Work of Family Life: Building a Faithful Family Culture
Richard M. Rymarz & Jennifer I. Weber
When writing about the role of the family in faith development there are many avenues that can be explored. The concept of faith and its close cousin grace, for example, are topics of great interest and can be discussed at some length. The whole metaphysical dimension of Christian life is in our view not discussed enough. Having lamented this fact we are not going to write about it directly here either! Sufficed to say something about the notion of faith that we are working from. One can describe faith in technical terms and speak about its objective and subjective dimensions and also the idea of assent and authority. For our purposes, faith is seen as a gift from God. Like all gifts it can be received well and developed and cultivated or it can be neglected or under appreciated. When we speak about sharing our faith with our children this is more than a series of discrete actions. Sharing faith is not like handing out lollies from a jar. Rather than limiting ourselves to a static idea we can enrich the whole notion of the faith life of families by speaking in terms of family culture. At a theological level we are trying to create an atmosphere which welcomes and values the gift of faith and does all it can to nourish it. To talk about creating a family culture gives a commitment to sustained effort over a long period to establish an almost organic identity, that is a culture that can grow and develop and give life and sustinence to those in its embrace.
It also needs
to be said, though at the outset that there is a level of presumption
in this idea of sharing faith.
At the very least it assumes that we have a faith to share.
In Melbourne one can normally get away with a football analogy,
so you may have heard of the line beloved by coaches, that the team
or the player needs to pull his socks up. One wit responded to this by saying
to do this depends on you having socks on in the first place. Aquinas to give this point a more
philosophical tone remarked that no one can give something that they
do not posses and so it with faith. Pope Paul VI describes the family
in terms that are synonymous with the Church and
this carries with it an expectation on the crucial role of
parents as exemplars in faith.
like the church, ought to be a place where the gospel is transmitted
and from which the Gospel radiates.
Evangelii Nuntiandi 71
easily give another paper on cultivating the faith of parents but
that will have to wait for another day.
Nonetheless, the faith of the parents is not a static thing,
somehow hermetically sealed. One of the graces of having children
that should be emphasised here is that the reality of family life
has enormous implications for the faith life of parents. By thinking of ways to share your
faith with your children gives your whole spiritual life energy and
direction. The family is the forum where
the faith of most people developed, both children and adults. We see this clearly in the great
conciliar description of family as the domestic church.
In what might
be regarded as the domestic church, the parents are to be the first
the first preachers of the faith for their children by word and example. Lumen Gentium 11
Every individual born and raised in
a family constitutes a potential treasure which must be responsibly
accepted, so that it will not be diminished or lost, but will rather
come to an ever more mature humanity. This process of exchange in which
the parents-educators are in turn
to a certain degree educated themselves. While they are teachers of humanity
for their children, they learn humanity from them LF 16
Time and Effort: Building up a Family Culture
If we assume
that firstly parents have a strong appreciation of their own faith,
are nurturing it and are actively involved in developing their own
spirituality how can they help to share these dimensions of their
life with their children. Before we move onto some of the
strategies and practicalities of this, let’s consider some critical
attitudes that provide the energy for developing a successful family
culture where faith is nurtured and respected.
A key ingredient here is time. In order to build up a family
culture requires sustained effort, planning and creativity. This cannot happen if insufficient time is devoted to family
life. This is a straightforward idea,
but a very powerful one. It’s something that we call family work. Work here
does not have a pejorative sense where it is seem as a punishment
or an activity best avoided.
Work is seen as a liberating and defining human activity.
We see this point developed well by Pope John Paul II in Laborem
Exercens (LE). Work
is not a means to an end but something which can serve human dignity.
If one wishes
to define more clearly the ethical meaning of work, it is this truth
that one must particularly keep in mind. Work is a good thing for man –
a good thing for humanity – because through work man not only transforms
nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment
as a human being and indeed, becomes “ more a human being” LE 9.3
we have regarded work as something done outside the home.
However, work in the very best sense is something that can
be applied to the development of the domestic church. To take work seriously means that
at the very least we have to devote time to it.
Not quality time or a minute here or there, but enough time to get the
of quality time has some value but quality time cannot exist without
sufficient time. Quality time is a concept that is often used by busy people.
To compensate for low quantity of time, the fifteen or thirty minutes or so available for
family interaction is used doing quality
activities. What quality
activities are is a contentious point but the real paucity of this
idea is exposed if we apply it to work outside of the home. We think it is very unlikely that
someone paid to do a job outside the home would be able to get away
with an argument such as, although I can only spend half an hour or so on this project the time I am devoting
is really quality time.
