Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 23, 2002
Invest in society - have a family
In his 1981 letter Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul wrote, "The future of humanity passes by way of the family." The pope also noted that our era needs to embrace an awareness of fundamental values and the ultimate meaning of life more than other generations because technological progress has made the stakes of knowing or not knowing those values so much higher.
Reflection on these truths can be a sobering experience. While there is much that is good about society, including less tolerance of child and spousal abuse, there are also many disturbing trends that do not augur well for the future of the family.
One of the most noted is the high incidence of family breakdown. Some used to maintain that one type of family is as good as another and that children can, for example, be raised as well in single-parent homes as in families with both a mother and a father. No doubt, many children raised in single-parent families do just fine.
But in general, children from single-parent homes are at far greater risk of many maladies. A torrent of studies over the last 10 years has shown children raised in single-parent families are much more likely to become involved with drugs, go to jail, suffer physical or mental illness, be abused, perform poorly in school, have premarital sex, be unemployed as adults and end up divorced themselves. In short, the supposedly private choice of parents to divorce will have negative repercussions for society, likely for generations.
Marriage can be difficult. But couples have a responsibility in most situations to stay together and society has a self-interest in helping them do so.
Unfortunately, our problems in child-rearing do not end with family breakdown. Even in families where parents continue to live together, there are problems brought on by the manifold pressures of contemporary society.
Situations where most parents must work outside the home and a false ideology of permissiveness can lead to neglect.
Neglect can mean a failure to spend time with one's children filled with fun and activities, or it can mean a failure to set and enforce behavioural limits. Both approaches cheat children of happiness and the opportunity to live in solidarity with others.
They also cheat society of future adults who make the best use of their talents and who show respect for others.
One of the bright spots locally for families is the Catholic Family Life Conference held every August at Lac Ste. Anne.
This year's keynote speaker Patrick Madrid, in one of his talks, reminded parents their main goal is not to get their children into the finest schools and into the best careers as adults. Their main goal is to help their children become saints who spend eternity with God.
This is certainly the zenith of parenting, an accomplishment that requires an abundance of self-giving love. Such love is beyond human abilities: We all fall well short. But with God's help, anything is possible, even in the raising of children.
In our society, new human life is often seen not so much as a blessing, but as something unwanted, something that will prevent me from realizing my desires. The extent to which we feel that way is the extent to which we will fall short as parents.
So while Western society often seems intent on ridding itself of any dependence on God and his Church, it is just that "dependence" which society needs for the proper human development of its young.
A society that places God first will also show greater love for children.
Today, the faithful are part of a valiant counterculture in a secular society. But, ironically, it is that choice for faith made by millions of people that holds out the greatest hope for the future health of society.
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