CREATING a Culture of Life & Love in the Family
By Judith Leonard, NACFLM Region IX
Affirms the gift of Children, the vocation of Parenthood, and helps build a Culture of Life and Supports parents and families in their role as a Domestic Church.
Life: A GIFT OF GOD
During his relatively short life on earth, Jesus gave us many gifts, including words to live by.
Love – how to love God and each other – and life – how to have it abundantly – were among the themes of his teachings. While the two topics complement each other in numerous ways, nowhere is their intersection more harmonious or central to our lives than in families.
That’s because the heart of the Church is in the home, where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. Home is a holy place where families pray together, love and forgive one another, serve each other and affirm and celebrate life. Most importantly, God is there, too.
Love: A GIFT OF FAMILY
Everyone in the family has a part to play – parents, children, and brothers and sisters.
As catechetical corollaries to the fourth and fifth commandments, respectively, Strengthen Your Family (Honor Your Father and Your Mother) and Promote the Culture of Life (Thou Shall Not Kill) outline our responsibilities as Catholics who embrace Christ’s teachings.
“Parents need to be involved in educating their children,” said Judith Leonard, director of the Office of Family Life and Natural Family Planning. “A husband and wife working together to raise their family together is essential. They need to pray together as a family and eat meals together as a family.
Raising children in the faith is best done by example, Christine Helton said. “The example is there from the parents,” she said. “You can’t teach a child without showing them.” As volunteer softball coaches, Christine and husband Chris teach their children that everyone has a role to play in parish life. (with photo)
“Each member of the family contributes in some way, whether it’s doing chores, working or going to school. In the family they learn about forgiveness, how to say ‘I’m sorry,’ and ‘I love you.’”
By emphasizing the fundamental elements of faith – fostering a relationship with Christ and devotion to Mary, as well as love and concern for others – parents set the example of living faith for their children.
Caring and loving for children is not only a universal occurrence, but a transgenerational one as well. Parents’ outpouring of love for their children is one of the few things that remain constant from one generation, or age, to another.
A child is a gift from the Lord,” Leonard said. “When a child is created through the love of the parents it takes God to make that new life come into being – when the soul enters the body.”
Bringing new life into the world can be one of the most fulfilling occasions in a married couple’s life. By embracing new life, each husband and wife honors a basic premise of the covenant they made with each other and with God on their wedding day. That is, to accept children lovingly from God.
As Mother Teresa said, love begins at home, and the child is God’s gift to the family. Mother Teresa’s observation is consistent with our catechism, which states that the supreme gift of marriage is a human person, who, from the moment of conception, has the right to be respected as a person. Pope John Paul II also saw children as a gift, not only for parents, but for brothers and sisters, too.
Jim and Shyrelle Weber’s marriage goes by the book – Theology of the Body, by Pope John Paul II. The writing weds the physical and theological aspects of marriage and serves as the basis for God’s Plan for a JoyFilled Marriage, “God’s Plan for a JoyFilled Marriage teaches you what the sacraments mean, what your vows stand for – to enter into marriage freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully,” Shyrelle explained. The Webers have three children: Daniel, 7; Christopher, 5; and Arianna, 17 months. (with photo)
“Everybody needs a brother or sister,” Leonard said. “What would we be without all our brothers and sisters?”
As the “little church” home is where people learn to build relationships with members of their own family, and encourage and nurture relationships with other members of the Church. The Church challenges husbands and wives to adopt the notion of marital stewardship, serving each other and building new lives together, to parish life as well.
While the home is often considered the “little church,” attending Mass as a family, or as a body, is a vital part of our faith formation that encourages and nurtures relationships with other members of the Church. (with photo)
“There are many opportunities to do things as a family, no matter how young the families are,” Leonard said. “Going to Mass together, participating in parish activities … children learn by their parents’ example.”
There are many resources available for building a culture of life and love.