As well as
sufficient time we need to be aware of the quality of time we are
spending at home. In this sense quality time does have great utility.
To do work well requires not merely spending time on a project.
We have to try to be at our best -with all that implies.
To illustrate consider this example. Some time ago I met a former
student of mine on the bus into work.
I had always admired this person, let’s call her Karen, mainly
because of her independence of thought and refreshing non-conformism. Karen was a genuine rebel, very
intelligent and had recently secured a job with a large company as
part of a very selective graduate training program. We discussed various things about her career and she stressed
the importance that her employer placed on human relations. This was an area familiar
to her because her father worked in this field in a very senior capacity. Commenting on her father, Karen
remarked sharply, that he was an expert on personnel issues at work
not at home. For him hometime was downtime.
In a similar
vein if we take family work seriously it changes
the way in which we view how time is spent.
If we were asked to go out in the evening would we go? I suppose it depends on circumstances, but would we do it if
we were asked during our conventional work time? To give an example, say a family
has developed a culture where stories are read and discussed between
7 and 8pm. One of the parents is asked to
go to a meeting at the same time.
Should they go? Would they go if they were asked to attend the meeting at say
11am when they are normally working outside the home? Considering examples such as this lead us to a discussion of
the practicalities of finding time for family work.
that building up a family culture where faith can be nurtured takes
time is a crucial concept, nonetheless it is the first stage. Once this is realised
the next step of finding time is difficult for many people. We are
acutely are that glib advice in this area is certainly not helpful. Many people are forced to long
work outside the home as an urgent economic imperative.
The reality for many Australian families is that both parties
are working for relatively low pay.
For many in this situation cutting back their work commitments
outside the home is not a decision taken lightly.
If the extra job is not done or the overtime on offer not taken,
then there will be difficulties in meeting basic commitments. The income that is being foregone
in many instances is not discretionary.
So if work
cannot be cut back easily what can be done practically to release
sufficient time for family commitments.
The Calculus of Work
It is impossible
to be prescriptive in this area because each situation will be different.
Above all there is an imperative on parents to face their work commitments
with honesty and clarity and also a sense of urgency.
We really are waiting for the bridegroom.
Parents don’t have a large amount of time to nurture their
children. The children will be effected one way or another by the
family culture into which they grow to adulthood. Parents can be daunted by this idea, it is nonetheless a pressing
reality and an enormous responsibility.
It is important to realize, however, that the gravity of the
task should not engender discouragement. Parents should realise that
sometimes they need the courage to be seen as hypocrites. This may sound strange but what
this means is that we need to live by high ideals even if we cannot
always reach them. Many
parents I have spoken to
over the years on this concept of family culture baulk at the idea
because they find it hard to live out the ideals that they want to
instill in their own children. This also has a direct corollary in
the faith life of parent and child. If the parents are aware of their
own shortcomings they may feel it is hypocritical to make expectations
on their children especially in areas that may need attention in their
own lives. This type of thinking is often
characterized by thoughts such as its too hard, or I’m not good enough to do this sort of thing or my
children will see through my double standard.
ample research available that what young people expect from their
parents is sincerity and honesty. If they sometimes fall sort of
their own standards this is acceptable.
What is necessary is that the family witness to the striving. We think that it is true to say
that children have an almost forensic ability to detect insincerity
but this is different to hypocrisy. Young people can appreciate parents
who are trying to live out an ideal and place themselves under some
kind of discipline. The
grating aspect of hypocrisy is the double standard, the feeling that
what is being asked applies to only one person and ultimately we are
concern not with deep conversion but with the external appearance.
If a couple
can approach the issue of time allocation with honesty a number of
practical questions arise. How these are answered are very
personal and reflect the life situations of the people involved and
also how they value the work of building up the family culture. Let’s take a sample of some pertinent
of questions could go on and there is not a simple set of answers. Nonetheless how a couple resolve
issues such as these ultimately depends on their shared and articulated
values. On a conceptual level if they
are able to approach questions such as these with honesty and clarity
and an awareness that building a faith friendly family culture takes
time and effort then solutions may be achieved which require reevaluation
of priority areas.
cannot simply forgo income from work undertaken outside the home. At the same time they are committed
to placing great emphasis on work building up the domestic church. To reconcile these differences
they may need to think creatively to find a solution.
For example are they able to refashion work outside the home to make
my work inside the home more effective?
Can the mix of work be altered so work done outside the home
is shared more equally between marriage partners?
