Role of Family in Spreading the Culture of Faith
Year of Faith
With his Apostolic Letter of October 11, 2011,Porta Fidei. Pope Benedict XVI declared that a “Year of Faith” will begin on October 11, 2012 and conclude on November 24, 2013. October 11, 2012, the first day of the Year of Faith, is the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (Vat II) and also the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. During the Year of Faith, Catholics are asked to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the catechism so that they may deepen their knowledge of the faith.
“The family has truly become a little church, or as it is better known, a domestic church.” The family finds in a plan of God the creator and redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission, what it can and should do, says JPII in FC, n.17
- Definition of Family
The definition of family depends on who answers the question.
World English dictionary defines family as “a primary group consisting of parents and their offspring, the principal function of which is provision for its members.” Legal Dictionary defines family as “a group of individuals related by blood, marriage, or adoption/a group of usually related individuals who live together under common household authority and especially who have reciprocal duties to each other” and the U.S. Census Bureau (2001) defined family as “a group of two or more persons related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together in a household.”
Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology broadly defined family as “any two people who are related to each other through genetic connections, adoption, marriage, or by mutual agreement.” Boehner’s (1976) broader definition, which is cited frequently, presents family as “an organized, naturally, occurring relational interaction system, usually occupying a common living space over an extended time period, and possessing a confluence of interpersonal images which evolve through the exchange of messages over time.”
Anthropologist says a culture’s biological and marital kinship rules and patterns of reciprocal obligations define family. In one culture, kinship is based on the father’s biological line; in another, kinship is based on the mother’s biological line; in another, kinship is based on a combination of both the father’s and mother’s biological line, but kinship obligations may quickly end about the level of uncles, aunts and first cousins.
Structure-functionalists say the patterns of reciprocal obligations among people and between structures of people and the greater society define family. The greater society has needs that must be met; in order to meet those needs, society creates subsets of people structured to help meet the needs of society. The family is one of those structures. The definition of “family” changes as the needs of the greater society change.
Institutionalists say family as a “traditional,” biological, procreative and child-rearing structure and emphasize the biological relationship among family members Institutionalists focus on the presence of a biological mother and father and biological offspring to define family.
Psychoanalysts say Family is defined as the individual’s stage of development and unconscious needs. The individual’s sense of attachment is important in defining family. Thus, abused biological offspring may sever their psychological association with the family and effectively dissolve the family. Others, who are not biological kin, may consider themselves to be “family” and effectively create a family or join an existing family.
Economists says the family is a production and consumption unit. Historical economists may define the household slave in an African or Arabian household as part of the family since the slave or servant works and subsists as a member of the family, living in the family household, eating at the family table and participating in family activities
Catholic Church says “The family, which is founded and given life by love, is a community of persons: of husband and wife, of parents and children, of relatives. Its first task is to live with fidelity the reality of communion in a constant effort to develop an authentic community of persons.” (FC 18).
In all the above said definitions on Family, the definition of Family by the Church stands in a place by adding a term “love” to the definition of family.
The Exclusiveness of ‘love’ in the family
- Marriage between only one man and one woman. It explains the nature of human love between a man and a woman. Therefore it excludes all union other than that of heterosexual union in the family
- Love is total giving of oneself to other; therefore one cannot give oneself totally to more than one at the same time. Here we see the aspect of monogamy. It is an authentic communion which promote the equal dignity of partners.
Therefore ‘Love’ is to denote the relationship between members of the family!
- Members of the family
The family is composed of persons united by ties of marriage, blood or adoption.
As a member of a family man becomes son, brother, husband, father and grandfather etc., and woman becomes daughter, sister, wife mother and grandmother etc.
The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children. Lumen Gentium n.11.
In the Catholic Church, when the family is defined as the Domestic Church, the members those are mentioned explicitly are Parents and children.
The parent-children relationship is the source of all other relationships. Therefore Parents and Children are the members to constitute the ‘Family’
- 3. Role of Parents and the children within the family:
- Role of the Parents
- Gift of Life
Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. (Gaudium et spes, 50). Therefore the role of the parents is an initiation into new life or gift of life and the education to the Children. The Role of mother and the Father starts even before the Birth of the child.
Mother’s Role before Birth: “The mother, even before giving birth, does not only give shape to the child’s body, but also, in an indirect way, to the child’s whole personality.” ( JP II in Letter to Families, #16).
Scientists have known for years that before children are born they are influenced by the mother’s behavior. For example, the link between smoking and low birth weight is firmly established as is the use of alcohol during pregnancy with neurological damage to the unborn child.
Father’s Role Before Birth : “He should be responsibly committed to providing attention and support throughout the pregnancy and if possible, at the moment of birth” ( JP II in Letter to Families, #16).
