Concept of Family
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16, “A Family is the natural and fundamental unit group of society and it's entitled to protection by society and the state”.
The Catholic Church affirms most vividly that, the family is an essential life-giving part of the church and that it is the source of on-going vitality for the entire Church. For instance, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “The family is the original cell of every social life” (CCC 2207). Again, the Church gave series of catechesis on family in most of her documents. Some of these documents are: Catechesi Tradendae, Gravissimum Educationis, Gaudium et Spes, Lumen Gentium, General Directory for Catechesis, Familiaris Consortio, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Catechesis of the Catholic Church, just to mention a few.
Historically, the Church has been an advocate of strong family life. The great revolution was started by Pope Pius XI in 1930 in his encyclical, Casti Connubii.
Meanwhile, the Synod Fathers in Vatican II shifted the argument on marriage and family life from a merely “juridical” presentation of marriage to a more “personal” approach. Above all that the church has written, over two thirds of what she has ever said on marriage in her two-thousand-year history has come from John Paul II’s pontificate.
Recently, the post-synodal apostolic exhortation – “Amoris Laetitia” is of no exception of the Church’s effort of maintaining the sanctity and integrity of family life which is so dear to her heart.
The Church, painstakingly did her maximum best knowing very well that, the proclamation of the Gospel of the Family is an integral part of her mission.
In as much as the Church makes significant progress in protecting and encouraging reverence for marriage and family life from falling, another effort the Church is making to supporting the family and marriage life is by organizing a World Meeting for Families: A conference held every three years to come out with new ways of living the family life amidst a world of fragile peace and broken promises. It is a conference sponsored by Pontifical Council of the Family.
Prey to some of the current philosophies on marriage and family life which are inimical to its divine order, the Church is not also oblivious of the fact that, Family is an inexhaustible resource and font of life in her pastoral activity.
It is based on the above that the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in Modern World opines that despite the countless progress, there are still challenges. It numerated the challenges as: Polygamy, the plaque of divorce, the so called free love and similar blemishes; the economic, social, psychological, and civil climate of today (Gaudium et Spes no. 47).
The enormity of the challenges in the family and marriage life of today, can easily cajole one to alluding to the fact that, the church is totally indebted to marriage and family life. In as much as it will be unfair to convincingly conclude that, the Church is not indebted to the institution of marriage and family life, it will also be unfair to conclusively say otherwise. From the aforementioned, it is clear, that the Church has added a lot of resources which will continue to inspire studies, discussion, experimentation, and varying degrees of implementations by church ministers and leaders as well as by policy makers and professionals, working within social institutions on family and marriage life.
Though the Church, categorically stated that “no plan for organized pastoral work at any level must ever fail to take into consideration the pastoral area of the family” (Familiaris Consortio no.70), it seems there are still many of such areas which are left unattended to. Finally, the signs of failure in these areas, have led many to say that, the church has failed or is indebted to family life. Some of these areas are:
*Inadequate preparation for marriage:* Benjamin Franklin ones said, he who fails to prepare, prepares to fail. Unfortunately, many falsely believe that, just being in love is enough to have a successful and healthy marriage and family life. They failed to take their premarital counselling seriously thereby leading to failure in marriage. Many pastors also failed to adhere to Canon Law 1063, which stressed on their (pastors) obligation to ensuring adequate preparation of the spouses before entering into conjugal covenant.
It is this failure on the part of both pastors and partners that continually hold the church captive to indebtedness.
*Ineffective implementation body:* It is on record that, many archdioceses and dioceses do not have any viable institution to integrate and decentralize the core mandate of the Gospel of family life. To such places, the understanding of family life is only an idealized principle to be held; but not a reality to be lived. In this case, how do you expect the effort of the Church to be appreciated by the faithful who find themselves in such environs. Again, many places do not even have offices where the faithful can go freely to share their joy and pain. In other words, a big institution as the family, in many places do not have well established systems to journey with young couples and also take care of victims of circumstances. It is obvious that, such victims of circumstances will easily assert that, the Church, has failed or is indebted to them without thinking about the fallacy of generalization, they are committing.
*Inability to help families develop their spirituality:* Pope John II ones said that, the dignity and responsibility of the Christian family as a domestic Churc, can be achieved only with God’s unceasing aid, which will surely be granted if it is humbly and trustingly petitioned in prayer. (Pope John II, The Christian Family in the Modern World, para 59). The Holy Father was in effect, proposing an action oriented family spirituality which has at its center- worship, devotion and discipleship. It is through the exercise of their spirituality that, the family, can withstand the current wave globalization is imposing on marriage and family life. It is a fact that, many families of today are just a bunch of people sharing room because many pastors fail to help them develop and explore their spirituality. This is one of the reasons why many think the Church is indebted to the family and marriage life.
The Way Forward
The Church has been commended by many for being the promoter of family and marriage life; yet there are still a lot which need to be done especially in this challenging world of globalization. Some of the suggested responsibilities to be considered are:
📌Pastors should give young partners preparing for marriage, adequate training and counselling.
📌Church leaders need to be aware of the Church’s policies and programmes, workshops and ministries so as to help their Christian faithful live their vocations in this polarized world of globalization.
The leaders should help their faithful develop a sustainable family spirituality.
📌Priests can only provide and encourage leadership training in a variety of areas of family ministry.
📌Pastors should also create evangelization opportunities that, are applicable to each stage in the family life cycle.
Family, plays a very important role in the life of the Church- because it shares in the life and mission of the Church when the Gospel, vision and values are communicated and applied in daily life.
It is on this note that, the Church tries always to protect and guard its divine order from falling to the philosophies of the time. Despite all the efforts that, the Church, has been making, there are still a lot more which need to be done by both couples and pastors to salvage the face of family and marriage life. In the loose sense, we can assert that, the Church is indebted to family life; especially when we consider how some of her policies and programmes are left on the desk without implementation by some of her ministers, thereby compounding the problems of her faithful. In its strictest sense, it will be absurd to say that, the Church, has failed or is indebted to the family life in post-modernity; since the Church has done a lot in promoting family and marriage life.
by Fr. Richard Teku (Ho Diocese)
posted by: Mark