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STRENGTHENING FAMILY LIFE 1 Introduction

Part of our mission in life is to help our family and others to progressively get nearer to God in Jesus Christ. An important aspect of this mission is the strength and stability of our own family lives. We need to persevere in trying to ensure that our own family is stable, reliable and can reach out to other families as a means of supporting each other in our struggle to know and love the life of Jesus. 2 The Family is the Basic Unit of Society.

Families are an important aspect determining the sort of society we live in. Many of us are witnessing that today's society is moving away from God not nearer. Why is this? It is because God is absent from the lives of most families. When this happens, it is man made values that govern the conduct and attitude of society. Our mission should be to strengthen our ties with Jesus and place Him at the centre of society where he belongs. The main mission in our lives must be centred on leading our spouse and our children to Jesus Christ. If we fail in this, how can we help others? Father Bede Jarrett in writing about the duties of parents says I must impress my mind with the seriousness of my position and the extreme responsibilities that these duties of parenthood impose on me. Besides, in my failure or neglect, not only is my own soul at stake and brought to ruin, but precisely because of my parenthood I may drag others with me in my fall. He also makes an interesting observation concerning the duties of children The very purpose for which I was created was to serve God with all the individual faculties, such as they are, with which He endowed me. Now if I allow myself to be overridden by any other, motive I may do more work in the world, but not such as I alone can contribute. My personality has been lost, and the account I render is not for my talent, but for another's. 3 Ways of Strengthening Family Life Understanding better the meaning of our commitment to our spouse. Marriage is a relationship of commitment and service in all the circumstances of life. It is not a relationship based solely emotion, feeling and physical attraction. It is based on is a selfless state not a selfish state. love. It

St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians defines the word LOVE as I may speak in tongues of men or of angels, but if I have no love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 I may have the gift of prophecy and the knowledge of every hidden truth; I may have faith enough to move mountains; but if I have no love, I am nothing 3 I may give all I possess to the needy, I may give my body to be burnt, but if I have no love, I gain nothing by it. 4 Love is patient and kind. Love envies no one, is never boastful, never conceited 5 never rude; love is never selfish, never quick to take offence. Love keeps no score of wrongs 6 takes no pleasure in the sins of others, but delights in the truth. 7 There is nothing love cannot face; there is no

limit to its faith, its hope, its endurance. 8 Love will never come to an end. Prophecies will cease; tongues of ecstasy will fall silent; knowledge will vanish. 9 For our knowledge and our prophecy alike are partial, 10 and the partial vanishes when wholeness comes". St. Paul also defines the relationship of marriage as a commitment to serve in his letter to the Philippians " 3 Leave no room for selfish ambition and vanity, but humbly reckon others better than yourselves. 4 Look to each other's interests and not merely to your own. 5 Take to heart among yourselves what you find in Christ Jesus: 6 'He was in the form of God; yet he laid no claim to equality with God, 7 but made himself nothing, assuming the form of a slave. Bearing the human likeness, 8 sharing the human lot, he humbled himself, and was obedient, even to the point of death, death on a cross ". In order to better understand this commitment we need recognise that our marriage is God's plan for us. It is our vocation in life. We need to be very aware of God at the centre of our lives and to turn to Him in all the difficulties of life. St. Matthew in his Gospel records Jesus as saying " Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light". Live more fully the principles of Christian personal relationships. At the heart of our married state is our brother and sister relationship. This relationship should manifest itself in our daily living. We should act reasonably towards each other, we should set time aside for each other on a regular basis and we should have the desire to serve each other as Christ is the serves His church. Here we have to know the life of Christ and try to imitate it between each other and towards our children. Our commitment to each other is once and for all. We prove ourselves in God's eyes by our unconditional love and service for each other. Make the home the centre of family life. The relationship between parents and children is sometimes much weaker than it should be. This happens because we ignore one of the greatest aspects of our married vocation, in that we do not help form a lasting relationship between God and our children. If we ignore the spiritual life of our children we it will be difficult to be able to face our lord at the end of our lives. We should ensure that they know and love God at the earliest opportunity and that responsibility lies with us. We should not pass on this responsibility to others. We have to make time for our children and treat our family as our priority in life. We have to pass on our values to our children. Another reason why our children might not relate in the best of ways to their parents is that the home

