EVANGELIZING THE FAMILY WITHIN A COMMUNITY OF FAMILIES
Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD, MA, SThD, Oct. 10, 2015
This 3rd Pasig Catholic Mass Media Awards coincides with both a particular and universal event. On a particular note, we remember, Bp. Francisco San Diego, who should have turned 80 years old today. He is the first bishop of Pasig, our first pastor of the diocese, the first father of our diocesan family. I believe that his pastoral leadership has been the foundation on which all diocesan ministries have been serving our communities, especially our diocesan media ministry. We remember Bp. San Diego in our prayers today and always. And of course, the universal church currently holds a momentous event, the Synod on the Family with the theme: “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the contemporary world.” All eyes are on the Catholic Church as our Church leaders reflect on and come out with concrete pastoral perspectives for marriage and the family.
In this year’s World Day of Social Communications, Pope Francis pointed out that the family is a privileged place and experience of encounter. He noted that it is in the family that all of us learned how to communicate. Our first experience of communication started in our mother’s womb as we listened to her heartbeat which prepared us to plunge into an intricate web of relationships when we were born. As we were reared by our parents and brought up into this world, we learned how to communicate with God as we were taught how to pray. We also learned how to communicate and relate with members of our family: parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and even our relatives. The family then, as the Holy Father, tells is the first school of communication. (cf. 49th World Day of Social Communications, Vatican City, January 23, 2015)
However, we must admit that one sub-culture affecting the family today is what is called the “culture of individualism”. In a sense, individualism is a mindset in which a person thinks only of his own affairs, unmindful of the needs of others. One lives by the dictum: “I mind my own affairs so mind your own business.” This way of thinking has developed in a number of family members negative attitudes of indifference, insensitivity and even apathy. In fact, this age of mobile phones and the internet, has, in some ways, delimited actual person-to- person encounters. I remember an advertisement of a smart phone company, showing family members in one living room where the father, mother and the children were physically close together but holding each one’s gadget, communicating with each other either through a mobile phone or computer. Who are we to judge if the quality of personal communication in this digital era has compromised and weakened family bonds. But the fact remains that a number of family members have become individualistic. Because of this, they personally meet rarely, talk and listen to each other less, resulting to weakened family bonds. Incidentally, some months ago, I received a poster post on facebook that read: “There is no wi-fi in this restaurant, talk to each other!”
Indeed, Pope Francis understood this well when he insightfully wrote: “The individualism of our postmodern and globalized era favours a lifestyle which weakens the development and stability of personal relationships and distorts family bonds. Pastoral activity needs to bring out more clearly the fact that our relationship with the Father demands and encourages a communion which heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds.” (EG 67)
This culture of individualism that has negatively influenced families today has also affected the relationship of a family with other families. During my first year in the priesthood, I recall an experience that showed me the urgency of making families link with each other in order to form a community of families. I was assigned parochial vicar of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, Bel-air Makati City. One significant parish activity we had at that time was to gather families in one street so that they would get to know each other. We did this by creatively celebrating the Eucharist on the street where small tables were set up for each family to have its own miniature Eucharistic table as they celebrate with other families in the neighborhood, of course, still with the priest as the main presider of the mass. After the mass, there was a simple fellowship which encouraged everyone to get acquainted with and get to know each other. In one of the conversations, I overheard one person saying to the other: “I have lived here in this street for more than 25 years, and this is the first time I really got to talk to you.” Upon hearing this, in my mind, I realized how the high walls and gates of some of our urban houses could isolate families. Consequently, a family can live fragmented from other families, unmindful of their concerns, even insensitive to their needs.
What is sad for us Filipinos is the tendency of some families to have the “tayo-tayo mentality”. This happens when we hear family members saying: “Tayo na lang ang magsama-sama. Huwag na tayong sumali sa kanila. Huwag na tayong makialam.” This makes a family uninvolved and unconcerned with others except with their own kind. This creates a gap in communication which becomes a block in building the bigger family, the Chruch. But we all know that no man is an island. In the same vein, no family is an island. Families need each other, especially in their journey of faith.
The Second Plenary Council of the Phlippines (PCP-II) noted Vatican II’s “recognition of a strong interrelationship between community and family life.” (# 419) This means that the family as the ecclesia domestica or the domestic church is a “living image of and historical representation of the mystery of the Church.” (FC #49, cf. LG 11) By its very nature as a “Church in miniature”, it has to link with other families to build the Christian community, the Body of Christ. This implies that a family cannot isolate itself from other families. PCP-II even points out: “The family plays a pivotal role in renewing Christian life and in forming communities of the Lord’s disciples.” (#421)
In the past, I have shared that in my first stint as parish priest of Sta. Rita de Cascia Parish, Philamhomes, Quezon City, I observed that a good number of the parishioners attend mass with their whole family. There were times when I was struck witnessing many families gather together inside the church. I knew that I was seeing a community of families breaking bread together in the Eucharistic celebration. How I prayed that these families who celebrated mass really knew each other, cared for each other and loved each other.
I pray that this Pasig Mass Media Awards, through our diocesan media ministry, be a potent venue to motivate us to find effective means in the area of social communications to bridge gaps among family members by way of evangelization. In so doing, may this lead to deeper communion with other families that will eventually build the Church, the bigger family of God. Let us be inspired by the words of Pope Francis who, during his apostolic visit in the USA said that the family is “a factory of hope”.
– See more at: http://dioceseofpasig.org/site/cbcp-ecsc/evangelizing-the-family-within-a-community-of-families/#sthash.bAXrZ9Zb.dpuf