This is another area where it is impossible to be prescriptive
but where creative thinking may yield a satisfactory solution.
The Work of Building up the Family Culture
A Word on the Culture we live in
In this section
we would like to map out a number of important areas that all contribute
to building up the family culture.
Before we get into this it is necessary to say something of
the general culture in which the family finds itself.
This is no more than an overview but it gives us a framework
to discuss the building blocks of family culture and how they should
of recent Vatican documents on education make the point about the
need for a synthesis or least a dialogue between the general culture
and the specifically Christian culture. In order to do this we need to
say something about the general culture.
On the one hand this culture is becoming increasingly indifferent
to Christian practices and sentiment. In Catechesis Tradendae this is how Pope John Paul II describes this
today must be formed to live in a world which largely ignores God
or which, in religious matters, in place of an exacting and fraternal
dialogue, stimulating for all, too often flounders in a debasing indifferentism CT 57
brings with it problems and possibilities. On the one hand it important to
realize that parents the primary educators of children
have to take this injunction seriously and realize that the social
supports available to them are being greatly diminished.
The era of tribal culture,
where religious belief is expressed as part of a social group is now
fast disappearing. Although some younger Catholics
express their religious commitment in terms of belonging this attachment
is an increasingly weak one. There are many ways to belong
in our community. A religious group that makes this
its raison d’être is placing itself,
at least in a sociological sense, in a very competitive market. The great era of tribal
Catholicism found its most complete expression in an era of defined
religious practise. This depended on a large degree
of identification with religious groups such as found in the middle
of last century. We would
agree with Cardinal Martini, the archbishop of Milan, that the Catholic
of the future will be very much a conviction
Catholic – that is their religious beliefs and practises spring
out of deeply held and personal convictions.
One implication of this for parents is that they should not
expect too much assistance in their role as primary educators.
Or at least they must be prepared to actively seek out social
factors and influences that will assist them, it is unlikely that
these will simply appear or fall
into one’s lap. The
up side of this social reality is that overt hostility to religious
belief and practise may not be as serious a factor as one may imagine. There are exceptions to this,
one worth mentioning is a certain ambivalence even amongst Catholics
to those who display a high degree of religious practise. Where the contemporary culture
is increasingly indifferent to religious worldviews this attitude
tends to break down in regard to those who are perceived to be overly
religious or indeed fanatical in their beliefs.
Of course we need to acknowledge that the definition of fanatical
here is highly relative. I recall having this conversation
sometime ago with a fellow educator and she described people who go
to Mass every Sunday as fanatical. To the conviction Catholics I
mentioned earlier weekly Mass attendance
is merely a baseline practise but what we are seeing here is
the continuing evolution of Catholicism away from collective expression
to personal commitment. A similar point can be made about
religious practise as opposed to an ineffable spiritual sense. We think that a sense of the sacred, a search for deeper more
long lasting values are things that our society regards favorably. The culture is more uncomfortable
when these longings are transferred into actions and convictions. For example a statement such as
“ I am a Catholic who is searching for
meaning in my life may be considered a laudable attitude. Whereas I am a Catholic who tries to live their
life according to the norms and precepts of the Church can cause
a degree of uneasiness precisely because it is tangible, it makes
an impact of the way we live and how we interact with society.
Another positive aspect of living in a culture of indifferentism is that this places a strong religious tradition in stark relief to much of contemporary society. Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago has made the point that the immediate future will be a time where all social movements will battle to maintain a consistent and powerful set of core beliefs. Whereas the focus of much comment about irrelevance and distintegration has centred on the Christian churches these points apply perhaps even more forcefully to political and social theories. Although the Christian community may in the future be less numerically strong it will be evangelising in a world without strong ideological presuppositions
The Family Culture as Educative
domestic Church [thefamily], like the greater Church, needs to be
constantly and intensely evangelized, hence its duty regarding permanent
education in the faith. Familiaris Consortio 51
One of the
most important building blocks of a family culture that nurtures and
celebrates faith is the educative aspect.
Of course, everything about family life is educative but here
we are speaking about the more explicit instructional role of the
family. Within the family we can see the
most perfect society for catechesis that is the endeavor to make individuals
better followers of Christ. The family is the faithful community
where catechesis can best occur. Part of this catechesis is explicit and this is the dimension
that we wish to focus on here.
education as understood as activity in service of the Church, is a
process by which people learn more about the beliefs and practises
of the Catholic tradition and should not be restricted to the classroom.
