Family

Primacy of the person and family

As St. John Paul II affirmed, "the family is called to be the first place where each person is loved for himself, valued for what he is and not for what he has".

José Miguel Granados-October 5, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes
family

Photo credit: Sandy Millar / Unsplash

From the nimble pen of Charles Dickens - often turned into a swashbuckling battering ram - springs the comic caricature of such redoubtable hypocrites as Mr. Seth Pecksnif, in the novel Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzelwit. He is a deceitful trickster, gifted with a profuse and astonishing rhetoric of deception. He pretends to be a master of architecture. He masks with his fatuous theatrical loquacity of pompous gestures the most avid intentions. His daughters Charity and Mercy, subjected to such a pitiful "model", will reap the bitter fruits of their father's cynicism and greed.

The logic of the gift

Honesty and coherence in life and language are essential for deep and enriching interpersonal communication. This is required by the dignity of the human person-its highest value-which arises precisely from its condition as a subject personally loved by the Creator. The correlative vocation of every human being consists in giving oneself generously to others, seeking the true good of the other. 

Thus taught the Second Vatican Council: "Man, the only creature on earth whom God has loved for himself, cannot find his own fulfillment except in the sincere gift of himself to others...." (constitution Gaudium et spes, n. 24). The logic of the gift deciphers the mystery of the human being in the light of the divine manifestation and gift, which culminate in the outpouring of blessings with Christ, the incarnate Word (cf. Eph 1:3-14); Gaudium et spes, n. 22).

Therefore, any form of self-interested use of someone is a radical denial of his or her condition. It is immoral to demean or reduce a human being to an instrument. Even if rhetorical justifications are used to conceal indecent hedonistic, pragmatic, economic, eugenic, etc. motives. 

In this sense, John Paul II formulated with emphasis what he called the "personalist norm": "The person must never be considered a means to an end; never, above all, a means of "pleasure". The person is and must be only the end of every act. Only then does the action correspond to the true dignity of the person." (Letter to families, n. 12).

The family is called to be the first place where each person is loved for himself, valued for what he is and not for what he has (cf. John Paul II, Homily of the Mass for Families, 2-11-1982). It must be the first place where the human being is welcomed, where the perverse logic of excluding competitiveness that marginalizes the weak is overcome, and is replaced by the dynamics of unconditional acceptance, protection, adequate education and promotion towards the improvement and excellence of each member. Moreover, the blood family has the mission of transmitting to the whole society this familiar and delicate treatment towards each member of the human family.

Sincere dialogue

The project of married life and the coexistence of the family community require openness to an authentic and profound personal exchange. Any form of duplicity, of lack of rectitude in intention, of use of one's neighbor, impedes the building of a home. Good communication is indispensable in the task of seeking the best ways to grow together and thus develop to the maximum the capacities of each of the members of the community.

Francis affirms that "Dialogue is a privileged and indispensable way of living, expressing and maturing love in married and family life. But it requires a long and difficult apprenticeship. Men and women, adults and young people, have different ways of communicating, they use a different language, they move with other codes. The way of asking questions, the way of answering, the tone used, the moment and many other factors can condition communication. In addition, it is always necessary to develop some attitudes that are an expression of love and make authentic dialogue possible." (exhortation Amoris laeitita, n. 136).

Family prayer

Christian prayer, understood as the believer's dialogue with the Trinitarian God who is a communion of Love and communication in personal intimacy, fosters an understanding of human life in all its greatness, as an effort to share one's inner world with others, in the exchange of a relationship of self-giving. The trusting relationship with the good God the Father improves human attitudes and relationships. 

Moreover, in conjugal and family prayer the other is discovered in all his greatness as a person and as a timely help, as a gift to come out of sterile isolation and grow together: to accept and support God's plan, his love story with us. 

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