Thursday, October 20, 2011

Go F-a-m-i-l-y!

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Marriage and the family constitute one of the most precious of human values. (FC1) This vocation to love and the service of life is in danger by the many profound changes that have affected society and culture. Filipino family in particular escapes not the onslaught of trends and patterns of development which resulted to the consequences on the aspects of family life.

All these subtle violence against this so called first and vital cell of the society brought back memories of my own family. In this labor of love and inner journey, I give due recognition to my parents who are responsible of the person I have become.

I belong to a FAMILY. Whether I am home or not, my real and true identity marks the proof of who I am. I myself am a family.

“Christian family fulfills its prophetic role by welcoming and announcing the word of God making it a believing and evangelizing community day by day.” (FC, 51).

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It is in my family that my power of believing blossoms into endless horizon. The road to ones upbringing is indeed bleak but the example and witnessing of my parents shed light to this somewhat tough journey.

As members in the couples club in our town, active in cursillo movement and the lay minister status of my father, my parents became the source of grace in building a faith community in our family of four. They served as the vessels of faith by which I see in a deeper and surer way what is beyond my existence. Their faith propels me to discover the dignity of family which is a sign and meeting-place of the loving covenant between God and man, between Jesus Christ and his bride, the Church. (FC, 51)

This wonderful journey of faith nourished my Christian upbringing. It greatly enhances the growing seed of vocation planted and nurtured in my own family. I am now gaining ground in the road to follow Christ in serving the Kingdom. At first, doubts crept in (especially in my novitiate year), but my trust in God’s ways pushed me to take that leap of faith � my YES to my Salesian vocation. I recognize now how deeply rooted I am in the faith of my parents to God. They are really models of faith especially in instances where almost everything is against the odds.

All is possible because Thy will be done is our prayer. We believe that God will surely turn everything into good. All can become grace � even in the midst of daily hurrying and rushing; comings and goings. Everything is grace!

Pope Paul VI urges us continuously that “the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates. In a family which is conscious of this mission, all the members evangelize and are evangelized.” (FC, 5)

My parents are my first educators of faith. Amid the challenges of times, they painstakingly taught me the rudiments of our Catholic faith. There is so much privilege in knowing and loving Christ in the so called ‘Church in our home.’ I experienced a personalized catechesis whereby I gained knowledge not just by mere teaching. I learned more by emulating my parents in living their lives according to what they preached. It was a hands-on catechesis.

I therefore believe that this ecclesial service personally rendered to me by my parents made a rippling effect to my peers whom I influence in attending mass on Sundays. This task of evangelizing, clearly shows their role as ‘missionaries in the true and proper sense of love and life.’ (FC, 54) They educate by evangelizing, they evangelize by educating.

I sensed that through this, there is a social transformation in my neighborhood. With that gesture of evangelizing, we as a household promoted a fuller life according to Gospel values.

As a faith community and a minister of evangelization, each family realizes the prophetic role of the Christian family. Simply put, a family contributes to the Church a sense of service to itself and others while recognizing God’s love for all.

“The Christian family is called to be sanctified and to sanctify the ecclesial community and the world through the sacrament of marriage. (FC, 55) This is a double fold urging for the faith community in the call to holiness.

Sanctification is an alien word for me. I admit that my parents did not stress that in their teaching. It is not the words which inculcated in my thoughts but the love they have shown. In perpetual fidelity to their vows of marriage, their words that lead to holiness were spoken aloud in an atmosphere of proactive response to God’s call.

Procreation which entails our education and sacrifices on their part serve as a daily contribution to God’s glory. With this great responsibility in mind, they developed their own baptismal grace. They reach out to God in faith, confident of him in hope and relate to him in love.

These means to a family spirituality are nothing without the foundations built by the sacrament of the Eucharist and penance. I always remember that Sunday mass is a priority. Nothing and nobody can make us absent from it. It was an unwritten rule at home.

