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Serving the family is one of Church’s essential duties

By Sarah Mac Donald - 29 December, 2014

archbishop-Michael+NearyThe Feast of the Holy Family, which was celebrated on Sunday, reminds us of the sacredness of the family itself, Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam has said.

In his homily at Mass in St Mary’s Church in Westport on Sunday, the Archbishop said that Christmas is recognised as a family feast, where members of the family gather together perhaps from across the world, or endeavouring to link up by visits, phone, Skype and other means.

The senior churchman said that for the flourishing of human society the family is central as well as for the good of persons.

“Much of the dysfunction that occurs in society has its roots in the dysfunctions found in the breakup of the family today,” he stated.

Speaking about the importance of the family-founded on the marriage of a man and woman, Dr Neary said it is “the place where children can best encounter and know God: it is a school of faith and values: is where the mutual self-giving and faithfulness of husband and wife provide a secure and protected place where young life can flourish, where children can develop, mature and grow to adulthood assuming their own responsibilities as members of society”.

He said that for the Church, serving the family is one of its essential duties as well as promoting the dignity of marriage and the family.

“This becomes all the more necessary in those places where the family is suffering from internal crises or is exposed to adverse cultural, social and economic pressures which threaten its inner unity and even stand in the way of its formation,” he stated.

“While certainly conscious of and sensitive to the many complex crisis situations in which families are involved, as well as the moral frailty of every human being, the Church is convinced that she must remain absolutely faithful to the truth about human love, otherwise the Church would betray both its founder Jesus Christ and the true dignity of the human person.”

“An awareness of the beauty of marital love must be constantly renewed and safe-guarded in the face of the serious opposition which the Church meets on the part of those who advocate a false civilisation of progress.”

Assessing the give and take of marriage, he said marriage demands a depth of commitment and fidelity otherwise relationships run the risk of succumbing to the superficiality of the consumer culture as something to be kept going as long as one is getting satisfaction from it.

“When pledging ourselves to someone in marriage we leave ourselves vulnerable to misunderstanding, to hurt and the possibility of rejection. When we are most generous, we are also most vulnerable.”

The Archbishop said that married couples will testify to the fact that to live faithfully in marriage requires humility, trust, compromise, communication and a sense of humour. It is a give and take experience involving hurt and forgiveness, failure and sacrifice.

But he warned that our competitive culture tends to promote aggressiveness and struggles for power. Though these are a common part of life, especially in the work place, it is all too easy for couples to bring an unhealthy competitive spirit to their marriage.

“The incredible ‘busyness’ of family life can take its toll on marriage. Daily, families are overwhelmed by the demands of work, business travel, getting to and from schools, keeping appointments, fulfilling civic responsibilities.”

“Balancing home and work responsibilities is a shared obligation for spouses. This is a critical issue facing families today. We need to examine the priorities we have for our family and compare them with how we actually spend our time.”

He said “We all make mistakes, sometimes deliberately out of anger or spite, most of the time out of ignorance or impetuosity. What we are asked is to give others a second chance. In practicing the ordinary family virtues of patience and forgiveness we are doing much more than overlooking the faults of others and giving them a second chance.”

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