” Mercy in God is simply forgiving the sinner. Like God the should strive to be slow to anger and rich in mercy.