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The Evangelical Family

The basic unit of society is a witness to the world

By Russell Brewer

The dignity of the human person is first affirmed in the family. God created man for companionship and in doing so designed him to learn his own humanity through the love and care of the family.

In recent times, we have seen multiple assaults on the family. These attacks have tended to tear asunder the foundations of society by deemphasizing and even denigrating the family. As a result, the family has lost some of the dignity it inherently deserves. The Church recognizes that it must help restore the dignity of the family because it is only then that the family can be a witness to the world.

The family is constituted with an evangelical nature to spread the Gospel. As the Second Vatican Council taught: “laymen cooperate in the work of evangelization by nurturing in themselves and in others a knowledge and love of the missions; by stimulating vocations in their own family… that they may offer to others that gift of Faith which they have received” (Ad Gentes, 41). Gospel values are not for an elite class; they must be experienced in and through the family.

The family has its own mission from God to be the first and most vital cell of society. Vatican II stresses that the family fulfills its mission, and therefore brings man to God, by participating in the daily life of the Church through liturgical worship, prayer, hospitality and love. A life centered on Christ leads the family to cooperate with God, to bring love into the world and communion between mankind and God and people with each other.

The family has an evangelical mission to witness to the world God’s love for humanity by first creating an atmosphere of that love within the home. The family already possesses this evangelical nature which aids the Church and humanity come closer to communion with God fulfilling their nature! The renewal of the family’s apostolate is necessary especially in light of the contemporary crises the family faces. Vatican II carefully described some of these problems: “married love is too often profaned by excessive self-love, the worship of pleasure and illicit practices against human generation. Moreover, serious disturbances are caused in families by modern economic conditions, by influences at once social and psychological, and by the demands of civil society” (Gaudium et Spes, 47). If man was truly created by God to be loved and know God, and the family is the beginning of this relationship, then any threat to the family is simultaneously a threat to mankind. Mankind’s ill will only be cured through the renewal of the family life through society.

Family life introduces to the person the true joy and meaning to life. In order to encounter the many trials of the world, man needs the strong family to stand firm. The attacks against the family will only be defeated by a renewal of the family. These threats are first and foremost combatted by the parents. Their love for each other builds a fortress for the family against the wickedness and snares of the world. Parents discipline the children to become persons for others through moderation in eating habits, doing chores with gratitude, and monitoring appropriate mediums for education. The example of the parents infuses virtue into their children and builds a just society based on God’s love, and also a holier Church united in its common brotherhood. Nurturing the first and vital cell of the family is pivotal for the life of the Church.

Thus the Christian family, which springs from marriage as a reflection of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church, must manifest Christ's living presence in the world, and the genuine nature of the Church. The family will do this by the mutual love of the spouses, by their generous fruitfulness, by their solidarity and faithfulness, and by the loving way in which all members of the family assist one another.

As Vatican II rightly points out, man’s return to this true dignity will need come through the witness of the family as man’s first and most important group. In a world of violence, promiscuity, abuse, and chaos the family is necessary to bring order, restore dignity, reclaim chastity, and produce true peace for humanity. The evangelical nature of the family shows that when man turns to the family he will turn to his origin and destiny. He will find in the loving embrace of the family his Lord; who, through Baptism, has adopted him into his own family.

Russell Brewer lives in St. Louis with his wife, Rachelle, and their soon-to-be five boys: Matthew, 5: Joseph, 4; Michael, 2; Karl, 1; and Louis, due date March 31, 2016. He is a manager of business analytics at a transportation company.