The Family in a Time of Change
Feast of the Holy Family

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

Today, on the first Sunday after Christmas we honor the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. From all outward appearances, they looked like any other ordinary family. This family however was most extraordinary being made up of Jesus the Son of God, Mary the Virgin Mother, and Joseph their Protector. Although Jesus was the Son of God, as a human being He came under the influence of Mary and Joseph. Under their tutelage, He grew in age, wisdom, and favor with God.

The Holy Family was not exempted from hardships. They experienced the life of refugees while living in a foreign land in order to escape Herod as this Sunday’s gospel relates (Mt. 2:13-15). Joseph had to make a living as a carpenter. According to Jewish custom, Jesus had to learn the trade of Joseph his foster father. Like any housewife of the period, Mary had to fetch water from the community well. They were an ordinary family with an extraordinary mission -- to cooperate with God’s plan of salvation for the whole world.

Action starter: Express your love to your family members.

Do families today have a sense of mission? I mean a family sense of purpose. There are families who are dedicated professionals. There are families that are politically involved. There are families of educators. There are families of musicians, artists, and businessmen. There are farming families and sea fading families. Somehow as children grow up they breathe the air or atmosphere of the family and its sense of purpose. In some European families, there is a family crest or a family seal that reminds its succeeding generations of what their family is and what it stands for. In some African tribes, one is expected to recite his family tree to so many generations. These practices give a sense of identity and a sense of purpose.

One of my cousins in Iloilo has carefully drawn our family tree and tries to update its many branches in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, and abroad. Another cousin proudly reminds family members that we can trace our family origins to one of the legendary Bornean datus who came to Panay. I like that story. Somehow it makes me feel I have some claim to royalty.

The Filipino family is however undergoing changes. The sense of stability that comes from belonging to a nuclear or an extend family is being undermined by modern developments. There is the reality that ten percent of our Filipino population is abroad and they comprise twenty percent of our workforce. Statistics show that 121 Filipinos leave every hour for jobs abroad. They leave their families at a time when they are most needed by their growing children, between 29-35 years old for men and 25-29 years old for women.

We can see the face of these statistics in the number of fatherless or motherless homes around us, from the barrios to the cities. Clearly the national policy is to encourage the employment of Filipinos abroad rather than encourage productive jobs within the country. The national economic policy emphasizes exporting people instead of exporting products. This means we are losing the best of our professionals and skilled workers. This also means that there will be more and more problems for families due to the absence of parents. As one female domestic worker in Hong Kong lamented, “I left behind my three children in order to take care of somebody else’s child.”

These are hard times for Filipino families and families around the globe. In other cultures, they have to deal with growing number of divorces and separated couples. Young people are also subjected to sexual exploitation, sometimes by family members. Another phenomenon is the early sexualization of childhood. Personally, I am not amused or entertained by television shows where six or seven-year-olds are gyrating in imitation of adults’ sexually-arousing moves.

This Sunday, let parents be reminded of their responsibilities toward their children. Let sons and daughters honor and respect their parents (Sir 3:2-6). Let our families reflect the love, unity and mission of the Holy Family – even amidst changing times.