~Familiaris Consortio #17
Understanding the term “family” can be challenging because of the diversity of thinking present in today’s culture. Some people think that a family is the basic unit in society, traditionally consisting of two parents rearing
their own or adopted children. Other people believe that any group of people who live together and share common attitudes, interests, or goals is considered family. While both of these can be used to define the word family, this segment will explore family as designed in God’s plan and described by Catholic Church teachings.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states that the family in God’s plan is “established upon the consent of the spouses. Marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children.” (CCC 2201) Basic to this teaching is the belief that each member of a family is equal in dignity and that each person has varied responsibilities, rights and duties that build the common good.
The Catholic Church calls each family a domestic church. This name reflects that each family is founded in Christ. “The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ.” (CCC 2205) A family is our first community and the most basic way in which the Lord gathers us, forms us, and acts in the world.
The family is the original cell of social life. “Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom...The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped and the poor”. (CCC 2207)
These characteristics of family set it apart from the secular world’s view of family. Each Catholic family is given a divine charge to share the faith through prayer and virtue, become a community of love and care for its members. In 1981, Pope John Paul II wrote an apostolic exhortation called Familiaris Consortio or On the Family, which means the family in the modern world. This letter presents an exciting vision for marriage and family life. It provides a blueprint for each family desiring to form itself according to God’s will.
The Holy Father identified four tasks that mark Christian families: form a community of persons, serve life, participate in the development of society, and share in the life and mission of the Church. These tasks serve as the “mission” of the family, giving direction on how to become what it is meant to be – a community of love and life. The end result of this mission is the family’s ability to reveal, guard and communicate goodness and love.
It is worthwhile for parents to think about each of these tasks and to consider how they might carry each of them out. Each of these tasks directs parents to a specific set of practical behaviors. Each of these tasks will require effort and discipline. But the outcome of the work is the accomplishment of the major goal of parenting – to raise an adult who is pleasing to the Lord.
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