It is the basic cell of society; it is the oldest and one of the most important institutions; it is the Domestic-Church; it is the society and community by which children enter the world, are formed and trained to be citizens of this world and the world to come—yes, this is the HUMAN-FAMILY!
The health, wholesomeness and duration of the society as a whole depends on the moral and spiritual state and quality of the family. Time in history have proven with catastrophic, disastrous and undeniable facts the following: when the family disintegrates and comes unraveled then the whole society crumbles and evaporates. The Greek civilization, the Roman civilization, as well as other great Empires that dominated the world declined, withered and died due to the decline of the moral quality of the family.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses with great clarity, transparency and depth the true nature the family must aspire to. It is an ideal that all families should strive to attain with strenuous effort, but especially by relying on the super-abundant grace of God. No doubt, God’s grace overflows in abundance, but it is incumbent upon us to open our hearts to receive this free gift. The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments on the indispensable and primary importance of the family for the child, his development, the formation of his character, as well as his insertion into the entire fabric of society.
“The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within the society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2207)
Now let us present the TEN M’S to aid and motivate us to strive to form noble and holy families in imitation of the best of all human families—Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph—the Holy Family of Nazareth.
THE TEN M’S TO BUILD NOBLE AND HOLY FAMILIES.
1. MORNING PRAYER. Every member of the human family has incalculable importance, dignity and destiny. So from the youngest to the oldest, the day should start by prayer. What prayer? Highly to be recommended would be the Morning Offering in which we start the day by giving all we do, all we are, all we have, and even all of our intentions to Jesus through Mary. Then end the prayer by kissing your Scapular—this is your eternal sign of consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a sign that you are in Mary’s family and you belong to her as her beloved son/daughter.
2. MEDITATION ON THE WORD OF GOD. Never allow a day to pass in which you have not spent some time immersing yourself in the infinite abyss of the treasures and riches of the Word of God. The Gospels presents the Virgin Mary as an example. Twice in the Gospel of Luke, Mary is portrayed as the model contemplative… Mary pondered the Word of God. If you like here is a short method for meditating on the Word of God: Eyes, mind, heart, and feet. In concrete: read carefully the Word of God; assimilate it in your mind and heart; then go from mind and heart to feet—like Mary, put it into practice. Allow the Word of God to transform your life and your family members!
3. MEAL-TIME: FAMILY TIME!!! Two of the most common stock-phrases or clichés are the following: “I do not have time” or “I am too busy!” Misnomers as these two short phrases are, unfortunately, they dominate far and wide the modern culture. Meal-time on a daily basis should be the high-point or apex of family time. Meals should begin with the prayer of blessing and then it is time to eat and time to share. Everybody at the meal-table has great importance. Every person should learn two key arts that come with practice: first, learn how to communicate clearly and humbly what is in your heart; then also, learn the art of listening to the others attentively and non-judgmentally. How many suicides or attempted suicides could have been and can still be avoided—especially among the teens—if they could open up their hearts and express themselves freely at the family table. Topics? Anything that is honest, pure, enlightening, edifying, spiritual, informative, religious, and never forget—humoristic! Everybody should have an arsenal of good, clean jokes! I invite all to listen to the Cats in the Cradle – Harry Chapin. Get your handkerchief ready because it is a true tear-jerker! However, it is a slice of reality of the American culture over the last fifty years. Fathers do not have time for their kids and this is perpetuated from one generation to the next. Homes are being transformed into mere hotels. Families live together today as if they were strangers; as the poet expresses it: like two ships passing each other in the quiet of the night.
4. MATRIMONY: MARRIED IN THE CHURCH. Due to a deluge of materialism, secularism and hedonism, the modern generation of young people have taken it upon themselves to set up living arrangements in which they live together, at least apparently as husband and wife, but having never been married sacramentally. The terminology is vast: cohabitation, free-union, trial-marriage, trying it out for compatibility and chemistry, etc. Call it whatever you like, but until the man and woman, husband and wife have been married in the Catholic Church through a sacramental marriage, they really are not married in the eyes of God. And despite their most noble intellectual qualities, sports prowess, exterior beauty, wit and charm, material prosperity, this union will eventually fall apart. Why? Due to the simple reason that this union is built on sand, not on the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Rock, the bastion, the fortress and defense of the Marital commitment. Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen penned a spiritual masterpiece in this regard for couples that marry, with the title: “Three To Get Married.” The “Three” are the husband, wife and the hidden but most important of the trio—Jesus Christ, who unites the couple in permanent, faithful and indissoluble love. Now more than ever Pastors, catechists, spiritual mentors, good Catholic writers should promote the primordial importance of receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony so as to establish a solid rock foundation on which to build holy and happy families!
5. MASS: GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD. The most noble gesture that a human person can carry out on this side of eternity is to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass fully, actively and consciously, and receive with faith, fervor and love the most Holy Eucharist—the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus the Lord. Related to the topic of the family, what an enormous deluge of graces would shower from heaven on the family if the family members went to Mass together, received Holy Communion together, and offered their Holy Communions for the purpose of augmenting love among their family members. After receiving Holy Communion, we have truly received a Spiritual Heart-transplant: the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus beats in our heart and overflows on our family members! Why not live out the Our Father with a sacramental interpretation: “Give us this day our daily bread… the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus!!!”
