Juliet (not her real name) was a teacher in the Philippines before she decided to leave abroad for work as a nanny in NYC. Although it was dreadful saying goodbye (leaving her loving husband and 5 children), she thought it was the best option for her so she would be able to help augment the meager income that she and her husband get as contractual employees. At first, she was able to maintain a good relationship with her husband via internet communications, but it didn’t end happily. To cut the story short, their marriage turned sour after 15 years of exercising maximum patience and tolerance for her husband’s philandering with another woman. While she was able to sustain the daily needs of their children and send them to school, there were costs to it, her loving husband had broken his marriage vows, as such they got separated.
We’ve heard varying gloomy situations like this, but there were some success stories as well. There were families who have successfully been reunited and made it to the end even with problems because of their strong faith in God and love for the family particularly for the education and well-being of the children. But not everyone is the same, some are weak and vulnerable, while some have sturdy foundation of their love and faith in their family and in God.
Faith and Family are two essential components of Pope Francis apostolic exhortation entitled “The Joy of Love ” or Amoris Laetitia in Latin. Basically, the Holy Father’s exhortation centers on the love in the family and the challenges faced by them in the real world. Thus, this communication is addressed not only to the pastoral ministers but to everyone, including families and married couples, sinners or not sinners, regardless of status in life. His message is crystal clear, that is, for the Church to welcome and embrace everyone, families and individuals who are troubled and in difficult situations. And for these people to feel the true sense of belongingness, that they are still part of the family, of the Catholic Church so to speak. The Holy Father is requesting for us all to show mercy and compassion to everyone particularly those who need God’s mercy and healing, to heal their wounds after having been victims of immigration, war, poverty, human trafficking, domestic violence, vices and other social and economic related problems.
The Holy Father is of the view that conversion is possible for everyone especially when God’s mercy and healing are present. The “lost” or “wounded” person who decide to approach us for help should truly feel the sincerity and kindness from us. The exhortation likewise encourages us to refrain from being judgmental and instead be more considerate about their problems and the unfortunate situation they are faced with. While some expressed reservations on this matter, for me however, this is a march on process, moving forward as far as Catholic Church policies are concerned. Just imagine, if we could invite a “lost” and “wounded” friend or a member of the family to go back to Church and be more closer to Christ and practice his/her Catholic faith once again, that would probably be the most fulfilling and a great accomplishment on our part. We are able to save one soul from being trapped in a worst situation, where he/she is a lifelong slave to sin. This won’t be an easy task tho but as the saying goes: if there’s a will, there’s always a way. And if we can do it, I think we won’t just be making the person happy but the Heavens too!
Some say there’s no such thing as ideal family or ideal marriage especially these days. Not sure about this, but I think there are still many somewhere out there who are happily married, who knows right? But when ideal family is being brought about, I associate it with the Holy Family. The family of Jesus when He was on earth, with the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph guiding and guarding Him while growing up. The Scriptures revealed that the family of Jesus had a very simple life yet decent, no complexities and ostentatious style of living, but they weren’t free from sacrifices too. As parents, St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother provided Him the love, care, protection and raised Him according to God’s will. Theirs was the example that faith and love is indeed essential for families. It is for this reason, that the Holy Family serves as the perfect model for our Homes, especially for Catholics.
Going back to Juliet’s family life story, she’s now living with her kids and grand kids in the U.S. She’s happy for her children but she’s not quite happy about her spiritual life. She’s into marriage relationship sort of thing with a man whom she couldn’t marry in Church as she has yet to apply for annulment of her previous marriage and some other legal reasons. But personally, she’s a very kindhearted person, in fact she has not forgotten her Sunday obligations as Catholic. She has a special relationship with God. I just hope that she and the many others who are similarly situated as her be endowed with strength and courage so they could at least try to change what seems wrong, and that they be forgiven of their sins no matter how grievous they may be so they can feel God’s love wholeheartedly.
Juliet’s story is just one of the many instances where the exhortation of the Holy Father can be applicable. The sad realities and facts of life are visible. The ideal scenario that we’re hoping in a family for some of us is like “so near, yet so far”. Sure, it is good to live in a perfect world, with a happy simple life. But reality bites! Our world is complicated, beset with good and evil, humility and pride, honesty and hypocrisy, so on and so forth. For every goodness, there is always an opposite reaction. As such, when we are dependent on material things and if we entertain temptations in our daily lives, unfortunately it makes us easy to forego the more important things, i.e., our relationship with God. Hence, the said exhortation of the Holy Father is a call for everyone that the Church is always there, ready to help us and this paves the way for us to open up and be more closer to God too. Isn’t that a beautiful, kind and loving exhortation (which is applicable and timely particularly during this Lenten season)?
During this Holy Week, may we be given the strength to reflect and discern what is good and right for our respective families. May the Holy Family bless all parents to be role models of their children in their faith in God and love for one another, and in the same manner, that children would be more respectful and obedient to their parents.
p.s. cto for the featured photos.