Elisa Tremblay

Marriage & Family Life

Tremblay is the marriage and life ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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Your family can make a difference in this world

By Elisa Tremblay | For The Compass | January 19, 2022

I am certain most people have had the experience of wonderment at some point in their life,  where they asked themselves the question, “Why have I been born now, in this time?” 

It is a common thought to consider one’s place in this world and why you were born in this generation and not in some previous or future time. That thought is often followed by a secondary question about what one’s impact or mission in life might be. It is through asking these questions that many an inventor, explorer or leader got their start. 

What if your thoughts, however, were not focused on what your individual place was in this world is, but rather, what sort of impact your family might make on this era. We are all shaped by the families we live in and, although we may exist as individuals, our families can have an equally large impact on the world. There are many ways your family can make a difference in the world around you — whether through being involved in a community project, doing something for your neighbors or helping the elderly or marginalized. All families can make a difference!

What if you heard that you could make a tremendous difference in this world without even leaving the walls of your home? There are variations of a famous quote from St. Teresa of Kolkata that states: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Although this popular quote is a paraphrase of her 1984 Nobel Peace Prize speech, it illustrates one of the most basic teachings of our Catholic faith: “Human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society,” so it is stated in “Life and Dignity of the Human Person” (USCCB). Human dignity and respect begin in the home and are first learned in the family.

In the Catholic Church, we hear the word “dignity” a lot in the month of January. It is in this month that we pay special attention to the unborn and their legal protection. You may have heard the phrase before that states that the Catholic Church respects the dignity of all life from conception to natural death. This very powerful statement speaks to the fact that all people have intrinsic value, and we learn about this, first and foremost, in our homes and families.

Parents can teach dignity in very simple ways by helping the child acknowledge and be present to those around them. For instance, parents can teach children to look someone in the eye when talking with them; to learn to listen to what is being said before interrupting; to use manners and be polite. These are common parenting methods, but so is teaching them simple hospitality and how to have conversations and show interest in others. Teaching respect is essential, but also helping children to learn not to embarrass their siblings or friends is too. Essentially, showing children how to live out “The Golden Rule” is one of the very first steps in helping children to see the value of others.

Married couples can also work to build up a culture of dignity and respect in the home through their relationship. Healthy communication is important in a relationship as each spouse should, at the very least, feel as if what they say is being heard, respected and valued. Forgiveness is important in showing the value of the other, as is showing one another that the relationship and love is greater than any problem. Fidelity, trust and patience are also some of the many ways a couple can demonstrate dignity in a relationship, in addition to total self-giving.

When couples value the presence of each other, it influences the children and family around them. A child theoretically will grow to replicate the dignity and respect learned from the parents. Parents also can have an active role in teaching their children the value of another person, starting first with their siblings and relatives and then going beyond the home. In both instances, the ripple effect of these actions can have a lasting effect on the world. The couple will be a strong witness to their friends and family — and the children will move from the home to carry on the values learned.

In short, St. Teresa was correct that, in loving our families, we can bring peace to the world. Scripture reminds us, in the Book of Titus: “Urge the younger men, similarly, to control themselves, showing yourself as a model of good deeds in every respect, with integrity in your teaching, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be criticized, so that the opponent will be put to shame without anything bad to say about us” (2:6-8). By valuing the dignity and respect of all people, and teaching your children to do the same, you and your family will indeed have a truly lasting impact in our time. 

Tremblay is the marriage and life ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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