is no longer the centre of learning and lacks activities that both children and parents can share in. Families need to make time for each other. It is very important in family life that routines are established such as regular meal times when the whole family come together. We should also plan our church activities, going to the same church at the same time every week. We also need to plan our leisure time so that we have an activity that the whole family can share in every weekend. It is very important to plan these things and not to let them happen by chance. All of these things help to bring certainty and security into the family. Above all we should be able to share our experiences with Jesus in the home. Interact with Christian families. Parent child interaction has reduced and so has interaction between generations outside the home reduced. Christian families should find ways to share their lives with one another. This should not be difficult but it does require a certain amount of effort. Join other families on Sunday school Outings. Be prepared to organise them. Get involved in church activities. Join the Sunday School, be a teacher or give other service. Involve the children. Hold prayer meetings in the home where all are invited to join in. Make the prayer meetings a fun thing for the children. Allow them space and time to play as well as pray. Let the elder children take care of the smaller children. This should provide many opportunities to share our family lives together. In this way we serve God and neighbour. Exercise greater control over the family use of media. Intrusion of the media in the home. Get rid of the television as soon as you can. This one step provides sufficient time for prayer, reading, learning and more positive recreational activities. If this is not possible and many of us know how difficult this can be then at least reduce the amount of time for watching television. Monitor and control what comes into the home. All parents must exercise judgement on the sort of comics, books, music, radio and television within the home. Making quality time for each other. Reduce the amount of time spent on the internet. Share meal times together. This is a good opportunity for all to talk about their day, the good and the not so good.

Develop Christian peer environment for young people. Encourage our children to mix with other Christian children, in say, serving the community. Serving each other, sharing the love of Christ together. Learning the life of Christ together. Christian children need other like minded children to develop fully as committed Christians. Become pastors of our children. Children copy their parents example and so form their character whether that be a good character or bad. Children are the mirror of their parents. Therefore we have to set a good example. We should teach our children to relate properly to others. The goal as mentioned earlier is to bring our children to God. Everything else we do for our children is secondary to this aim. God has entrusted this mission to parents and we cannot allow ourselves to fail by ignorance, comfort seeking, lukewarmness which is an ally of the enemy and other barriers the devil puts in our way. St. Matthew in his gospel records Jesus as saying " And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea". Prayer is essential. A family who pray together stay together. When you are invited by say the Legion of Mary to share in reciting the rosary, accept the invitation and take the children along maybe invite the legionnaires into your home. In the end, God will ask each of us if we have made it easier or harder for our spouse to get to Heaven? Have we been a blessing or burden in our family life and relations with others? Hopefully we can answer this question positively and constructively. 4 Nature and Characteristics of Family

St. Josemaria writes the following in the Forge concerning the nature and characteristics of family: 689. You should be full of wonder at the goodness of Father God. Are you not filled with joy to know that your home, your family, your country, which you love, so much are the raw material which you must sanctify? 690. My daughter you have set up a home. I like to remind you that you women-as you well knowto have a great strength which you know how to enfold within-a special gentleness so that it is not noticed. With that strength you can make your husband and children instruments of God, or demons. You will make them instruments of God he counting on your help. 691. I am moved that the Apostle should call Christian marriage sacramentum magnum a great sacrament. From this too, I deduce the enormous importance of the task of parents. You share in the creative power of God: that is why human love is holy, good and noble. It is a gladness of heart which God-in his loving providence-wants others to freely give up.

Each child that God grants you is a wonderful blessing from Him: Dont be afraid of more children. 692. In conversations I have had with so many married couples, I tell them often that while both they and their children are alive, they should help them to be saints while being well aware that one of us will be a saint on earth. All we will do is struggle, struggle, struggle. And I also tell them: you Christian mothers and fathers are a great spiritual motors sending the strength of God to your own ones, strength for that struggle, strength to win, strength to be saints. 'Dont let them down.! 693. Don't be afraid of loving others, for His sake: and dont worry about loving your own people even more, provided that no matter how much you love them, you love Him a million more time.