Every Family Matters!
It’s quite a number of years now that I have been submitting this column under the heading “Family Friendly”. Apart from the feedback I get from time to time, I do sometimes wonder whether the local Church is any more family-friendly as a result of these contributions.
Most of my work for families is done under the Marfam banner, so to speak, and the Marfam theme for 2019 is “Every Family Matters”.
That’s not quite the same as being family-friendly. I am quite aware that a theme which says that every family matters could result in some raised eyebrows in Catholic circles where maybe only certain family-types or situations are “approved”.
The 2019 programme consists of a Family Year Planner with monthly themes focusing on different areas of family life.
The explanatory overview of the year planner notes that “marriage is still widely accepted as the ideal basis for family life, a relationship of intimacy and commitment contributing to personal growth and fulfilment”, but it also observes: “The reality is that not all families in our day are built on marriage.”
In fact the White Paper on Families, developed by the Department of Social Development—and to which I contributed some of my time and input—recognises about 14 different family forms, such as single parent with children, cohabiting or childless couples, same-sex unions, and so on.
The US Catholic bishops’ manual “A Family Perspective in Church and Society” also notes the diversity of families and the fact that a family is a changing and developing system.
Changes happen constantly. Some are progressive phases of growth in a couple or parent-child relationship, but many changes too are sudden and unexpected, caused by things such as illness, accident, death, marriage break-down.
Parenting – Whoever Takes that Role
The programmes and resources I have developed over the years take many of these eventualities into consideration. If the theme for the month is “Parenting”, then whoever plays that role—mom, dad, grandparent, sibling, carer, step-parent—needs to be supported in doing the best for the child or children involved. That is what the year’s theme “Every Family Matters” is all about, challenging as it could be.
January’s theme has been “Good Beginnings Matter”, February’s theme is “Loving Families Matter”, and March picks up the national theme of human rights but applies it as “Family Rights Matter”.
But the programme is not just about themes. The main resources in support of the themes in 2019 will be magazines, articles, newsletters and “Family Thoughts For The Day” built around a Scripture passage of the day with a life situation and a quotation, mainly from Pope Francis.
These can be used by any family person, but I wonder whether these couldn’t also be seen as a form of family catechesis? Evangelisation or family faith-sharing and building up a spirituality of family life is being family-friendly, within the family as God and the Church are incorporated into family life.
Society and the Church are called to adopt the attitude of being family-friendly, too, rather than promoting elements in isolation, such as children or women or abuse or fathers. Work, education, sport, art, politics and so on are all areas that can be more family-friendly as that is where life begins and ends, and life lessons and skills are taught or caught.
Even those living alone or apart remain connected to a family in good times and in bad—hopefully mostly good—if and when we pray for and support the ideal that “Every Family Matters”!