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The family: An oasis of love in troubled times

In prosperous times, our days are filled with an unquenchable zeal for gaining more success, earning more money, striving for better knowledge and seeking to gain more friends. In prosperous times, it was about “me” — and only “me” — my goals, my purpose, my ambitions.

As a result, we have become a strange world of “me” individuals, self-contained within the bubbles of our creation. Our daily drudgery is focused primarily on perfecting the images we have made for our own selves, drawing the energy of our strivings from the mirage of “togetherness” around us. In an unrelenting pursuit of our personal gain, we thanklessly depend on the labors and efforts from the other people we live with.

The family is becoming a fading reality, perhaps now only an illusion. We may be living together, but we are not really together.

Sapient beings though we are, we may have in our civilizing stupidity utterly violated a basic rule of human existence — the person is and has always been meant to live in a deep and transcendent connection with God, with the environment, and with others.

We must properly appreciate our real place in the divine scheme of things. A person’s “individual-ness” is indeed fundamental for its intrinsic respectability, but the primacy it holds dear for its self-fulfillment must not extend beyond the spirit of togetherness. The family should support individual freedoms, but it is not in subservient service to it.

We should ever be mindful of the much greater reality that surrounds us — the Spirit; the family and society; nature and the cosmos. We must be humbled in awe of these presences who care that each of us become the best possible “me”; and it is only just that we give back to them the nurturing we never deserved — through acts of empathy, compassion and solidarity.

Now, the pandemic has disrupted much of our present agendas, evoking disturbing questions on the real merits of relentless individualistic pursuits. Indeed, we may have to ask ourselves if we should continue thriving in a global economy that compels the average person to actually spend only less than ten percent of his breathing existence with his family, while spending more than six times of that “family time”, ironically away from it in order to work.

How much more painful is it for those who have to venture to distant lands to earn bigger incomes, rendering “family touch” as practically nil. The social distancing we created between us and our families, seems to have progressed beyond reversibility, until the plague came along.

Though the current health crisis is a grim reminder of the fragility of the regime of homo sapiens, it also brought with it a different paradigm of work, forging for us new possibilities. It gave all of us a very vital and monumental respite — the chance to be with our families again.

A family joins the online Mass celebrated by Bishop Crispin Varquez of the Diocese fo Borongan in the central Philippines on Sunday, March 22. (Photo by Alren Beronio)

The pestilence made us think how important families really are to our state of emotional health. The quarantines gave us the invaluable opportunity to leave our opaque bubbles of individualism, and to be immersed in the family dynamics that has never failed to teach us not to think too highly of ourselves, to step down from our imaginary pedestals, to mingle and to respect, and to finally serve and love.

The family is the school of love. We know future generations are developed within the social setting of a family, and it is in this nurturing where love is first felt, where it is first experienced and understood. It is the undying love of a child’s parents or its caregivers that becomes the model of the love that it brings into maturity.

It is in this same setting that we may have to relearn how to profess and proffer it.

It is an abomination therefore to think of redefining what families should be — we should be cautious into believing that a family is a place where to nurture personal ambitions. A drive to create our own personal empires, and build our own castles from our families, as if they were our own personal fiefdoms, will stifle and extinguish the beautiful innocence of its union. Perhaps our overpowering drive to achieve success at the expense of love may even be the root of all social evil.

The Gospels have always been testaments to love, the witness that God himself lived among us to express that love; the family will always be an institution that seeks to do its best to do the same. But the inner struggle between divine selfless love and human self-love is at the heart of all the problems we encounter in raising and growing a family. That is why it is important that families must always have recourse to the Spirit that animated it.

We cannot be far moved and independent from the Spirit, because human as we are, we may err in the way we love. We may confuse the love that shone brilliantly from the cross with self-love. It is therefore crucial for our families to pray ceaselessly, because it is in the discipline of prayer that we realize that God is not merely an idea we have chosen to believe to exist, but a living force who can love and can be loved.

A true Christian family, trying its best to spread love, will always find its way back to the Gospel. It must constantly recollect itself in prayer, and commune with the Spirit that holds it together. A family gains strength from the source of its special bonds, enabling it to endure the darkness of earthly life. It must continue to give itself light, so that like the Christ, it offers and becomes an oasis of love in the barren desert of these troubled times.

It is perhaps the only way we are assured of a post-pandemic generation of humanity that knows how to give and receive selflessly, thus preserving the peace for the ages.

Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of

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