6. MERCY, MERCY, MERCY! Truly the family can be and should be a school of virtue. That is to say, the many domestic, social, theological and moral virtues can be practiced in the family and on a daily-basis. Among the most noble of all virtues is that of mercy. In the Diary of St. Faustina, Jesus emphasizes mercy as the greatest of all of the virtues in His Sacred Heart. What then is mercy? Quite simply: mercy is the love of God forgiving the sinner. However, in our human-divine relationship, for us to receive God’s mercy we also must practice mercy by giving it to others. No better place in the world to practice mercy, love and forgiveness then in the context of the family. On a daily basis family members hurt us and we hurt them. The key to the problem is this: once offended, forgive right away, and have the humility to ask for forgiveness. Remember the words of Jesus: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36) and “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” (Mt 6:12)
7. MIRTH: OVERFLOWING JOY IN THE FAMILY. According to the expert in the Art of Spiritual Discernment, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the state of desolation often is an open door to powerful and insistent temptations, capitulating us and then cascading us into sin. Of course one of the manifestations of desolation is a sad and depressed spirit. Rewind the film of your life and you will find that many times your sin was preceded by a general sadness of being. To recompense for that sadness, you had recourse to some sin—your kryptonite, your basic weakness. Afterwards your conscience reproached you until you returned to God through prayer, penance and Confession. On the other hand, joy, happiness, jubilation, a truly happy spirit is a strong bastion to ward off the devil of sadness and prevent slipping into the mire of sin. Moms and Dads should be happy. They should radiate their joy by a constant smile. They should learn the art of encouragement—words that edify, lift up, sustain and motivate. Children that experience an exuberant and overflowing joy from their parents will not desire to seek refuge in drink, porn, drugs, or gang activity—which are all cop-outs, lies and false-gods presented by the devil as a haven or refuge. Let us learn to live out these words in the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again: Rejoice in the Lord!” (Phil 4:4)
8. MORTIFICATION. If we run away from our cross, most likely, we will run into a cross that is heavier than the one God designed in His Divine Providence to send us. One of the conditions for following Jesus the Lord is the willingness to carry the cross that He has sent us. Resounding and powerful are the words of the Master: “Unless he denies himself, takes up his cross and follows me, he cannot be my disciple.” (Mt. 16:24) To fortify families, the cross must be present. +++ It can be a cross living with difficult people. But above and beyond these demanding and challenging social conditions, we should all make an effort to practice mortification, to practice self-denial, to learn to say NO to ourselves so that we can say YES to God. To be patient with the tardy, to hold back an unkind word when tempted to speak, to take the last seat and the smaller portion at meals, to smile when you are assaulted with a splitting migraine—all of these are concrete manifestations of practicing self-denial and mortification. In other words, mortification is the antithesis of egotism which corrodes family harmony!
9. MISSIONARY. The last words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew are nothing less than a missionary mandate, an imperious obligation for all Christians, all serious followers of Christ to share the Good News of salvation far and wide, in fact, to the four corners of the world! The words of the Savior are serious and as such we should take them to heart and live them out: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey all that I commanded you. And behold I am with you always even until the end of the world.” (Mt 28: 19-20). Families that have discovered the love of Christ should be overflowing with enthusiasm to share the love of Christ with other families where maybe the love of Christ has dried up, has been extinguished, or perhaps, where the love of Christ has never existed. Aquinas points out that when we share some material commodity we are poorer after giving it away. But not so in the spiritual realm! By sharing Christ with others, those who receive the Good News are enriched, but those who share the Good News are all the richer for having shared it! The first Encyclical of Pope Francis was precisely this message: The Joy of sharing Gospel!!! Why not on a monthly basis bring families together to pray the Rosary, share spiritual insights, and then share a happy meal together. This might be a tool that families can utilize to implement the missionary call of the family!
10. MARY: OUR LIFE, OUR SWEETNESS AND OUR HOPE. Our essay would be far from complete if we did not at least conclude encouraging all families to cultivate a tender, filial and loving devotion to Mary. As prayed in the Hail Holy Queen, Mary is “our life, our sweetness and our hope.” On their Wedding day, the couple lays their bouquet of roses at the feet of Mary, expressing by this gesture their consecration to her. Families should enthrone in their homes the images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Saint Pope John Paul II in his inspired and practical writing Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary, strongly exhorts the whole world but especially families to pray the Rosary for two intentions: for world peace and for the protection of the family. The Rosary priest, Father Patrick Peyton has coined these two immortal sayings related to the urgency in praying the Rosary: “The family that prays together stays together,” and “A world at prayer is a world at peace.” If this tender, filial and loving devotion to Mary is practiced in the family then positive fruits will eventually take root in the family: love, purity, respect for self and respect for others, peace, harmony, patience and joy! Moreover, Mary was the perfect wife and the perfect Mother. She can help married women to strive for ever greater perfection in their duties as both wives and mothers and do it with courage, joy and perseverance!