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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.