The first institution in the world ordained by God Himself is that of the family. There are many names for the family. The Documents of the Second Vatican Council define the family as “The Domestic Church”—the Church in miniature. Pope Saint John Paul II stated that the family is the basic cell and building block of society. He also asserted that the society will follow the way of the family. World history has given proof of the primary importance of the family, as well as the unraveling of the family. When the family falls apart, it is just a matter of time until the society declines and disintegrates.
Considering the sublime and indispensable importance of the family, let us highlight several positive steps that should be taken to sustain, support, and both defend and protect the family against the multiple attacks on this basic God-given institution. May each and every one of us strive to do our share for the sake of wholesome, holy and strong families!
We will offer a ten-step program that will serve as a support-system for the formation, the sustenance, and the salvation of the family. Our prayer and hope will be that this short essay can be compared to a ten-rung ladder by which we can ascend to Heaven through the family. Our desire will be that the Holy Family—Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph will be our models, motivation, and bright stars in the firmament of Heaven to guide us along the way in the midst of much darkness and confusion.
1. Holy Matrimony
Unfortunately, it is becoming a real plague for many young people to live together in cohabitation or a civil-union without receiving the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, well received and lived out, confers a specific sacramental grace to help a married couple grow in love with each other, be faithful to each other, be open to life in having and raising children, and to love God and all that He desires for us.
Without the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, in the words of Jesus, it is like building a house on sand. Beaten by the winds, the house—this unlawful union—will collapse and crumble. (Mt. 7:24-27).
2. Prayer in the Family
Of paramount importance for the sanctification of the family is the indispensable need for prayer. The famous Rosary-priest, Father Patrick Peyton, launched a Rosary-crusade for the salvation of the family. His intention and desire were to motivate all families to pray the Rosary with the famous proverb: “The family that prays together, stays together.” This man of God, enamored with Mary and the Rosary, rallied between 2-3 million people in the Philippines, exhorting them to pray the Rosary for the salvation of their families and society.
3. Sacramental Life
Not only should the couple receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, but the family should live out their Catholic faith by the frequent, fervent and faith-filled reception of the Sacraments. Most especially, the family should attend Holy Mass every Sunday, and receive the most Holy Eucharist, the sublime Sacrament of the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. God is love and the love of God will be poured into the family through the most Holy Eucharist.
4. Be Open to Life
Years ago, our ancestors would marry, eagerly desiring the children that God would send them, even if it was a numerous family. Today there is a contraceptive mentality permeating the society as a whole. All too often, this anti-life mentality manifests itself through the practice and use of contraception.
The first command from God in the Bible was: “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Gn. 1:28) Let us change the tide and foster, with the help of God’s grace, the acceptance and formation of larger families.
5. Mercy and Forgiveness in the Family
One of the most poisonous and pernicious enemies of the salvation of the family is that of growing resentments. Unfortunately, many couples, husbands and wives, live in a constant state of quarreling, fighting, anger, hurtful words, resentments and bitterness. Of course, this poison spills over into the lives of their children.
What acid is to our stomach, unforgiveness and resentment are to our soul, as well as to our family! Acid will perforate the stomach lining and form ulcers. Unforgiveness and resentments can perforate and destroy the relationship between husband and wife, as well as the family.
Let us learn to forgive, not once or twice, but 70 times 7 times! As the English poet, Alexander Pope, penned so eloquently: “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” The key to forgiveness is to forgive right away and have recourse to prayer to win the battle at the outset.
A huge number of families suffer due to a lack of honest, frequent, and fluid communication. Without this basic concept of communication between husband and wife, children and siblings, family life suffers gaping wounds. All too often, parents believe they can win the affection and love of their children by buying their children whatever they want. Much more important is giving to the children their time over their money!
7. Meal-Time: Prime Time for Communication
The aim and goal is for Dad and Mom to bring the whole family together, every day if possible, for meal-time. Now here is the big challenge: during the meal (maybe it will be a mere half hour, hopefully much longer) there should be no electronic devices at the table. That is to say, no T.V., radio, or phones. None of these, so that the family can come together to talk and listen and laugh and enjoy each other’s company. From the youngest to the oldest, let there be free speech and attentive listening. Respect and love for each member of the family!
8. Renew the Courtship & Honey-Moon Spirit
Before marrying, most couples enjoyed spending long hours and even days with their future spouse. Meals together, dancing on the weekends, walks on the beach, viewing a good movie together, even weekend retreats—these activities were part and parcel of getting to know their future spouse and falling in love. Unfortunately, once married, all these important activities of emotional bonding go by the wayside.
Therefore, to maintain the bonds of friendship, love and growth, the married couple should get away from time to time, to be alone with each other, so as to cast wood on the fire of their love-relationship.
9. Sunday: The Day of the Lord and Family Day
Pope Saint John Paul II in one of his documents, Die Domino (The Day of the Lord) insists on the importance of rediscovering and redeeming the importance of living out Sunday—the Lord’s Day. The saintly Pontiff stated that Sunday should be the day to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to praise and worship the Lord.
However, the Pope insists that this should also be family day. The day that family activities can be organized and lived out. Some family activities? Meals together, sports activities, hiking and nature walks, board games, viewing a good movie together, picnics, praying together, visiting the elderly and sick.
Sunday indeed is the Lord’s Day and family day. Let us live it out!
10. Mary and the Family
Finally, let us consecrate our families to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, the Mother of each one of us, and the Mother of our families! Let us consecrate our families to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Let all family members wear the Scapular as a sign of their consecration to Mary and pray the Holy Rosary. Let all families find their true refuge and haven in two places: The Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.