A father asked his son, “What did you learn in religion today?” The boy answered, “We studied the Ten Commandments. We learned they are always broken.”
A mother wondered if her daughter was learning the Ten Commandments in religious studies class. He daughter paused and then said, “Oh yes, we do study the ‘Ten suggestions.’”
Jesus liked to talk about the commandments, but always in the context of his two greatest commandments: Love God totally. Love your neighbor as yourself. The Fourth Commandment centers on the family.
Catholic teaching makes family life a priority. A Synod of Bishops in Rome in 1980 drew up a “Bill of Rights” for families. Some of these rights are:
-The right to have a family and adequate means to support it.
-The right to bring up children in accordance with the family’s own traditions and religious cultural values.
-The right to housing suitable for family life.
-The right to protect minors by adequate institutions and laws to fulfill the family’s role expeditiously.
-The right to wholesome recreation that fosters family values.
In our liturgy we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Their home was a “Domestic Church.”
The Fourth Commandment fosters family values. In their home, faith, prayer and love bonded them together. Joseph and Mary provided Jesus with an environment where virtues were celebrated and practiced. The home of the Holy Family encouraged habits of prayer, obedience, respect, responsibility, honesty, a willingness to share, hard work.
A Christian home, like the Holy Family, should be a center of forgiveness, respect, rights and obligations, fidelity and unselfish service for one another. Like the Holy Family we need Catholic homes that are schools of virtues that train the members to create an orderly and productive culture and nation. This will require conscience formation of the children along with good example by the parents. Our bishops and local parish pastors should make the nourishing of strong Catholic families the highest priority. A rich partnership of home, church and society is a formula for stability, continuity and joy.
Many families are unable to do this by themselves. Other families should help them. Governments and private social and charitable social agencies should be ready to help and stabilize the basic family unit. Civil authority has a serious responsibility to foster family life. The home, the school, the Church, the business world, law enforcement, the arts all have a stake in mutually defending the family unit. The health of one depends on the health of the other. Family life is always a matter of morality, faith, and values. This should be remembered by all the institutions of society.
The Holy Trinity is the supreme model of the community of persons where absolute love and unity exist. The family should strive to become such a unity, committed to the highest ideals among the members. Praise God.
Norbertine Fr. McBride is a popular lecturer and author of more than 40 books.