Building a culture of the family in our parishes Part 2
By Fr Matthew Ragbir, Spiritual Director and Theological Advisor, Archdiocesan Family Life Commission
Our May column (CN May 21) began a series on ‘Building a Culture of the Family in Our Parishes’. It concluded with an invitation to a pastoral conversion. Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (EG) called for a “pastoral conversion …a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything… for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her (the Church’s) self-preservation” (27).
The Holy Father has, in a very deliberate way, focused this missionary impulse and pastoral conversion of the Church towards the family. Perhaps it is his deep understanding that the family is of vital importance for the renewal of the Church and the world. As he has noted, the family is:
“the fundamental cell of society” (EG 66)
“A domestic Church and a vital cell for transforming the world” (Amoris Laetitia 324)
“Not museum pieces, but through them, the gift is made concrete in mutual commitment and generous openness to children, but also in service to society.”
“a kind of leaven that helps to make the world more humane and more fraternal, where no one feels rejected or abandoned.”
A society’s “most precious treasure …and it remains the most suitable structure for ensuring for people the integral good necessary for their continuing development” (2017 Address to Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe).
The place where there is the “unique capacity to form each member, particularly the young, into persons of love, sacrifice, commitment and fidelity, that the Church and society …will find the resources necessary to renew and build up a culture of solidarity” (2014 Address to Malawi Bishops Conference).
We often hear that repetition facilitates learning. The message of the importance of the family has been echoed by previous popes, most notably St John Paul II. Pope Francis has placed a high priority and emphasis on the family, announcing its good news everywhere. The question we must answer then is: Have we as an Archdiocese, as parishes, as the people of God here in Trinidad and Tobago come to a recognition of the priority of the family? Is this then part of the pastoral conversion we must be open to? Do families themselves recognise their call and responsibility?
As a Church do we recognise that a pastoral conversion which focuses on the family will bring the societal change we long for in the midst of much pain, insecurity and turmoil?
We long for integrity, honesty and solidarity to build a better nation but seem stuck in a downward spiral of greed which is fuelled by such a low self-worth that we think who we are depends on what we have or the kind of lifestyle we can live at whatever price. The family is sidelined in such an environment and the self-centered ego reigns.
As noted above, the family is precisely the place where the healing and restoration begins. Let us pray that we may truly grasp the good news of the family which the Holy Father continues to preach. Let us pray that we may put the resources, time and energy to this vital cell of society and the Church, this most precious treasure, the leaven for a more humane world.
St John Paul II said “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live” (1986 Australia). Being the domestic Church, it is also true that as the family goes, so goes the Church for, “the future of the world and of the Church, therefore, passes through the family”.