FAMILY AND SPIRITUALITY by Fr Joseph Adu-Wusu Agyemang
My dear Noble Knights (and Ladies) of Marshal. if there is anything most important in the world now, it is the family. It is not money, not power. This is because money or power is useless without people or the family.
In the beginning of creation, the Lord God gave everything to the family. He made the family the head of all that He created.
He allowed Adam to name everything on earth. None of the created things gave Adam happiness until Eve was fashioned out of the rib of Adam. This means that the happiness of the human person does not reside in money, power or property but in the family.
The family at the time comprised of the man the wife and the children. According to the scriptures, the extended family came later when this family of man, wife and children developed and extended. Therefore, this family whether nuclear or extended is applicable in this write-up in all its ramifications (cf Gen.2).
What constitutes our individual families is not any different from the original family and even the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The only distinguishing feature is the lack of self discipline which bedeviled Adam and Eve and which runs through our blood.
Please take the Bible as the reference point since all my examples will come from that Holy Book.
Adam and eve were happy together until the tantalizing fruit was dangled before their eyes coupled with the usual sweet words from the serpent, “you will be like God” “your eyes will open” it is no secret that we were happy at the time of our wedding until the devil came in with the tantalizing fruit of women, wine and wealth that have bedeviled or is threatening to bedevil our relationships.
We always blame Eve for being deceived but let us look at our family setting and observe lots of deception that carry us away from our responsibilities. Some of us follow money at the detriment of our family life and spiritual life.
It is money that leads some of us into entrenched warped political views. It is money that leads some of us to have issues with our priests and even the magisterium of the church. It is money that leads some of us into occultism and fetish practices.
We fall prey to all of these on account of money though we have been told many times that money is the root of all evil. (cf Tim …………… ) My dear friends all our misery at the end of our lives stems from these and we cry like babies seeking to disentangle ourselves from these monetary chains. However, we must remember that these are but a small portion of the misery we shall endure in hell whether subjectively you believe it or not. It is objectively existing in the realm of the spirit.
Family life is the joy of all husbands, wives, children and it is greatly affected and jeopardized when there is a break up, separation or divorce of married couples. How I cherish and respect couples who move with their children at church services, picnics and public occasions. Many families of this sort is a sign of a respectable society and a growing, healthy church.
A family like this enjoys the respect of the society. The members enjoy good health and live longer than usual. The hope of attainment of heaven alone is a security for fortitude and fearless behavior or movement in all endeavours. Don’t you feel deep down within your spirit a longing for this serene and hopeful and contented life?
What is the bane of this joy of family life? Extra-marital affairs, anger, greed and cheat.
AS knights and ladies of this holy Catholic Church, your state and position in life lmth human and spiritual is so much desirable ‘0 behold but go deep down into ymirsi’lvvs and ponder over scandals W“ 3’“ (“Wing M (“Wang Wllh your association with certain peoplt‘ and pertain lifestyles.
Owe a married man soils himself with a mistress his family life lie gins to change. Please remember that the change is not for better but tor worse. You may debate it with me but I hold that no mistress had ever brought a lasting happiness. The same thing applies to the married woman.
As noble men and ladies, we are lucky to have joined a society which creates as safe haven for church life. To be a Marshallan, one must be a communicant. So once you join the Marshallan Society a good setting is created for church life. A simple faith with a constant practice to grow in spirit is enough. Let the sacraments and the doctrines guide you. Anything above these is likely to lead to some dangerous situations and consequences.
There are always suggestions from other quarters that prayers of the Catholic Church are not enough. One may be deceived to buy these suggestions and open up for other rituals that bring problems. But those who come to you sometimes quote the Bible just like Satan did to Jesus when he tempted Him. Satan wanted Jesus to use more powers. He challenged Him to perform miracles and enticed him with the world and all its desires and glories. Jesus rejected them all in order to be able to have a simple relationship with His Father in heaven.
Without this unassuming and selfless attitude towards the riches of this world, it is difficult for a family to carry out the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ to evangelize which is the foundation of all Spirituality.