Wife’s confidence in herself and her new role may be fragile and her husband’s strength is important to her. The husband must communicate to her through his actions and words that, “the motherhood of his wife is a gift: this is enormously important for the entire process of raising children” (LTF)
- Education to the Children
“Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.” (Gravissimum Educationis, #3).
It is important for parents to have an active interest in their child’s education as research has also shown that children do better with this. Pope John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation, he explains the essential and the in alienable place of parents in the education of their children, which is primarily needed for their psychological and moral development. The term education is not understood by many couples in the proper sense. Education is not mean schooling, giving chances to study to read and write. It means perfection as far as possible. Children will learn from interaction throughout the day and not just inside the classroom, which means parents will need to interact when they child is at home. This also aids with learning at a later stage. It means parents remain active in their child’s development and learning.
- Role of the Children
Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents. (Gaudium et spes, 50)
Therefore, the role of the children is to be a gift and to the welfare of their parents. The role of children in the family has changed dramatically in the last 100 years. Families needed children for their livelihood. Children were needed to plow the fields, feed the animals, make butter, cook etc. They had a sense of being a vital part of the survival of their family. In this automated world, Children to be active and positive members of the family that their contributions area absolutely necessary. The more of a team atmosphere can be created, to be the part in all the house hold matters.
The children have to be receptive. “Hear, my child, your father’s instruction and do not reject your mother’s teaching for they are a fair garland for your head and pendants for your neck” ( Prov. 1;8) Young people have a responsibility and duty too. They need to open their eyes and ears and in a willing attitude learn the truth as their parents are the most reliable teachers.
- The Family in Today’s world
Consumerism and the materialism: reigns the world today. In the consumerist cultures, man is valued not for what one “is”, but for what one “has”. In this culture, one what is enjoyable and useful is considered good and the worthwhile. Thus we form a Throwaway Society. Thus man’s relationship with things and persons are increasingly temporary. This consumerism gave birth to the materialism in the world. There was a time when people didn’t carry cell phones and PDAs with them wherever they went, and when there were no such things as iPods, Wi-Fi Internet, You Tube, Twitter and Face book. The problem is, we are being increasingly overloaded with more changes than we can handle
Computer Revolution and Advanced Technology: Earlier, the industrial revolution brought about changes in lifestyle, family structure, culture and values. It began with a shift from a rural, agrarian society to an urban, industrial society. The computer revolution that started around 25 years ago sent the rate of change into its exponential rise. Today, scientific and technological changes are taking place at such a breathtaking pace that many have difficulty keeping up with them. The pace of life is speeding up. We have been cranking up the speed at which we operate, and life is becoming increasingly frantic.
Multitask and Long working hours: In an attempt to get more done we ‘multitask”, always trying to do two or three things at the same time. So we may eat fast-food lunch and conduct business calls while we’re driving or checking our e-mail. More people are also bringing work home with them. Everyone is working long hours—not only because there’s a lot more work to be done, but also because of concerns about getting laid off if they don’t put extra hours.
The Gap in the family: Our lives are becoming increasingly complex. More often parents do not even know what their kids are listening to on their iPods or what sites they are checking out on the Internet. So kids are not getting any kind of direction as to what’s wrong with these messages, and they go unchallenged. This makes the gap among the family members.
Loss of face-to face relationship: Today family members can tune into their iPods or laptops and tune everyone else and ‘be with’ whomever they choose to be with. There is much less time available for quality face-to-face time between parents and kids. In recent years we have become increasingly disconnected from friends and neighbors, and less involved with community organizations, civic groups, parent-teacher groups or recreation groups. This loss of “community” threatens educational performance, safe neighborhoods, everyday honesty and even our health and happiness.
Social networking and Online chat: One factor is that for many people, social networking sites, chat rooms and other online venues have become their “community” of choice. “Instead of socializing with others face-to- face, more and more people are spending their free time sitting in front of their laptops. Another factor is our busy lifestyles. With people working longer hours, often on weekends, we have less time for chats with the neighbors or for neighborhood barbecues.
As a result the LOVE which binds the family is losing the shape and it is commercialized.
- The Faith and the Culture of Faith in Today’ world
According to JP II, faith and reason are the two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth. Faith is a spiritual substance, which is inside of you that can either grow or wane. Here is the biblical verse which will tell us exactly what faith is, “now faith is the substance of thing hoped for the evidence of the things not seen” Heb 11:1
The development of the world is very challenging to the faith and evangelization. The faith has to be communicated not by abstract by the lived faith.
