Raising a family in today's world
December 29, 2002

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

Luke tells us that when it was time for Mary's purification, Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem to consecrate Jesus to the Father in obedience to the Law: "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord." This is a recognition that human life comes from God which He in turn entrusts to parents to nurture, form and protect. Having fulfilled this obligation, they returned to Nazareth. It was in the bosom of this family that Jesus "grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him" (Lk. 2:22-40).

Luke highlights these events in the childhood of Jesus because God has determined to accomplish His plan of salvation by first having His Son born into and raised in a family, the Holy Family.

If there is one quality that really stands out in the Holy Family, it is this: each one of them was Spirit-led. The family was dominated by love and obedience to the Father and love and respect for one another. Thus understanding, love, harmony and peace reigned in their family. These were brought about by their full cooperation with the Spirit. And led by the Spirit, each one lived each day according to what St. Paul taught, "Put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another... And over all these put on love" (Col. 3:12-14).

But what we see on the ground today does not seem to promote this kind of relationship within the family. There are just too many internal and external influences on each member which are beyond their control.

Let us start with the home atmosphere. To meet ever rising expenses, we often find both parents working. They leave the house early and come home late and tired. Obviously, this reduces interpersonal communication which promotes family bonding. And because both parents are out most of the day, their children are "raised" by the household help or worse, by the ubiquitous TV set, video machine or play station. We don't have to be geniuses to know what these children may become later.

Worse, parents are sometimes "forced" to temporarily part ways -- to work in urban areas or even abroad (there are seven million Filipinos working overseas) so as to earn more and thus live more comfortably. But because of this separation, one or both parents sometimes enter into a relationship with someone else. Before long, the family breaks up. Many of us are sad witnesses to what a broken family does to a child.

Outside the home, there is the problem of the child going with the wrong company. Peer pressure, specially in the absence of a loving and supportive family, can easily make him try drugs which can lead to addiction -- every parents' nightmare.

Social scientists tell us that the rise of juvenile delinquency is directly proportional to parental delinquency. Because parents are God's cooperators and representatives, failing in their parenting role is failing in their first and foremost obligation to God.

How are we to reverse this sad situation? By returning to God's plan which the Holy Family lived to the full. First, God created men and women to complement each other, to complete each other in Him, to share in His community of love and to share each other's love in marriage. Second, the love between a husband and wife, a mother and father for their children, glues the family together and ultimately, society itself. And third, children learn the language of love by watching their mother and father.

Reflecting on this last, is it not a fact that it is our childhood years that has the deepest impact on us? Is it not during that period that what we are today took root: our capacity to relate with others and to love, our moral convictions, our religious practices, and our values?

How did we imbibe all these? Through what we see our parents do. When our children notice that we love and respect one another, help each other in household chores, are polite to other people, do not talk evil about them, try to understand the other side before making a judgment, are faithful to God's word as reflected in their religious practices such as praying together at home and keeping the Lord's day as a family, then there is a good chance that our children may develop the same set of values. And when these have taken root in them, that is, become habits, then when difficult situations arise later, we are confident that they will know how to handle them properly.

Jesus was the kind of human person that He was largely because of the kind of family He grew up in. Thus amidst the many internal and external influences that bears upon the family today, there is still the Holy Family that we can look up to and with which to model our own families.