Certainly the school has a vital role to play in this regard
but it should ideally be seen as complementing what occurs in the
family home. This is increasingly seen in the
family based sacramental programs of many parish schools. Parents should be able and willing
to teach their children about the beliefs and practises of the Catholic
Tradition. If the family
culture is to be directed towards nurturing faith then it is axiomatic
that the culture seeks always to express and educate its member’s
in ways that help understanding. Parents have at least two enormous
advantages in the religious education of there children. Firstly they should know them
well and therefore be able to speak more directly to the skills, competence
and interests oaf the individual. Parents know the capabilities
and the unique interests of their children.
They can use this knowledge when educating their children.
The parents also have access to the children at a wide variety
of times and are able to utilize the teaching moment - which is that time when the
child is receptive and ready to learn.
These can occur at strange and unpredictable moments but they
will occur, especially if the family culture is one where religious
ideas and themes are discussed openly and in a systematic way. The importance of parents as educators
is strongly put in Letter to
Parents are the first and most important
educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental
competence in this area: they are educators because they are parents
these two dimensions of education in the family culture need to be
stressed. On the one hand it needs to be
open and frequent. In the same way that a family
who were very interested say in car racing or horse riding of football
would always discuss these issues, the Catholic family needs to express
their interest in what is far more important than a hobby but which
forms the basis of their life.
There are many extensions of this idea, for example, religious
art in the house. This has an educative aspect but
more importantly expresses the ideas and values at the heart of the
aspect of the educative dimension of family culture is the systematic
way in which children are exposed to religious ideas and concepts. This can involve a variety
of strategies but the goal is the formation of young people who are
able to give convincing and
well thought out reasons which articulate their core beliefs.
For example, regular times given over to reading and discussion
of scripture is an excellent way to introduce the child to the world
of sacred texts. Setting aside a regular time and
allowing for a proper discussion allows for the child’s understanding
of scripture to be developed. To continue with this idea once it has been incorporated into
the family’s life it develops its own momentum. You soon realize that one time
set aside for all the children is inadequate.
The 5-year-old and the 13-year-old need to be treated differently
if the exercise is not become tedious.
The important point is that once a commitment is made to give
time to systematic religious education the family embarks on a pathway
which throws up enormous educative possibilities. This process can work in tandem
with what is being offered in the school or other educational setting
but could easily exceed this.
To use an analogy I have often seen children in school who
are excellent mathematicians. Very often this is because they
come from homes where the parents love mathematics. If we continue this logic children
who come from homes where a family culture is established which values
religious faith and practise should have an intellectual expression
of this faith which reflects the support and development of these
beliefs in the home.
It is important
that in this area the parents realize their potential as educators. Parents often feel that they cannot
speak with authority on religious themes because they do not have
sufficient background. This,
in my experience is almost always not true. Parents do not need to be scripture
scholars to read and instruct their children on the importance of
reading the Bible. They
do not need to be theologians or philosophers to talk about the sacraments
or the moral life. There is ,however, a caveat here. If we recall the importance placed
on the sincerity of parents in their role as architects of the family
culture, there is a potential problem if the children perceive an
incongruity in the understanding and knowledge of the parents on what
can loosely be called religious matters. If parents are experts in professional
areas that pertain to their work outside the home but find it hard
to articulate their own belief especially to older children this incongruity
can be noticed and commented on by the perceptive child. If we assume that the children
will not get their important questions answered outside the home it
is incumbent on the parents to provide as best they can intelligent
answers to sincere questions. As John Paul II has remarked in
Fides et Ratio the Catholic of
today and the future must have an understanding of their faith which
is robust enough to complement the other aspects of their life. Parents cannot rely on the prevailing
culture to sustain them or their children. This means developing our own
understanding. I stress again that on going development
is not intended to undermine the confidence of parents. Rather it is an encouragement
to continue to think about our own understanding of Catholicism.
The Family Culture as Sacramental
is one distinguishing aspect of a family culture where faith is valued
and nurtured it is its sacramental emphasis.
One implication of the description of the family as domestic
Church in conciliar and post-conciliar documents is the parallel between
the work of the family and the work of the Church. The family shares in the work
of the Church by its design and by its function. Just as the Church can be described as the sacrament of Christ
– the preeminent way that Christ is made known in the world – the
family makes Christ known in an immediate and local way to members
of the family and others who come in contact with it.
marriage and the Christian family build up the Church: for in the
family the human person is not only brought into being and progressively
introduced by means of education into the human community, but by
means of the rebirth of baptism and education in the faith the child
is also introduced into God’s family, which is the Church. Familiaris Consortio 15
emphasis of family culture is expressed most directly in the way in
which the family participates in the sacraments of the Church. This is especially obvious if
we consider the celebration of the Eucharist.
