IN PRAISE OF THE FAMILY

In much of Canada, most of us are at home with our families today as we celebrate Family Day (Feb. 16). Some of us can be forgiven if we face this with a little chagrin: so many have been working at home for so long that being with the family is now an everyday occurrence.

Still, this day should be special. Modern life is not family friendly. In normal times, many of us face long commutes to work. Or long hours away from home for our jobs. Our children pack into their days not just school, but homework, sports, and lessons for countless other activities. On weekends, we race to do all those essential domestic chores. At the end of the day we collapse in front of our screens and zone out.

And I haven’t even touched on the challenges to family life posed by poverty, violence, oppression and inequality.

Our governments recognized a few years ago that we all needed a little time out. They also started to realize that the family itself needed a little TLC. That’s how we find ourselves with this statutory holiday in the middle of February.

Coincidentally, Pope Francis has decided that this year he also wants to send a little love to the family. He has decreed that this year, starting with the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19, will be dedicated to the family. For Catholics, he offers his own apostolic exhortation, Amoris laetitia (The Joy of Love), as a reflection on the importance of the family, known in Catholic circles as the “domestic church.” You can read it at your leisure here.

During this prolonged confinement caused by covid-19, we are learning anew the importance of family relationships. We have discovered that our much-vaunted independence has its downside. Many, because of unemployment, illness, or simply isolation, have turned to family members for support.

The traditional notion of the nuclear family — Mom, Dad and kids — has been evolving for some time. But in this new environment, we are seeing the strengths of family relationships in various combinations, especially extended families. Perhaps it has been forced upon us, but of all the pandemic-related changes to our lives, this one has the virtue of bringing us together and reminding us of the importance of those who love us the most.

“Loving kindness” is the term Pope Francis uses to describe the form our attentiveness to our family should take.

“Loving kindness builds bonds, cultivates relationships, creates new networks of integration and knits a firm social fabric. In this way, it grows ever stronger, for without a sense of belonging we cannot sustain a commitment to others; we end up seeking our convenience alone and life in common becomes impossible. Antisocial persons think that others exist only for the satisfaction of their own needs. Consequently, there is no room for the gentleness of love and its expression. Those who love are capable of speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation, and encouragement. … In our families, we must learn to imitate Jesus’ own gentleness in our way of speaking to one another,” he says in Amoris laetitia.

And in this way, our families can be the Good News to the world.

Happy Family Day!

Joseph Sinasac, Publishing Director, Novalis

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