The simple data of the world religion will give the picture of faith today,
- Christianity, 2.1 billion (Catholic Church, 1.14 billion; Protestants, 630 million, Orthodox, 245-250 million)
- Islam, 1.5 billion
- Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist, 1.1 billion
- Hinduism, 900 million
- Chinese traditional religion, 394 million
- Buddhism, 376 million
- Primal-indigenous, 300 million
- African Traditional & Diasporic, 100 million
- Sikhism, 23 million
- Juche, 19 million
- Spiritism, 15 million
- Judaism, 14 million
- Baha’i, 7 million
- Jainism, 4.2 million
- Shinto, 4 million
- Cao Dai, 4 million
- Zoroastrianism, 2.6 million
- Tenrikyo, 2 million
- Neo-Paganism, 1 million
- Unitarian-Universalism, 800,000
- Rastafarianism, 600,000
- Scientology, 500,000
(As of 2007; (http://www.adherents.com/ReligionsByAdherents.html#Christianity.)
While the Christianity (2.1 billion)together with all the denominations stands in the first place and Islam in the second (1.5 billion), the Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist, 1.1 billion in the third place, and all other religions are very less in number. The data above shows that the people who keep distance from culture of faith is at the third place number.
- The Role of Family in spreading the culture of Faith:
In this Scenario of the world of faith and the family situation, what is the role of Family in spreading the culture of faith?
During his installation in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI observed: “During those sad days of [Pope John Paul II’s] illness and death, it became wonderfully evident to us that the Church is alive. And the Church is young. She holds within herself the future of the world and therefore shows each of us the way towards the future.”
As we have seen “family as the domestic Church”, this Domestic Church also holds within herself the future of the world.
Family is the “Nursery of Society”, said St. Augustine. Intellectual, cultural, moral and spiritual formation of a child mainly depends on its parents. Today the society has become more and more secularized. Consumerism and globalization have very much affected the way of life of people and thinking and acting. Especially the media culture has deeply affected the culture of faith. To save the world from this degradation from fundamental human and moral values, family the nursery of the society should be revitalized and its original family culture and family ethos. Especially religious faith in family should be nurtured and strengthened. In this context, the role of family in spreading of the culture of faith and the human values to their children is very inevitable one.
Creation and the Religious Formation of Family
God created man in his own image and blessed him to increase and multiply. Gen. 1:27, 28. It is the plan of God that family should be the first ‘living cell’ of the society. Thus it should be the source of human society. God endowed man with the power of ruling the nature and making use of them for construction purposes of humankind. (Gen. 1:28). Man making use of the power of God not only increasing the number but also develop in all the fields: science and technology, morality and spirituality. Man created by God for a greater glory needs to know his creator and lead a life in accordance with his revelation. Family, as source of human society, needs to play an important role in this regard. Parents who are the head of the family have a great obligation especially in the religious formation of their children. Religious formation given by parents will be the foundation to the culture of faith.
Family – Cell of the Society
Family as the primary group of society is the foundation of all other human societies. As the second Vatican Council pointed out God has made the married state the beginning and foundation of human society. Pope John Paul II says, Family is the first and vital cell of human society”.
Family – the School
Family is a school. Consequently the educational function of the family is unique. Familiaris consortio says that the family is the primary school and the parents are the first teachers of religious, moral and spiritual education of their children. It is in this school that one takes the first lessons from his parents on different arts that are fundamental for healthy social life and faith formation of the society. The family, therefore, from the point of view of religious education is irreplaceable and its right and duty of religious education is inalienable. Therefore, parents who have conferred life on their children, have a solemn obligation to give religious education to their offspring.
Faith and Catechesis
According to the CCC, ‘education in the faith of children, young people and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted in an organic and systematic way with a view to initiating the hearers in to the fullness of Christian life’ is known as catechesis. Catechesis first of all has the task of teaching of revealed truths. It is not a theoretical knowledge but knowledge by faith. Thus the knowledge of revealed truths taught in catechesis leads the listener to have a new scale of values.
Catechesis by parents in the family environment assumes very different modalities such as witnessing to their faith in daily life, the Christian reading of the daily events, sacramental initiation, formation of conscience, initiation into prayer life etc.
- The methods for the spreading the culture of Faith
Variety of methods could be adopted for the spreading of the faith. The following could be few practical ways.
Doing: This is to teach faith by practice, not by providing a model to be copied but allowing the child to feel instinctive need to participate in the faith practices of family life. For example, Parents take their children along to church, make use of the opportunities to name the images in the church and instruct the basic things to be done in the church without anticipating any difficulties. The natural attitude of prayer of the parents opens the way to the child to prayer by itself.
Speaking: the parents should remember to offer their children explanations based more on theology rather than the age old answers they have stored up in their own minds. The massage on faith should vary according to the age and understanding capacity of the children. This should be complementing the knowledge that the children receive in the school. This method of speaking reveals the essentials of Gospel truths and theological truth with subtlety.
Celebrating: the habit of observing great fests such as Christmas, Easter, parochial feast or celebration of baptism, first communion, confirmation etc. should also be used as occasion for spreading the faith. Pious religious habits of everyday life such as grace before and after meals morning and evening prayers reading the bible, praying rosary together or some other family celebrations, could also be favorable occasions for spreading of the faith culture.