This has been described as the source and summit of Christian
life. If the Eucharist is the summit
of our lives this needs to be emphasized in the dynamism of family
life. The eucharistic celebration needs
to become the centre of family life, something which is looked forward
to and celebrated as a wellspring of grace that nourishes and energizes
all members of the family. This is the key to understanding
the Eucharist as the source of family life.
the importance and significance of the sacraments is something that
the educative aspect of family culture should be directed to as a
foundational endeavor. The sacraments should be explained, emphasized and spoken about
often. This foundation finds expression
in the way the family approaches the sacraments. Often our actions in this regard belay our words.
In educational circles this is analogous to what is sometimes
described as the tension between the formal and informal curriculum. If we do not support what is done
in the classroom in the culture and practise of the whole school community
we risk undoing all our work in formal instruction. So with the sacramental
emphasis of family life. If our actions, both small and
significant do not match our words then the dissonance created can
be sensed by all even the youngest children.
To take an
example, consider the celebration of the Eucharist.
If we speak about this as the source and summit of our lives
how do our actions bear this out? Let’s return to the analogy of
family work as the equivalent of work outside the home. If we had a crucial meeting, what
time would we arrive for it? Would we arrive at the last minute,
rushing in from the carpark?
We think not. How
many people do this when going to Mass? Surely the analogy between celebrating
the Eucharist and the important work meeting breaks down when we realize
that we do not have the opportunity of attending important meeting
every day of the year. Nonetheless, arriving at Mass,
say, ten minutes early, with sufficient time to settle ourselves and
the children in order to participate properly reinforces in a powerful
way the significance we put sacramental worship.
In a similar vein would we conduct an important business meeting
from the back of the conference room?
There is something disturbing about going to Mass and seeing
the first ten rows empty and the congregation sheepishly huddled at
the back. Why not sit in the front row and
really participate in a public and direct way.
This has the added advantage of allowing small children to
see unencumbered the drama at the altar.
We think that in this sitting at the back phenomena is an element of the tribal Catholicism
mentioned earlier. Going to Mass was something that
the tribe did with a certain sense of resignation and so it didn’t
matter were you sat as long as you were there.
this point much further, I went to Mass a couple of years ago at a
Church which had a Maronite service immediately following. After communion I noticed large
members of people lining up alongside the pews at the front of the
Church. Then others became to squeeze
into the pews where there was clearly little room.
As soon as the priest gave the dismissal the rush was on in
earnest for the front seats, we were almost shoehorned out of the
way. My children remarked on the rudeness
of these people, but when I asked a Maronite student of mine about
this, her explanation made a lot of sense. In her tradition there was an
enormous pressure in getting the front seats.
This enabled you to participate more fully to hear and see
the priest and deacons clearly, to sing with the choir and to, pray
more devoutly. She rounded off her explanation
with something like – if you went to the movies wouldn’t you want to sit in the best seats?
reinforcing our words are especially important when we consider the
sacrament of penance. The wonderful and liberating idea
of receiving the forgiveness of God for our transgressions can become
somewhat hollow if we do receive the sacrament ourselves on a regular
basis. Furthermore the habit of frequent
use of this sacrament by children is almost impossible to establish
if we don’t jump into the car on a regular basis and take them to
see a priest. The idea
of sacramental confession is perhaps not in vogue today so it is incumbent
of the family culture to encourage use of this marvelous opportunity
for grace. We think that some sensitivity
should be shown to the particular needs of children but this can often
be addressed by seeking out a suitable confessor. There is nothing wrong with this. If you were going to make a major
purchase at your job outside the home you would doubtlessly make enquiries
about the best possible deal available. How much more important is it
try and find a suitable spiritual director for your children.
The Family Culture as Prayerful
family is the first place of education in prayer.
Based on the sacrament of marriage, the family is the domestic church where God’s children
learn to pray as the Church and to persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the
first witness of the Church'’ living memory as awakener patiently
by the Holy Spirit. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2685
culture which welcomes and nurtures faith is a prayerful one.
A prayerful family is a family that prays often and in a variety
of ways. Every opportunity for family prayer
should be taken. This puts the immediacy of God
and the relationship between God and the family at the centre of the
family culture. Prayer can be understood in a variety of ways, but
put simply it is best understood as a conversation with God. A two way communication where
we develop and strength our relationship with God and come to a deeper
understanding of his plan for us.
be formal and informal, spoken and meditative but above all the idea
of pray as communicating with God.
