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Christian Family

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November 23, 2009

TY 250 – Christian Morality

            The family plays a very important role in an individual as well as in society.  The family is the first community an individual experiences and the first group an individual is a part of.  It is the primary community, in which we learn how to interact with others, how to love, how to trust.  From this community one learns how to “participate in the larger community of human society” (O’Neil 238).

            The encyclical Familiaris Consortio outlines four main tasks of the Christian family.  “1) forming a community of persons; 2) serving life; 3) participating in the development of society; 4) sharing in the life and mission of the Church.” (John Paul II)

            “Forming a community of persons” is significant in a family, as are the other three tasks outlined in Familiaris Consorti.  In order to do this, parents must display love and fidelity.  These two virtues are important in the forming of a community.  Pope John Paul II says, “Man cannot live without love” (John Paul II).  Children need to be taught to love by being loved, by experiencing love.  We need to participate in love, to love ourselves, others, and God.  We can then teach others to love.

            The second task mentioned in this encyclical is “serving life”.  This includes the married couple’s openness to life through procreation.  “However, the fruitfulness of conjugal love is not restricted solely to the procreation of children” (John Paul II).  It also includes the spiritual life.  The couple is to pass this on to their children, and consequently on to the world.  Parents are to educate their children.

            Life in Christ reiterates the point of this task.  A great task of the family is to serve life.  “Parents are the main and first educators of their children” (Shevchuk 58).  It is the parents’ job to educate their children to the best of their ability.  It is their job to raise their children in the Church, to instill in them morals, to educate them.

In a Christian family, it is the job of the parents to teach their children in the ways of the Lord and to bring their children up in the Church.  Not only is a child a member of the family or even of society; “by means of the rebirth of baptism and education in the faith the child is also introduced into God's family, which is the Church” (John Paul II).  The child should be brought up as such: a member of the family, the community, and the Church.

The third task mentioned by Pope John Paul II is “participating in the development of society”.  The family is very much linked to society.  It is not one group exclusive from society; rather, it is a part essential to society.  Within the family, one learns how to interact in society.  Each family is essential to society as a whole.

            Each family is like a mini society.  Here they experience community for the first time; they learn to share; they learn to contribute to the good of the group; they learn morals; values are passed on.  “The Second Vatican Council states, in the family ‘the various generations come together and help one another to grow wiser and to harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social living’” (John Paul II).

            The last task mentioned by Pope John Paul II is “sharing in the life and mission of the Church”.  It is the main responsibility of the family to build up the Kingdom of God.  It does this by “participating in the life and mission of the Church” (John Paul II).  There is a link between the family and the Church as a whole.  The family has been established as “Ecclesia domestica”, meaning it is a “Church in miniature” (John Paul II).

            In a family, one learns the importance of community and the importance of subsidiarity.  We are all individuals, but not apart from other individuals.  We are all part of a group, the society, the Church.  In being part of a community, we have a responsibility to the community.  We all have something to contribute and are to contribute it to the common good, using the gifts God has given to us.

            As well as being a part of a community, we are each individuals.  In a family, a child should be able to realize their individual dignity and discover their uniqueness.  They should realize their contribution to the family as well as to society.  They should be able to discover who they are individually and in the context of a community.

            Sometimes families can loose track of the group aspect of the family and become to individualistic.  But it is also possible for families to become too focused on the group and forget that they are each individuals.  This is the same in society as well.  Something very prevalent that I see in today’s families is the lack of respect from the child for the authority of their parents.  Also increasingly common in today’s families are divorces and abortions.  Pope John Paul II describes today’s society as having “the appearance of a truly contraceptive mentality” (John Paul II).

            Massaro says, “The well-being of the entire society absolutely depends upon healthy families, committed marriages, and responsible parenthood” (Massaro 87).  Families are a very important part of society.  In families, one learns morals and how to express these.  In the use and experience of these morals in the family, one learns how to express these in society.  Also in the use and experience of these morals, one is able to more fully see hope in the world, and therefore have a stronger desire to change the world for the better.

Being in a family should help one to be less selfish and more concerned with others in society, and therefore help to create a better world.  Massaro makes an observation that “outside of family life, it is rare to witness a spirit of profound self-sacrifice and generous giving to others that does not count the cost to oneself” (Massaro 87).  In a family, forgiveness is needed from day to day.  Self-sacrifice for the good of others and participation in the community is essential in a family.  Within a family unfortunately this is often taken for granted.  It is expected and often times not appreciated.

            A family is a place where an individual should be free to be completely himself.  He should be able to discover himself more fully.  The family should be the stable ground to which his is able to come back.  The family should be a place of unconditional love, willing to accept the individual for who they are, helping them to find their true self.  The family should be a community, uniting them to each other, to society, to the Church, and to God.

This is the ideal for a family.  However, no family is perfect.  The ideal should still be strived for, “but it is wise also to be on guard against excessive idealism about family life” (Massaro 88).  Each family experiences their own challenges; some families have bigger problems than others.  Some problems may be just a matter of imperfect people, not always getting along.  Larger problems may be more harmful, such as divorce or abuse.  Other problems that are not their fault may affect families, such as mental illness and economic conditions.  These are all hard on a family.  These unfortunate events are a part of reality.  This does not mean families should give up hope or stop striving for the best family they can have.  There is a lot to be said about the ideal, but the ideal should not be such a focus that it gets in the way and takes away from living in the family.

Works Cited

John Paul II, Pope. "Familiaris Consortio." The Holy See. 22 Nov 1981. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Web. 13 Dec 2009.

Massaro, Thomas, S.J. Catholic Social Teaching in Action: Living Justice. Classroom Ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008. 87-89. Print.

O'Neil, Kevin J., C.Ss.R. and Peter Black, C.Ss.R. The Essential Moral Handbook: A Guide to Catholic Living. Rev. ed. Liguori, MO: Liguori, 2006. 238. Print.

Shevchuk, Rev. Dr. Sviatoslav. Life in Christ: A Moral Catechism. Lviv, UK: Ukrainian Catholic University Press, 2009. 50-60. Print.