|Maria Victoria G. Bernabe
Jennie Vee F. Pesa
Ateneo de Manila University
MA in Religious Education
THE FILIPINO FAMILY, SACRAMENTAL PRESENCE OF GOD TODAY
Statement of the problem:
“There can be no doubt that the Filipino family plays a pivotal role in the life of the individual and society”1 and in their faith formation. But how is Christian faith formed among the Filipinos? Is faith formation the sole task of the Church? of religion teachers and of catechists? When should it start? How should it be done?
Being a parent today is such a challenge. It is not enough that the basic needs of children are provided, there is more to the daily provisions. As parents, we do wish that our children become not only good individuals but more importantly mature Christians. To form young people who are capable of discerning what is right from wrong and consequently do what is right and correct as they are motivated by love and concern for people and all of creation. Is this an easy or a difficult task? There are plenty of books on parenting, but do they provide strategies for this role? Are there threats for parents in doing this task?
“Filipino Catholic youth in recent survey showed the close link between their families and their growth in faith.”2 The family is indeed significant in the value and faith formation of their children. Kissing of hand, saying po and opo, respect for elderly, are only a few of the Filipino traits and virtues that are transmitted and preserved in the family . Prayers, saints, Catholic feasts are introduced to us by our parents. Groome stated that,” with the advent of universal education, a profound shift occurred in western consciousness that embrace schooling and schools as the primary mode and locus of education”3With this development and due to economic reasons-both parents are working and children are left to the care of relatives or yaya’s. Parents have passed the responsibility of educating and forming their children in virtues and in the faith to the school, to the extended families , to the Church or some have simply feel inadequate in keeping their task as heralds of God. “Formal Catholic education makes an important contribution but cannot substitute for family influence.”4 It is given that schools provide faith knowledge and formation to children but we cannot deny that essential role of the family in providing opportunities for the children and other members of the family to grow in faith. Vatican II stresses that, “The family is, in a sense, a school for human enrichment” 5 which stresses the indispensable role of parents in educating their children in the faith. Therefore, we can say that Parents are irreplaceable formators of the faith. “When they become parents, spouses receive from God the gift of a new responsibility. Their parental love is called to become for the children the visible sign of the very love of God,”6 Their vocation comes from and should never be ignored.
God’s love and presence is made known through varied ways and people. In the family, God is made visible and credible through parents’ words of love and acts of charity toward their children and all the people they meet. So, parents should not feel inadequate as heralds of the faith because
faith is dispensed in daily life, not (only) in Church; in conversation, not only during a sermon. It is administered not (only) in prayer and meditation, but in situations where prayer shows that is genuine and where meditations result in
the apostolate 7
Vatican II declares that, “Parents must be recognized as being primarily and principally responsible for the education of their children” 8 especially in the faith. Can parents educate their children to recognize God in everything they say and do and in everyone they encounter? And as parents, they are one of the means of God in revealing Himself. Through them, the reality of God and His love is made known. As expressed by Greeley,
religious sensibility is passed on by storytellers, most of whom are not aware that they are telling stories because their narratives reside more in who they are and what they do rather than in what they say. Religious heritages are transmitted,
not necessarily by official teachers and preachers, but more likely by intimates,
those who are closest to us in our lives....
The strongest religious socializing influences are, not surprisingly, parents,
religious experience, closeness to nature, friends, religious community,
quality of religious education, quality of preaching , and spouse, each adding
a new layer of religious influence to previous layers. Of these, the most powerful
are the parents and spouse.9
With thesereality at hand, are parents aware of their basic responsibility of being evangelizers of their children and sacraments of God to people around them? How can the Filipino family be the sacramental presence of God in the world today?
Scope and Limitation:
This study is limited to the discussion of the call “to parents as first
heralds of the faith with regard to their children 10 . This paper is addressed to parents in rural area and all those responsible for the rearing of children. It will discuss:
1) the state of the family in today’s world (problems, issues)
2) the nature of the family
a) as a sacrament
b) community of persons grounded in the Trinity
3) a) sacramental worldview
b) how does parents impart a sacramental worldview to their children
-parental practices that lead children to develop a sacramental view of the world.
Significance of the Study
In this day and age of modernization, the Filipino family is exposed to different threats to their nature as community of persons and sacraments of God’s presence. Parents are faced with tremendous challenge to their basic call of transmitting the faith to their children.
Hence, this paper will attempt to remind the parents that” the Christian family is so important, and its role so basic in transforming the world and building up the Kingdom of God.”11 The first lesson, encounters and experiences of God by the children should come from the parents and lead them to experience God. As family, they’ll nurture their sense of communion and love and give witness to God’s revelation with other members of the Church and of society.