Ideas and suggestions for family prayer is a huge area that
we touch on later. There is a definite need to incorporate
some fixed prayer schedule lest prayer be neglected due to the other
pressures of family. We think it was Luther who said that my whole life is a prayer,
that is well and good but if we don’t aside a regular time can easily
lose the marvelous focus on God the directed prayer brings. When is the best time for regular prayer is a vexed question?
We try to, prayer together as early as possible in the evening,
usually immediately after meals or sometimes even before desert. I know of families
who pray together in the morning but this would not suit our situation. I also think that if a choice
had to be made between length and frequency of prayer we would choose
frequency, as children seem to cope better with a shorter time frame.
This is not
the place for a survey of the types of prayer available to families,
however we think that two points are appropriate. Firstly an emphasis on the meditative
aspect of prayer. We live in a culture of noise
and easy distraction. The powerful effect of silence
is often underutilized and underappreciated.
To make use of quiet time is a powerful prayer tool.
Secondly we must always guard against prayer become routine
– merely mouthing words. Children are captivated by the
transcendent and prayer should have a strong and tangible element
of this. This is how one person described
his experience with prayer in his home when he was growing up.
I never really thought
much about prayer as a young boy until one night I walked past my
father’s room and peeped through the ajar door. He did not see me because he was
kneeling beside his bed, lost in prayer.
I had just started school, but to this day, the image of his
face has never left me. I realised straight away that
my father was in conversation with God.
From that day on, I knew that God was real and interested in
With prayer as with all
aspects of building up a family culture welcoming of faith, we have
to persevere and not be discouraged with time of staleness and disinterest.
Prayer, like the sacraments are indispensable to living out
our vocation in the world.
This is how
Pope John Paul II has described the efficacy of prayer:
prayer, especially to Jesus at communion, you will understand so many
things about the world and its relationship to him, and you will be
in a position to read accurately what are referred to as the “sighs
of the times”. Above
all, you will have something to give those who come to you in need."
The Family Culture as Virtuous
would briefly like to touch on the importance of cultivating virtue
as part of the family culture. I say touch on because this is
an area deserving a whole seminar but something needs to said about
this vital aspect of family life and its relationship to faith. By encouraging virtuous behaviour
we are at its most basic level creating an environment where the humanity
of all members of the family is allowed to flourish.
The scriptural analogy here is with the sower. Good human values are like the
fertile soil in the parable that along with good rain allows the seed
How do we
encourage virtuous behaviour? The American jurist Charles E.
Rice when asked how to you encourage lawyers to be ethical remarked
that it was impossible to compartmentalise this type of behaviour
to the professional aspect of ones life. In this view an ethical lawyer
is ethical all the time or at least tries to be: on the way to work,
in dealing with people and most certainly at home with the members
of the family. We can say the same thing about
virtue. To create a family culture that
encourages virtuous behaviour wee need to ensure that the people in
the community are virtuous.
This sounds like a chicken
or the egg argument: virtuous people have a virtuous family culture
– but which comes first? We
think the important point to stress here is the striving or the attempt. To be looking always for ways
to behave well and thereby to encourage others to behave well is a
lesson for the whole of our lives in all its dimensions. The wonderful description
of St. Joseph as the man who always did the right thing is an appropriate
It is instructive
that St. Joseph, the virtuous man par excellence can be seen as the
patron saints of not only fathers but all who try to establish a household
and a family culture that models that of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the pivotal role of
education in virtue as part of family life.
This quote can act as a summary for what family culture that
welcomes and nurtures faith should be striving for.
the first responsibility for the education of their children. They
bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness,
forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the
rule. The home is well-suited for education in the virtues.
This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgement,
and self mastery – preconditions of all true freedom
Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic
Constitution on the Church. in Flannery, A.P. (ed).
Vatican II, the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. Minnesota: The Liturgical Press
II. Catechesi Tradendae,
Apostolic Exhortation on Catechesis in our Time.
Homebush, NSW: St Paul Publications (1979)
II Familiaris Consortio
Apostolic Exhortation on the Christian Family in the Modern
Paul VI Evangelii Nuntiandi. Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization
in the Modern World (1975)
Richard Rymarz is Lecturer in Religious Education, Australian
Catholic University, St Patrick’s Campus.
Weber is Head of the Family Advisory Services, Monash University,