Is the so-called “nuclear family” now a thing of the past? Are our families, touted as society’s backbone and last frontier, coming apart at the seams?
According to the 2018 report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), more than half or 54.3% of babies in the country were born out of wedlock.
The same is true in the United States, with former US secretary of education, William Bennet, disclosing that more than half of all births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.
In the EU countries, according to the 2018 Eurostat data, France tops the list with 60.4% of babies being born out of wedlock.
Even also, to extend my paltry estimation, the omnipresent virtual or digital technology has, instead of connecting, invariably “disconnected” family interactions – with or without the current pandemic.
For one, it isn’t an unusual scene for some families to sit around their dining tables and instead of talking to each other, they are all busy fiddling with their cell phones and gadgets, totally oblivious or unmindful of each other’s presence.
Likely enough, the more we are connected online, the more we tend to be disconnected offline.
But let me go back to my first point about the basic foundation or backbone of society which is the family.
The family is the nucleus of civilization and, undeniably indeed, the basic social unit of society.
The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, wrote that the family is nature’s established association for the supply of mankind’s everyday needs.
Various researches have shown that the institution of the family is the first form of community and government.
In a sense, it can be said that the family is the first, best and original “Department of Education, of Social Welfare and Development, and of Health” rolled into one.
But, despite these unchanging truths about the family, not a few challenges and pressures have caused crushing effects on the foundation and unity of the family, accelerating broken homes and marriages to unimaginable proportions.
Admittedly, I too am a product of a broken family – ironically, despite of my having spent a considerable number of years in the seminary and have even reached my penultimate year of priestly formation prior to getting out and subsequently getting married.
I must confess that one reason, not of my getting out, but of my not going back to the seminary was because of my father who, even in his retirement years, had separated from my mom for another woman whom he sired a child.
But my deepest regret is that I was not able to reconcile with my father before he died – and knowing later only after his death that my father returned home to my mom, who welcomed him back and even took care of my already ailing and bedridden father until his death.
My greatest remorse was not being present during my father’s burial, and having arrived late, I just painstakingly settled with visiting his grave and belatedly pouring out tears.
From that crushing experience, I decidedly understood then the enormous exigency of forgiveness in the family.
Yes, when God created us, he did not ask us to choose the particular family we would be born to – resonant to what St. Augustine said, “God created you without you.”
Hence, no matter how imperfect our parents are or our family is, the fact remains that it’s the only one we’ve got.
It behooves then that, by virtue of God’s creation, love and forgiveness should spring forth primarily from this “only one” biological, marital or sacramental family we have.
Indubitably, the following message of Pope Francis on the family as a place of forgiveness is truly spot-on:
“There is no perfect family. We do not have perfect parents, we are not perfect, we do not marry a perfect person or have perfect children. We can be objects of complaints from each other. We disappoint each other. So there is no healthy marriage or healthy family without the exercise of forgiveness. Forgiveness is vital to our emotional health and spiritual survival. Without forgiveness, the family becomes an arena of conflict and a stronghold of hurt.
“Without forgiveness, the family becomes ill. Forgiveness is the asepsis of the soul, the cleansing of the mind and the liberation of the heart. Whoever does not forgive does not have peace in the soul nor communion with God. Hurt is poison that intoxicates and kills. Keeping a heartache in the heart is a self-destructive gesture. It’s autophagy. Those who do not forgive are physically, emotionally and spiritually ill.
“That is why the family must be a place of life, not of death; a territory of cure, not of illness; a stage of forgiveness, not guilt. Forgiveness brings joy where sorrow has produced sadness; healing where sorrow has caused diseases.”