A First Saturday Catechesis of His Eminence Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales, Archbishop of Manila for the Manila Archdiocesan General Pastoral Assembly, MAGPAS, on March 5, 2011, Paco Catholic School. (CBCP Monitor, Vol. 15 No. 6, March 14-27, 2011)
The late Winston Churchill once said that “there is no doubt that it is around the family and home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society are created, strengthened, and maintained.” People who succeeded in their profession, business or any undertaking can always look back at the way they had been reared, encouraged and accompanied by their parents. Parents may not be rich; they may not be highly educated, but a good mother, in her simple ways, and a responsible father can shape the life and character of a son or daughter in such ways that later in life they become endearing examples to others and are able to guide and motivate many young people as well. …
Parents Influence Their Children
Many times the fidelity and refinement of man or woman would be traced to the mother, while the courage and industry are linked to the father. Without doubt the fused devotion and faith of Papa and Mama will one day determine the children’s fear and love of God and marked compassion for the poor and the weak. The early influence of parents on their children will tell on the future of their matured life, even and especially when, the daughter or the son becomes a parent himself/herself.
This is how important the role of man and woman, as husband and wife, has become in the gift of the procreation of life, that the covenant they enter into requires that they mutually offer to each other an “intimate communion of life and love,” and this covenant has been endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. ”By its very nature, marriage is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of the children.” (CCC 1660)
Unity, indissolubility and openness to life are essential elements of every Christian marriage. Such was the mind of the Creator that He made humans, male and female. Then the Lord Jesus said, “Have you not read that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said, “this is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and the two become one flesh. They are no longer two, there, but one flesh. So then what God has united, human beings must not divide.” (Mt 19:4-5) They are united as one, because fidelity is one of the binding qualities of Christian marriage, with one person faithful to a partner, man faithful to his woman as wife, and wife faithful to her man as husband. The question of fidelity will always find its roots in unity. In a unified and faithful union of man and woman, it is a must to consider their union as the natural nest (or early home) of life.
Everything in Life Is Sacred
Every life is sacred and its early receptacle or cradle needs to be considered sacred, just like the Sacred Consecrated Host, the Body of Jesus Christ is kept in a clean and consecrated ciborium. The first task towards life, when one is alerted to its presence, is to protect, preserve, nourish and defend it. And the first place where to do these is in the family and the home.
It is not right to consider the woman as the only one tasked by the Creator to care for the life of the yet unborn, simply because it is in her womb that the feeble life seeks its sanctuary. The woman welcomes this little life in her womb that within the next nine months she can call her own – son or daughter. All-embracing motherhood is the great privilege that can belong only to a woman. It is a great gift from God that a woman will especially partner with God (with the help of her husband) to share life with a divinely chosen person who one day will show great wonders, possibilities of hope, grace, and the ever-astonishing mystery of love. Without the loving care of parents, the tragic opposite can happen.
The Gift of Motherhood is Only for Woman
Woman, because she has partnered with man in a most intimate and selfless trust and love, earns, above all, the confidence, not only of her husband, but especially the loving trust of and partnership with God, because she has lovingly consented to be a mother. This gift of motherhood as given to woman was beautifully described by and author. “It is in fully being a wife that a woman fully becomes a mother.” There is no motherhood without marriage, without the gift of self and the reception of the other. … It is a wonderful blessing that is bestowed upon the woman to carry a child in her womb, to participate so intimately in Creation by giving her own flesh and blood. Her entire being is designed according to her vocation of motherhood.
To deny it by attacking her biological rhythm, by wanting to do away with anything that would be a handicap to the female condition, so that she might be equal to man seriously harms the woman as deeply as her most subconscious part. It renders her sterile. But the woman was made to be a mother, in her body and in her soul. She can only attain fulfilment if she is faithful to her vocation. If she is not granted the happiness of finding a husband, she can receive even greater happiness through meeting the Lord and becoming the spouse of God. Thus she will not give birth physically but spiritually. It is awful to remain single all of one’s life, to become an “old maid.”
“Every woman is called to be a daughter, a wife and a mother: daughter of God, bride of Christ, mother of mankind, mother of humanity, through a motherhood that goes beyond that of the flesh and constitutes depth of her being.” (Jo Croissant, Woman’s Unique Vocation, The Priesthood of the Heart, pp. 91-92). This is the reason why a woman lives a more sublime calling than man. Like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in her motherhood, a mother shapes the future of the earth by ensuring the character of the person she receives as her child.
