15 June 2008

'The Blueprint for Heroic Family Life'

When I went to the USA in September 1968 to study – I had been ordained the previous December – I was blessed to meet some strong Catholic families. But I noticed that they had to work hard at being such, in a way that at that time wasn’t perhaps as necessary in Ireland. In those days the Catholic family was the norm in Ireland. Protestant families I knew shared the very same family values. There was no divorce. Not all families were model families, of course.

But in today’s Ireland around 25 percent of children are born outside of marriage. In some urban areas the majority of births are such. The word ‘spouse’ seems to have become a ‘four-letter’ word. ‘Partner’ is the preferred term, though that used to be a perfectly respectable word too.

Dr Jeff Mirus of Catholic Culture gives a ‘Blueprint for Heroic Family Life’.

The Blueprint for Heroic Family Life
by Dr Jeff Mirus, June 13, 2008

Owing to the confluence of an East-coast heat wave and the failure of a home air conditioning system, my son Peter, his wife Kristina and their two daughters lived with Mom and Dad again for a few days this week. Seeing Elena (age seven) and Natalie (four) bright-eyed and cheerful at the beginning of each day was a joy. It was also a reminder of how things used to be. With the last of our six children going off to college this Fall, I sometimes need to be reminded that I’m a father. Perhaps you don’t want to hear about it? Oh, but you do.

The late Fr. John Hardon, author of our online Catholic dictionary, was fond of saying that only heroic Catholic families will survive in today’s world. But Father Hardon is no longer here to tell you what this means, so you’re stuck with father Jeff. My explanation can be divided into two categories, firmness and flexibility.

Full text .

My Columban colleague, Father Shay Cullen, has been working here in the Philippines since the 1970s with women and children who have been abused, for many years through PREDA, which he founded. He writes a weekly column that is widely and freely distributed and this week reflects on the commitment that husbands and wives make.

Sometimes people question what we celibate priests have to say about marriage. The vast majority of us grew up in families with a husband and wife whom we knew as ‘Dad’ and ‘Mam’. As priests we come to know many families. Husbands and wives / fathers and mothers often show their trust in us by sharing with us both their families’ joys and sorrows. So we can have something to say, even if it’s from a different vantage point and experience from that of spouses/parents.

I firmly believe that when a man and woman get their spousal relationship right and see it as the most important relationship in their lives, they’ll get the parental relationships right too.

The Meaning of Love Reflection 385, 15 June 2008

Fr Shay Cullen's columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and online.

Archive of Father Cullen's 'Reflections'.

Fewer and fewer people nowadays choose to take marriage vows, preferring to live together as partners. Many feel that they are not ready to make a life long commitment to be husband and wife and married parents to their children. They feel happier to leave the door open so that either one can walkout at any time. That’s easy for them but it leaves the children with the insecurity and uncertainty of having no mom or perhaps a dad when they wake up in the morning.

In the western world, family relationships have been under intense pressure for decades from materialism, lost values, unreasonable demands for continuous emotional and sexual gratification. This has led to an estimated divorce rate of one in every three marriages. So many couples are incapable of fidelity, and pre-nuptial contracts have become common and the abandonment of marriage itself.

In the Book of Sirach we are warned about the dangerous false friendship, fair weather friends and the true friend that money can’t buy. The faithful, loyal friend is the person who is at your side always when the going gets tough and when challenges lie ahead. The true friend who is there to support, help, serve, affirm and protect you from harm. That’s' what a loving marriage is all about . . . It’s making a public commitment to the highest value and ideal – unselfish, self-giving to another for life. It is a commitment made in public before the whole community. They vow that they will be faithful for life to their husband or wife. They pledge to be honest, understanding, caring, kind, gentle, sensitive and loving without expecting a reward, setting conditions, seeking their own pleasure and comfort. True love is unselfish. Above all, married love gives security, affirmation, love, care and affection to the children. It calls for courage, self-sacrifice and personal spiritual strength.

These values that imbrue true love are vital, necessary for happy and intelligent children. They are the firm foundation for emotionally, psychological and physically healthy children. Affirmation, admiration and encouragement are so necessary for the children to be secure, strong in mind and heart, to be whole and integrated, mature and wise. They will have it in abundance if the parents pass it on to them. The love between self-sacrificing parents brings family harmony. This is the goal and purpose of a loving, committed, married relationship.

This steadfast spiritual love that is seen in true married commitment and dedication is greatly helped by the mutual physical attraction we call ‘falling in love’. This is a powerful natural force of gene compatibility, mutual recognition of goodness in the other. It is the chemistry of the emotional and romantic magnetism that creates that wonderful experience of crossing barriers and achieving intimacy. It is this and their spiritual beliefs that bind a couple to each other. It is not a fleeting experience either, and with care and dedication can last a lifetime, as many married couples have experienced.

Romantic love matures and is sustained by spiritual love and friendship. It can be nurtured and strengthened and will empower the couple to meet and overcome the challenges of establishing a family, caring for the children, having a secure working life and a happy respectful family. END

Contact Fr Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, 2200 Olongapo City, Philippines.
Email: preda@info.com.ph
PREDA Information Office
PREDA Foundation, Inc.

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