THE FAMILY AS AGENT OF EVANGELIZATION AND THE ROLE OF THE MARSHALLAN
The term evangelization sounds protestant to many Catholics because many see us to be primarily liturgical, pastoral and hierarchical. We have lost sight of the evangelizing dimension of our vocation as Christians. However, the church is missionary by her very nature and evangelization is a duty of every Christian. Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi writes, “We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all peoples constitutes the essential mission of the Church. Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize. Evangelization is the breath of the church. The sign of vibrant, healthy church is not the size of the choir, the amount of groups, and the number of services. It is a vibrant church if they are zealous fulfilling the mandate of Christ to go “out to all people and proclaim the Good News. . .” when a church does not fulfil this mandate it is dormant and dying. If there is no sharing of the faith, there is no growing in the faith. A Christian is someone who receives the Good News and shares it.
In its writings about evangelization, the church means most fundamentally the proclamation of the basic Christian message and the message is ” salvation through Jesus Christ”. All evangelization must be founded on the person of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
Evangelization will always contain as the foundation, center and at the same time, the summits of its dynamism, a clear proclamation that in Jesus Christ, salvation is offered to all men as a gift of‘God’s grace and mercy. We proclaim Christ to all people primarily by our daily life, by including God in our everyday vocabulary. To be conscious of God’s presence in everyday life in decisions great and small, in events and casual happenings and to casually mention how God works in our life is to evangelize. This helps others to raise the awareness that God is very much alive and active and present in our midst. A faith lived is a powerful attractive faith. We also do so through proclamation of the word of God and Catechesis which is “intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of human being”. (Catechesis Tradendae, n. 23). Again the task of evangelizing is not limited to particular people but to all Christians and families. This is where the family, the domestic church comes in as an agent of evangelization.
Family as Agent of evangelization: The Pope St. John Paul in Ecclesia in America #46, argued, “God the Creator, by forming the first man and woman and commanding them to be fruitful and multiply) Gen. 1:28), definitely established the family. In this sanctuary life is born and is welcomed as God’s gift. The word of God, faithfully read in the family, gradually builds it up as a domestic church and makes it fruitful in human and Christian virtues; it is there that the sources of vocations is to be found”. For him, Christian faith is lived and passed on to the young as a treasure, and where all pray together. If they live up to the ideal which God places before them, Catholic homes will be true centres of evangelization.
The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the community of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The family therefore must live in the peace and love of the Blessed Trinity.
In the Catechesis Tradendae, John Paul II, asks, ” how in our pastoral care are we to reveal Jesus Christ, God made man, to this multitude of children and young people, reveal him not just in the fascination of a first fleeting encounter but through an acquaintance, growing deeper and clearer daily, with him, his message, the plan of God that he has revealed, the call he addresses to each person, and the kingdom that he wishes to establish in this world with the ’little flock’ of those who believe in him, a kingdom that will be complete only in eternity? How are we to enable them to know the meaning, the import, the fundamental requirements, the law of love, the promises and the hopes of this kingdom?” (n35) According to the Pope the answer is evangelization. This evangelization must begin from the home, from the domestic church, the family.
The home becomes the place of evangelization. it is a place where Husbands and wives should help each other to take their faith seriously and grow in it. Parents are the first to help their children open their minds and hearts to Jesus by teaching them how to pray and giving them the first religious lessons. It is important for the family to practice their faith, especially by participating in the Sunday Eucharist. The child seeing the parents participating in the Eucharist will under normal circumstances grow to love the Eucharist.
The family is the classic working model of diversity within the unity of love. Today in many families an interchurch diversity is a creative feature. Since the church exists to evangelize it follows therefore that the domestic church, the Christian family has a role to play in the mission of the Church, i.e. the great commission to go all nations to proclaim the good News, (Mt 28:19)
The basic household of the faith is the family. Households constitute the church. (Acts 18:18; Acts 16; Acts 10) In Acts 18, we are told Paul stayed with Aquila and his wife Priscilla. In Acts 18:8, Crispus the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord together with his entire household after hearing Paul preaching the Word of God. In Acts 16, we read about Paul’s encounter with the Philippian jailor. Paul and Silas were imprisoned. While in prison, they prayed and sang psalms. As they did so, there was an earthquake such that the doors to the prison were opened and their chains‘loosened. The jailor, upon seeing that all the doors were opened, attempted to kill himself thinking that the prisoners had escaped. When Paul called out to him that they had not escaped, the jailor asked what he must do to be saved. In Acts 16:31, Paul told the jailor to ’believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, he and his household.