Man is Co-responsible for Life
Both woman and man, wife and husband, are co-responsible for the life that they have both brought to birth. It is true as we have seen, that the mother is closest to the child, after having carried that “little life within her” for nine months, nevertheless, the husband, the Papa, shares the responsibility to care for and sustain that life and relate with their child, not just as in a state of co-ownership, but the father enters a relationship with, as a child (son or daughter) to its father, or as beloved to its lover.
The Papa cannot only be a simple provider. The feeding task can be provided by an institution or a machine. He cannot just be a defender-protector of his family and children; an agency can very well function as its security. But the father of a family, husband to his woman (wife), father to his children is the head of the family. He wields the authority in the family. He makes definite and concrete corrections on every occasion that the young needs to be reminded about.
These are perhaps the reasons why so many of the young people today behave as if there is no direction at all in life, act as if there is no authority at all, and live as if there is no tomorrow that will judge every act and conduct. The papa is the person who can usher, with knowledge, experience and prudence, both son and daughter into the cruel and deceiving ways of today’s world. He can very well introduce the child into the struggles of adult life (Enchiridion on the Family, No. 3284). This is another responsible task of the father.
As a consequence of this perspective on the family, it is within the responsibility and influence of Papa and Mama that the children first get their first lessons not only on truths but also on values. The “rub on” effect of formation and instruction is picked up by the child from his parents at home. If this interaction between the elders and the youth does not take place now or has been abandoned because of too much exposure to the video and computers, then it will be sad to admit that mama and papa have failed or the worldly influences have badly corroded them.
Care for Life Starts at Home
The first care for life begins at home. It shows not only in the way the conversation goes among the members of the family. It is proven by the respect and the reverence given to life and the dignity that goes with that life. The elders and those with authority not only enjoy the respect of the youth, they equally respond by carrying mutual deferential response to any one who gives them that care. It is in the family that life at its feeblest moments gets the attention and the extremely sensitive care appropriate to the weakest.
Fittingly, the first defense of life must be in the family, especially when all kinds of threats are thrown against a newly formed life in the womb or about to be formed in the womb of the mother. And it must not only be the woman who cares, it must also concern the man who shares in the responsibility, because mutual openness to love and absolute surrender to the possibility of life (as the greatest gift) is always carried by the spouses.
The second care that is learned at home is in the use of food. The respect for food nearly always becomes “reverence” simply because food is linked to life in order to support it. Some of the gravest mistakes children are confronted with at home, and sometimes with special “little punishing teachings” is the irreverence given to food. “Natatapon … o kaya ay nasasayang” … “Sobra ang takaw ng mata” … when the children cannot consume the food they put on their plates. Again and again, parents lecture this to the children.
Anything that can be linked to life as support or as protection will be treated with reverence. The “heart of the Catechesis” on the Theology of the Crumbs in Pondo ng Pinoy is precisely the truth that nothing that supports or can support life should be thrown to waste. In the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 16:19-31) the life sustaining capacity of even a tiny bit of crumb was underlined by the Lord Jesus by allowing the beggar Lazarus to desire even the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. For us the lesson is clear on the values of this enriching catechesis on the resources that pass through our home, our dining table, our school bag, our purse, and our littlest “barya” – and the teaching begins in the family.
The third care for giving the young the power to be responsible in their life of respect, concern and love begins also in the family. In a family where no teaching is given by the parents, nothing will be learned at home. Alas, the wrong learning can be learned outside the home, from friends, and sometimes doubtful acquaintances. Where no initiative for good works and friendliness to others outside the clans is taken, sociability will only be among a few select groups. Existence even within a village or neighbourhood can be ghetto-ish. Let papa and mama not give influencing good examples (loud or whispered) and the values of the family’s young will come from others.
To ensure the stability of the young adult and to help ensure the soundness of Christian civil life in tomorrow’s society, marriage as the bedrock of the family must be supported and strengthened. This must be our commitment.
+Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales
Archbishop of Manila
MAGPAS Monthly Catechesis
05 March 2011