This paper may be of help to parents and everyone who are responsible in the upbringing of children. This can help them to realize their significant role as parents and faith formators of children. As evangelizers, they’ll come to understand that everything they say and do is a way of revealing God to their children and all those around them thus leading to intimacy and communion with God. “Through Gods word and life giving spirit, then, man can be a sign of Gods loving presence.” 12
The steps taken to produce this paper were the following: 1) current situation of the Filipino family was studied, 2) the Scriptures and church documents such as Familiaris Consortio, Lumen Gentium, Dei Verbum and Gaudium et Spes were analyzed and used to support the teachings of the Church on the nature of the family, 3) significant thoughts of Bernard Harring, Gabriel Moran, Andrew Greeley, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Pope Francis on the said subject provided affirmation to our assertions on this paper.
Filipino family today
We are a country that places great value and importance on the family. Our Philippine Constitution declares, “The state recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic and autonomous institution.”13 As the first and vital cell of the society, we acknowledge that the life in the family in which every member of it are being nurtured and guided to become a better individual in the society. Familiaris Consortio states that, “the family grounds and continually nourishes the existence and development of society itself.”14
“Unfortunately, the family in the modern world has been beset by the many profound and rapid changes that have affected society and culture.” 15 There are many obstacles that hinder the family to become what they are called for. Situations and circumstances are threatening the sanctity of marriage and the family. Today, many Catholics are living together without receiving the sacrament, teenage and premarital pregnancy are becoming normal among the youth. Economic factors force the father/mother or both to be separated and causes suffering to the children or sometimes results in breaking up of the family. Infidelity and irreconcilable differences are only a few of the causes of family separation. “Economic, social, psychological, and civil climate of today has a severely disturbing effect on family life.”16 Broken homes will affect the way each member look at life or how they relate to another person.
With these realities that the Filipino family is facing, how are they going to live up their calling to be God’s presence in the world? That amidst difficulties and brokenness they may be able to share God’s love to all. That they share “the intimate partnership of life and love”17; “an image and sharer in the partnership of love between Christ and the Church?” 18
The Christian family
What is a Christian family of today? How do we define a family in a Christian perspective? We can affirm at least this much: A Christian family is a community of people that is living in relationship with each member and are committed to his vocation, first and foremost, to have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, following His mission to love.
A good Christian family is one that is directly to God and to the well-being of the society. The family is not an institution which man alone created. It is God who wills, creates and sustains the family in order for them to responsibly do their duties to be sacrament of God to their children and to the larger community. The Christian spouses are the minister to their children as they create harmonious atmosphere at home. The relationship are being strengthened through acts of love, faith, supporting and caring, attending to the needs of each other, giving comfort to those that are burdened by anxiety and problems. They are also minister to all, outside their home. The greater need to extend their arms to the poor and the needy outside their comfort zones makes the children more capable of bringing Christ to their neighbor.
PCP II warns of “family unity based solely on ties of flesh and blood”, and consequently “insensitive to the greater demands of the common good.” 19 The family is being summoned not only to become a family at home but a family that is active and present in taking particular actions to alleviate the life of their neighbor as they live up their service to the Church.
The Filipino Family, a Sacrament of God
A sacrament is a “performative word events that make present the spiritual reality they express”20. God uses tangible and visible symbols and realities that enable people to know Him, feel His presence and see Him actively working in us and for us. Marriage is one of the sacraments instituted to encounter God’s presence. Marriage reflects the relationship of God and His people and the love shared by the husband and the wife shows God’s love for His people, the Church.
The Filipino family is a sacrament of God nowadays as they reveal and communicate God’s goodness and love to everyone. How does the family become a sacrament? As the family is a community united in love, they bring into the world the message of God’s love and salvation not only to their immediate family but also to the wider family where they belong. “They give good example to one another and to its surrounding world as they bear witness to one another and to the world with the faith they profess.”21 The unity existing within the family affirms the bond that Christ has for the Church. God’s unconditional love to is lived up by the sacrifices that the family perform for each other.
Despite the rapid changes happening today that affect the value system and lifestyle of people , still there are parents who are faithful to their calling as faith formators. Faith is nourished as they inculcate in their children the value of the Eucharist in attending mass together, family prayers during meal time is still observed, observing Church celebrations (Easter, Christmas,etc) and practices (abstinence, rosary, novena, etc). Sense of responsibility is strengthened as parents personally raise and attend to the needs of their children despite the presence of yaya’s; each member of the family is empowered as they share responsibility in keeping the household and the family. There are families who extend kindness to others by joining and even organizing outreach activities for the poor, people affected by calamities, environmental consciousness and even political involvement. And there are other ways in which parents of today are models of virtues to their children and to others. As the saying goes, “values are caught and they are not taught.”
Children also share in the role of becoming a sacrament of God. Respect for parents and the elderly are still a strong trait among the young; prioritizing one’s education for a better future for themselves and their family is a value for them; involvement in activities in society and in the Church are part of their responsibilities to be in communion with larger family they belong to. These are only some of their efforts to grow as productive individuals and conscientious persons and citizens.
The Family, grounded on the Trinity
God is love and He shares His divine love to humanity through the Incarnation of His Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that constantly guides and sanctifies us in life. One way to have a glimpse of the communion of Persons of the Trinity is the bond of unity that exist in the family. “Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit.”22 Despite the unique personality of the different members, the family mirrors the Trinity in their relationship and in their daily experiences.