I clearly understand now the secret of our unity and harmony. This covenant of Christ with the ‘Church in every home’ does not only strengthen but serves as the source of Christian marriage. It leads us to receive the grace and moral obligation of transforming our lives into a ‘spiritual sacrifice’. (FC, 56)

Sin may hamper this communion and mission but the call to holiness also consist the humble acceptance of the call to conversion. Thus the Church is constantly calling every family a persevering attitude in reconciling with God, who is ‘rich in mercy’ in the sacrament of penance.

A life of prayer is vital to the call of transformation for a Christian family. “Family prayer has for its very own object family life itself, which in all its varying circumstances is seen as a call from God and lived as a filial response to his call.” (FC, 5)

The mark of God’s loving intervention in family’s history like the degradation of some fundamental values in the family, internal and external crises are realities which need God’s aid. Any family therefore is enjoined to seek this petition from God in trusting prayer.

I can say that my family is richly blessed with this habit of prayer. I grew up with the belief that any day is incomplete without the angelus and rosary being prayed for together. This is basically the role of my mother who taught me the prayer to the guardian angel and the basic prayers.

Praying while kneeling down added up the agony especially when reciting the litanies to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mother of Perpetual Help) on Wednesdays and the prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Fridays. It made the routine a heavy toll. But . . . it was a routine that made its way to my heart. The proof of which is my praying of the said rosary while I was in college. In the end, I believe that this prayer nurtured that seed of vocation during my five year stint as a school dentist.

Indeed the example of our family in this common prayer, in thought and action molded me to become a man of prayer. This is a lesson for life which made me connected to God, to other families in particular and the Church in general. In times of trouble and distress, I am always consoled that praying leads me to be in union with my family, with other families and with God. It made concrete, ‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.’ (Mt. 181-0)

Thus, I can say that this immersion in prayer and the mutual sanctification of marriage in itself and in the Church fulfill the priestly role of the Christian family.

“No one can live without love.” (Redemptor Hominis, 10) It is so because the spiritual sustenance of every Christian family is God himself. God is love. (1 Jn. 48,16) By sending, his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange (CCC)

A clear presence of the Trinitarian dimension is shown on this aspect. From the Father who gave his only Son for the love of the world, the Holy Spirit also inspires and guides the Christian family by pouring God’s love in their hearts. It makes the family an “intimate community of life and love at the service of Church and society.”

This intimate community is then moved by the example of Christ who exercises his royal power by serving his brethren. Thus, each Christian family finds an authentic meaning in its participation in the kingship of the Lord in sharing its spirit and practice of service to man.”(FC, 6)

I may say that my father and mother served as a refuge of troubled husbands and wives in our barangay. With experience at hand and their example of a life of love, I took pride in their simple way of interventions. They go out of their way in order to extend some help.

Thus in a nutshell, it can be said that any Christian family is at the service of the Church and the Church is at the service of the Christian family. This can only be achieved through a daily effort to promote a truly personal community, initiated and fostered by an inner communion of love in a Christian family.

As Christian family is compared to a hearth built by the love of husband, wife and children who are one � in the Lord, it also vivifies its kingly role.

Christian family is born out of faith in God, in the union and communion of both spouses in the spirit of love in marriage authored by God. Living in a home created and kept by love, the Christian family faces life in all its forms, in all its events with all its demands and struggles. In keeping with its true nature, it has to meet and respond to life differently because it lives in Christ.

The ups and downs remain but Christ in the midst of family life makes a difference. The promise of Christ ‘behold I am with you all days . . .’ assures the difference.

Indeed it is! I experienced the persevering and the resilient attitude of my parents towards the providence of God. When it comes to monetary and other problems, I am deeply impressed how they patiently handle them. In all my life, I did not hear a word of complain especially during hard times. What remains in my memory is their serenity and calmness. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . . and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 5)

Thus, in the daily call of God, there is an inner dimension in a Christian family to say YES. It is a yes of walking in the ways of God and let his will be done. He remains in each Christian family because his will is LOVE. And this daily yes shows a true and relentless faith in his LOVE.

At present, I belong now to a bigger Salesian family. This is now my family. With this sense of belonging, I am still who and what I am � warts and all because of my family. I could never thank them enough.

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