“I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). In order to live our life well we do require strength that is physical, moral and spiritual. God offers us the strength required to live a meaningful life. This strength is rooted in the gift of faith given to us at the time of our Baptism. This faith is also our light, as Jesus says. “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness (Jn 12:46). St. Paul says, “God who said “Let light shine out of darkness,’ has made his light shine in our hearts” (2 Cor 4:6). Our spiritual life is both rooted in and strengthened by faith. We were baptized in the faith of our parents and of the Christian Community. Our parents and god parents undertook the responsibility to nourish our faith when the minister of baptism handed over to them the lighted candle addressing them, ‘This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. She/he is to walk always as a child of the light. May She/he keep the flame of faith alive in his/her heart’.
From this moment on, the family became the primary place where the child is to be nurtured in faith. Each family is meant to be a domestic faith-filled Church. It is also a small sanctuary where faith is lived, nourished and expressed in love, trust, and dependence on God. The Encyclical of Pope Francis ‘The Light of Faith’ says, “In the family, faith accompanies every stage of life, beginning with childhood: children learn to trust in the love of their parents. This is why it is so important that within their families parents encourage shared expressions of faith which can help children gradually to mature in their own faith. Young people in particular, who are going through a period in their lives which is so complex, rich and important for their faith, ought to feel the constant closeness and support of their families and the Church in their journey of faith” (LF 53).
Parents, therefore, have a unique and God – given responsibility to nourish the gift of faith given to their children to enable their growth towards Christian maturity. “Parents are called St. Augustine once said, not only to bring children into the world but also to bring them God, so that through baptism they can be re-born as children of God and receive the gift of faith. Thus along with life, children are given a fundamental orientation and assured of a good future; this orientation will be further strengthened in the sacrament of Confirmation with the seal of the Holy Spirit.” (LF43)
Parents ought to realize that a Christian family is a one of faith through which God strengthens the spiritual life and unity within the family. With the strength that comes from God all in the family are enabled to discharge their duties and responsibilities towards one another and God with peace and serenity.
1. “In family life faith is strengthened and enhanced by prayer. Family prayer has for its very own object family life itself, which in all its varying circumstances is seen as a call from God and lived as a filial response to His call. Joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, births and birthday celebrations, wedding anniversaries of the parents, departures, separations and homecomings, important and far reaching decisions the death of those who are dear, etc., all of these mark God’s loving intervention in the family’s history. They should be seen as suitable moments for thanksgiving, for petition, for trusting abandonment of the family into the hands of their common Father in heaven. The dignity and responsibility of the Christian family as the domestic, Church can be achieved only with God’s unceasing aid, which will surely be granted if it is humbly and trustingly petitioned in prayer.” (FC59).
Parents therefore ought to become educators in prayer. “The concrete example and living witness of parents is fundamental and irreplaceable in educating their children to pray. Only by praying together with their children can a father and mother exercising their royal priesthood penetrate the innermost depths of their children’s hearts and leave an impression that the future events in their lives will not be able to efface. Let us again listen to the appeal made by Pope Paul VI to parents: Mothers, do you teach your children the Christian prayers? Do you prepare them, in conjunction with the priests, for the sacraments that they receive when they are young: Confession, Communion and Confirmation? Do you encourage them when they are sick to think of Christ suffering to invoke the aid of the Blessed Virgin and the saints? Do you say the family rosary together? And you, fathers, do you pray with your children, with the whole domestic community, at least sometimes? Your example of honesty in thought and action, joined to some common prayer, is a lesson for life, an act of worship of singular value. In this way you bring peace to your homes: Pax huic domui. Remember, it is thus that you build up the Church.’ (FC60).
2. Another means to strengthen the faith life in a family is the Word of God. A Christian family ought to spend sometime every day in listening to and reflecting on the Word of God. Faith is strengthened by listening to God who constantly speaks to us in the Scriptures. God’s Word is a source of inspiration; it enlightens our minds brings and hearts; it gives us the direction to our life and therefore offers an orientation to our family life and therefore offers an orientation to our family life. Listening to the Word of God and living by it brings about our conversion to the Lord and it also prompts us to pray better besides generating interior peace. Every family, therefore ought to make the reading of the Scriptures together as a family part of their daily routine.
Let us recall words of St. Paul. “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” Prayer and Word of God strengthen us in times of trials and difficulties, in our search for right solutions to our problems. The Word of God enlightens us and prayer strengthens our union with God and one another. This is the strength we receive from God himself. With this strength we can surely do all things that Lord wants of us. We can conquer evil, free ourselves from all harm. Our strength comes from the Lord. Let us then become both praying and faith-filled families, praying and faith filled domestic churches.
“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” St. Pope John Paul II May God Bless all our families. Let us pray earnestly for all our families who are going through faith-crisis, pain, isolation, suffering, and loneliness.
Fr. Michael Dias