- The Family at the Juncture of Year of Faith
The Year of Faith is an ideal time to pause and think what will be and what should be the role of families in today’s world.
Crisis in the family and the Year of Faith
Today it’s easy to see the growing crisis of the family. Serious problems arise in many families, such as the lack of work or difficulty in earning what is necessary for a decent life. And when there is no help from outside, loneliness ensues, a lack of hope, and tragedies and dramas arise. Moreover, with the tempo of modern life, persons and family members are so pressured at work that they often don’t have time for their homes and children. Utilitarianism, increasingly obsessive dependency on extreme rhythms of work, the reduction of time dedicated to affective life, leads to the disintegration of the family.
The problem is especially true for persons who live marriage superficially. A growing number of divorces occur when persons don’t struggle for unity and reinforcement of the sacred dimension of their families. Such situations often take place when God and faith don’t have their rightful place. The Year of Faith will be a good occasion and an extraordinary event to reinforce families.
Transmission of the faith in the Year of Faith
The Year of Faith will be very important to rediscover and deepen the quality and quantity of relations in the family. There will be many occasions to reflect on what the faith really is and how it can be transmitted. During the Year of Faith the family must find the time to be together to read the Bible and to pray, but also to talk, to laugh, to share joys and sorrows, that is, to reinforce the bonds of affection among all the members of the family. If our faith is strong, it will enable us to overcome even the greatest difficulties.
The Family in the Year of Faith.
The Year of Faith will bring more families closer to the Gospel of Christ. The innumerable crises in families happen not only when security is lacking in relations between parents and children, but especially when evangelical values are lacking, such as love, hope, faith, trust, fidelity and truth. When the Gospel of Christ is lacking in families, young people often take refuge in places where disorder and relativism reign, thus they become victims of excesses, among which are drugs and alcohol. Moreover, they give a bad example. Thus persons who do not have an appropriate family model in the future will have difficulty in creating a real and solid relationship in their own families. This is a reason why it is so important to build family relations based on true values, in particular those indicated by the Gospel.
A human being is more than a function, the psychology and sociology cannot grasp the full scop of what is means to be human. Theology and religion also have something to say about the faith dimension of every human being. The most important ingredient is the love flowing between the family members.
In Christian education and faith formation, the family is of its very nature an education entity. In FC 51 we read: “Christian spouses and parents are required to offer the ‘obedience of faith’ (Rom. 16:26). According to Pope Benedict XVI “Faith can be specified by an encounter with living God which opens up new horizons extending beyond the sphere of reason”
In Transmission of Gospel Values to the next generation, the role o family is unique. In CCC, we read “Family is a place in which the gospel is transmitted by basing it on profound human values. One’s growth and life in faith entails the task of handing it on from generation to generation by profession the faith, living it in fraternal sharing and celebrating it in liturgy and prayer”.
Though we have arrived at the conclusion of this seminar on family and the faith, we are at the beginning of the year of faith. And the role of Family in the spreading of the culture of faith is an unending process. Thus we conclude this seminar providing some practical tips to spread the Culture of Faith in the year of Faith.
Practical tips to spread the Faith in the year of Faith
- Pray together as a family – grace before meals, prayers before bedtime, family rosary
- Display religious imagery in the home
- Make a ‘shrine’ for the YEAR OF FAITH – a statue, cross, candle, Bible etc
- Have a family prayer board where prayer intentions can be posted
- Celebrate the Church’s liturgical year in the home – for example, an Advent wreath, religious advent calendars, a crib, Lenten prayers, Easter candle
- Keep the feasts of saints after which family members are named
- Make a family pilgrimage – for example, to the Cathedral
- Read Bible stories with children
- Use craft materials to create images of faith, make rosaries
- Trace the sign of the cross on each other’s foreheads before journeys, at bedtime, before school, at the end of family prayers
World English Dictionary, s.v. “Family” [Online].
Legal Dictionary, s.v. “Family” [Online].
U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey,Cited in Strong, DeVault and Cohen, The Marriage and Family Experience, 6.
The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, 2nd edition, s.v. “Family”.
Bochner, Cited in Pearson, Communication in the Family, 11.
 Alvin Toffler, Future Shocks, Bantam Books, USA, 1971
 Aurelius Augustine, De Civitate Dei (Tunholti: Typographi Brepols editors Ponitificii, 1955), BK. 15, Cap. 16.
 Vatican Council II, Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People, (Apostolicuam Actuositatem), 1965, no 11
 “Familiaris Consortio”, 1981, no 42
 “Gauduim et Spec”, 1965, no 52
 “Familiaris Consortio”, 1981, no 36
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, no.5.; Cf Pope John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae no 18.
 Marcei Van Caster, Structure of the Catechetics, P. 217-218