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Families are schools of charity. Many classical spiritual writers used to espouse this. What does it mean?
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"God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God and God abides in him or her."
If that is true, and it is, then we can say the same thing about family: "God is family and whoever abides in family abides in God and God abides in that person." The theology of family roots itself here. Among other things, this means that a family is really a religious community, a church, the place where we participate in God's own life.
The family today is a kingdom under siege. It is nearly impossible to exaggerate the importance of this fact. Many forces within our culture are conspiring against the family. What is happening? Simply put, at virtually every level, community is breaking down: Marriages are breaking up at unprecedented rates, families are moving apart as never before, neighbourhoods in essence no longer exist, civic life is fragmenting to the point where politics no longer work, and whole countries are breaking up. Clearly there is a certain cancer in the human community.
In her recent novel, The Underpainter, Jane Urquhard offers some thoughts on waiting. Her main character, a brilliant artist whose capacity to live and relate healthily does not parallel his aesthetic talents, tells of a conversation he has had with Sara, his woman-friend of 16 years:
A couple of years ago, out of a job and looking for work, one of my nephews was bouncing from one family member to the next, accepting whatever free room and meals might be given to him. He was young, travelling light, resilient, with a good attitude, and content enough to sleep on sofas and eat whatever anyone gave him. He wasn't one to panic quickly.