For in the mutual sharing of thoughts, affections, and in all their ups and downs,
Christian families are actively creative like the Father. In offering prayers and sacrifices
to God , they share in Jesus the Incarnate Son’s own prayer and redemptive sacrifice.
Finally, Christian families form a community of interpersonal love by being
inspired and strengthened by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.23
Indeed, the daily acts, conversation and encounter of each other are instances wherein the Trinity is made visible in the family .
Sacramental Worldview of Children imparted by Parents
Through the eyes of faith, we Catholics acknowledge and believe that God is visibly present in all creation, events, and experiences and most especially among human beings. All of these are sources and channels of God’s abundant grace.
How do parents impart a sacramental worldview to their children? How can they lead their children to recognize and acknowledge God’s presence in the world, in their experiences and all the people they encounter? It is through the act of witnessing that parents are able to do this task.
First, parents convey the truth that everything comes from God (the sun, the moon, the food on the table, etc) and one should be thankful for it, so wise use of resources of the earth must be observed ( energy and water conservation, consume all food in one’s plate, buy what is needed and not what one wants, etc). With these, parents are leading their children to regard creation and everything in it with respect and gratitude.
Secondly, the strength, unity and faith manifested by parents from the experiences that they went through in life relay to their children that one should not give up with all challenges that they’ll face daily and that God never leave a person’s side.
Thirdly, children’s view of life with beauty and joy comes from parents who appreciate every event that happen in their life ( good and/or bad events) as opportunities for growth. That God is with them in their journey as persons in the community.
Love enables parents to cherish, protect and respect each member of the family despite their differences thus , children are able to manifest this trait in welcoming and accepting others without biases, judgment and prejudices. This also drives them to extend services and acts of charity towards the last, the least and the lost.
These are only some of the ways how parents are imparting a sacramental view to their children and a way of being evangelizers of God.
But faith formation is not only for complete families. Parents who are separated due to
economic reasons-mother/father or both are working overseas, marital break-up and among
others do not lessen their dignity to be heralds of faith to their children and to others. There
are single parents who are able to raise successful children and it shows that good fruit does
not only come from good tree. Success is a choice, a person’s life is a product of his/her
choices. Pope Francis stated in his homily at Casa Santa Marta, “saints are not heroes, they
are sinners that bear witness to Christ.”24
Challenge to the Filipino family as a sacrament of God today
Love is the factor that brings a man and a woman in marriage. Children are fruits of the love of the husband and the wife. It is also love that sustains, nourishes and keeps the relationship of the man and woman marriage and the parents and children in the family. “The family, which is founded and given life by love, is a community of persons; of husband and wife, of parents and children, of relatives.” 25 Amidst economic difficulties, societal threats , conflicts of personalities, pressures from within and among others, it is love that keeps the members united and enables them to make sacrifices for the sake of each other. As the saying goes, ‘Love conquers all’, the family can conquer all!
Not all families enjoy the unity and harmony to which they are called for. And to those
families exposed to the danger of separation and break up and those undergoing healing from
this sad state, they are assured that in life “Christ is the source of grace” 26 in overcoming life’s
challenges. Despite unfortunate situations, each one is called to holiness, to give witness to
God and His love and salvation to all men and women.
TITLE OF MATERIAL: “FILIPINO FAMILY, SACRAMENTAL PRESENCE OF
AUDIENCE: parents and those responsible in rearing children in the rural area
(expected attendees- 30 persons)
OBJECTIVES: To lead the participants to:
know the condition of the Filipino family today;
recognize the sacramental nature of the family that is grounded in the Trinity;
identify the role of parents as faith formators of children;
share parental practices in developing a sacramental view of the world to their children;
Opening Prayer “I see you Lord” (by Aiza Seguerra)
Getting to know activity 1:45-2:15
“Body Parts Game”
( Participants are grouped into 5. The groups identify body parts that begin with a specific letter given by the facilitator. They are to write as many body parts as they can and place their answers on one member that serves as their “stick board”. )
Session I 2:15-3:15
The Filipino Family Today
Small Group Sharing and reporting
(Each group describes the condition of the Filipino family today. They will report their observation on the situation of the family in the big group.)
2. Processing of input by data presentation through a powerpoint)
The Christian family
The Family as Sacrament of God
Input from the facilitator
Short video or picture presentation of families who are : God –centered, service-oriented, environment- friendly, civic-oriented, etc.
The following will be stressed:
Family as communion of persons grounded on the Trinity
Family as sacraments/symbols of God’s presence today
Health Break 3:15-3:30
Session 2 3:30-4:30
Input from facilitator on Sacramental View of the world and the need to impart this view to the children
Group Sharing of best practices on how they impart a sacramental view to their children
Role playing on how parents impart a sacramental view to one’s children
Concluding Part: Eucharistic celebration
A bible and a rosary will be given to the participants as a sign of an on- going mission to be heralds and formators faith