This is the time of year when families celebrate in so many ways. We have Mother’s Day, First Communions, graduations, Father’s Day, and the start of the wedding season.
It’s an opportunity for families to enjoy each other’s company and emphasize the good things that are happening in their lives. I hope that most people are able to take time away from other commitments and spend time with their family members of all ages.
Most families do get together for some of these occasions, but I know that other families do not have the opportunity to get together. These days some families are split apart by geographic distance, difficulties with health, or divorce and separation.
Maintain family ties
Yet, with today’s modern means of communication, let’s hope even families with such challenges can “meet” via e-mail, Facebook, phone, letter, or card. We should keep in touch with our family members in whatever way we can.
Why maintain these family ties? Because families are very important. They should take a priority in our lives.
I know it can be difficult. Although we always try to gather our family together for holidays, we are coming up against competing interests. I get upset, for example, when such things as soccer tournaments and baseball games are held on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Yes, the family can attend these sporting events together, but what about aunts, uncles, and cousins who also have events to attend at different times and locations.
These holidays should be times when families can spend time together over a leisurely meal, not forced to eat quickly in order to get to the tournament or game. I wish those organizing these events would pay more attention to the holiday calendar!
Why families are important
The Catholic Church has been a leader in emphasizing the importance of family life. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church devoted one of its first chapters to the family, which it describes as “the vital cell of society.” The Compendium says that for each individual the family is the cradle of life and love where they are born and grow. The climate of affection that unites the family is also where we learn about truth and goodness.
The family unit is a community of persons where moral values are taught and the spiritual and cultural heritage of society is passed on. The family is also essential in ensuring people are strong in their commitments, and promotes both social responsibility and solidarity.
Bring light to the world
At the World Meeting of Families held in Milan Italy from May 30 to June 3, Pope Benedict XVI — who attended the meeting — emphasized that families should reach out beyond themselves to help others in society.
The Holy Father said that the family is the first place where people become aware that the world does not revolve just around themselves. It’s in the family where one learns that the driving force is not egoism, but self-giving. It is “in the family that the light of peace beings to light up in the heart,” said the pope, “a light that is meant to radiate out into the world.”
Pope Benedict urged families to use their Christian values and strengths to help bring peace, joy, and solidarity to everyone in their lives. “It is within a family that one experiences for the first time how the human person was not created to live closed up in himself, but in relationship with others,” the pope was quoted as saying in an article run by Catholic News Service.
For example, the pope appealed for continued help for those affected by two deadly earthquakes in northern Italy. He also praised members of the Catholic Church for coming to the aid of those in need, especially during a time of economic crisis.
He urged people to continue to be generous. At the world meeting, organizers had collection boxes set up in the congress hall and were sending donations to the appropriate Caritas organization.
Look to the saints for inspiration
We can also look to the saints for inspiration. Pope Benedict mentioned St. Gianna Molla as a particularly apt model for families. She was a wife, mother, and active professional woman in church and community life, he said. “She made shine the beauty and joy of faith, hope, and charity,” said the Holy Father.
I hope people will take opportunities to spend time with their family members. Father’s Day on Sunday, June 17, is one occasion to gather the family together and recognize the important role of fathers in our lives.
This summer should also give us some vacation days to spend with our families. Our family recently went on a boat cruise together, and it was a wonderful way to get away from the busy-ness of life and enjoy a peaceful time together for food, conversation, and relaxation.
Find ways to make families a priority in your life!