This October sees the next Synod on Family Life. The Bishops of England and Wales invited lay people to prepare for this important Synod by reflecting on the gift of marriage and family and responding to a document entitled ‘The Call, the Journey and the Mission’.
This is the response of the Union of Catholic Mothers Foundation of Holy Rood, Barnsley.
All those who have enjoyed long and happy marriages want this for their families – contented and settled relationships such as they have experienced. For those who have not been so blessed, it must be even more important to see their families secure and happy. Though this is not always apparent today, those entering into marriage need a firm determination that they will make it work; this continuing effort brings many rewards and blessings which are not always immediately apparent, but which develop over the years with a maturing relationship.
2 What are your struggles and fears of marriage and family life today?
All struggles – personal, financial, health issues and relationships – affect a family and all the individuals in it, either helping them to become stronger and more mature or widening the cracks until there comes a final breakdown. We feel that attitudes towards marriage are changing radically, leaving the older ones amongst us unable and unwilling to understand or accept the viewpoints of younger generations. Marriage break-up is traumatic for all concerned, especially for children who are frequently left confused, with feelings of guilt and sharply divided loyalties.
3 How can we better understand marriage as a vocation?
We must be clear that marriage IS a vocation, which is something very different from a career or a lifestyle choice. A career comes with learning, acquiring qualifications, promotions and, hopefully, security. In a marriage you hope and pray for a happy-ever-after life with a loving and supportive partner, a happy family and a nice home. You may end up with all of these, some of them – or none, because marriage is a leap in the dark and there are many issues which have a bearing on its progress. Looking on marriage as a vocation, a couple will travel its road with love, prayer and mutual support, not regarding it as a career or contract of employment which can be changed or terminated at will.
4 How does your marriage enrich you?
At its best a marriage enriches those in it with joy, peace and happiness, hopefully in a loving family, with mutual support in all the bad times and enjoying and celebrating the good times, each understanding the other’s needs and endeavouring to put them before one’s own. Children are enriched by the parents’ example, seeing before them a lifestyle which they can aim to replicate in their own relationships.
5 How does your family life enrich those around you?
The example of a loving, happy and supportive family cannot fail to enrich those with whom it comes into contact. And this family is not only the “nuclear” family of mum, dad and kids, but also the wider family of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and grandparents, as well as the Church community which can offer many of these graces to those who might otherwise be deprived of them.
A strong and abiding faith to hand on to one’s children is something close to the hearts of all Catholic parents. Sometimes the children accept the gift of faith, and sometimes they don’t; there are no hard and fast rules, and often parents feel guilt if their children do not choose to follow their path. However, loving example rather than confrontation is often felt to be the most effective way to go. There is also a feeling that faith can be spread through example in the wider community, taking part by appointment or volunteering roles, performing such services as well as possible for the good of others and, most importantly, being known and respected in these roles as a person of integrity AND as a Catholic. If our Church encourages us to reach out to the wider community as a result of our faith, some of that faith may “rub off” on those with whom it comes into contact. At the very least, it will bring more knowledge and understanding of the Catholic faith to a diverse range of people, and possibly motivate some of them to enquire more deeply into the faith.