We also encounter Cornelius in Acts 10. Cornelius was a devout man who feared God with his entire household, gave alms generously to the people and prayed continually to God. He and his household were baptized by Peter.
In the Old Testament as well there are numerous accounts of households which got saved because of one family member’s decision to serve the Lord. In Genesis 7:1, we read that by being a righteous person, Noah and his household were saved from the flood. In Genesis 18:19, God chose Abraham that he might command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by being righteous and just, so that the Lord may bring to Abrahim what he has promised him.
In Genesis 35:2-3, after God asked Jacob to arise and go to Bethel to dwell there and to make an alter to the God who appeared to him after he fled from his brother Esau, Jacob said to his household and all who were with him to put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments’. In Joshua 24214-1 5, Joshua asked the Israelites to choose whom they will serve, whether the gods their fathers served or the gods of the Amorites ………. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
The early church was a household, the domestic church. Hence, the significance of the images of ’domestic church’, domestic sanctuary’, and sanctuary of life’.
The Christian family helps to build up the body of Christ. The Christian families prepare and train their members for the Eucharistic community, with the help of the Marshallan. This means that for a spirit—filled and dynamic church that is alive, there is the need to develop strong and faithful marriages and families. If we assess marriages and family life in our world today, we notice that it is one of the institutions which has degenerated the most, leaving us with a society crying for redemption.
If evangelization is the mission of the church and the church is a conglomerate of the Christian family units, then the domestic church, the family must meet the expectation of being the light of the world so that people who see their good works will give glory to their Father in heaven.
For such families evangelizing mission will include the ecumenical dimension. The Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization (Evanglii Nuntiandi, 75). Precisely as domestic churches such families are ‘temples’ of the Holy Spirit. The domestic churches within the household of the faith could be genuine signs and instruments of intimate union with God and of solidarity among the diverse multicultural, multi faith Ghanaians.
The Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his Homily during Mass for the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families, said that, “Everyone knows that the Christian family is a special sign of the presence and love of Christ and that it is called to give a specific and irreplaceable contribution to evangelization”.
The solution to the problems of our world lies mainly in maintaining deep love for another among families. The essence and role of the family are deeply rooted in love. We need unity to survive. Family unity ensures stable and peaceful society. If the stability of the family unit is disturbed, the entire society becomes unstable and is doomed.
As Catholics actively living our baptismal and matrimonial vows is a testimony to the world. As members of the Catholic family, being united and loving one another and outsiders is a testimony of our faith. The domestic church is Christ and His members gathered in the one natural Christian family. ‘
The family’s catechetical activity has a special character, which is in a sense irreplaceable. This special character has been rightly stressed by the church which should begin from children’s tenderest age.
Members of a family should help each other to grow in faith through the witness of their Christian lives, a witness that is often without words but which perseveres throughout a day to day life lived in accordance with the Gospel. (Catechesis Trandendae, #68).
For an efficient agents of evangelization as we want the families to be we need to have Marshallans who are themselves living in peaceful families and are ready to share their experiences. There is the need for prayerful Marshallan who help various families to pray since the family that prays together lives together. We need Marshallan who will organize families for retreats and family workshops. We need Marshallan who will counsel troubled families and remind them of their vows. We need Marshallan who will help families to study the Bible. The Marshallan therefore plays an integral role if the family is to be an agent of evangelization.
The presence of the Marshallan will ensure the quality of the family life. This life will be shared since the family must offer help to one another and those in need. (James 2:15-17). A living faith requires active concern for the oppressed, the homeless and the downtrodden. 80 families can be helped to learn to adopt abandoned children, welcome strangers, support the aged, support and counsel the young people for marriage so as to reduce the increasing incidence of failed marriages, particularly within the few years of marriage.
In conclusion, we can say that the family is a participant in the mission of the church, which is an important focus of the New Evangelization. Each member of the family must have an encounter with Christ in order to be an agent of evangelization. The family will then bear fruit as an agent of the New Evangelization as it is grafted to Christ, the True Vine. (John 1521-2).
The role of the Marshallan in this regard cannot be underestimated since his presence and teachings to the families will help make the families the agents we are looking. Marshallans must themselves be good family members who give good testimony of their lives to the families they supervise.