The family is a reality, a natural institution that is found in all cultures, even if family life is lived differently in different places and times.
It is undeniable that our family life marks us deeply. There was a time when grandparents, parents, children and here and there an aunt or uncle lived in the same house every day. Nowadays, this intergenerational dimension is less present. But the family network still has a certain influence.
There are divided families, often very problematic, and very happy families where joy in life generally reigns.
Children have a particular need for their family. It is the family that protects, nurtures and educates them. Brothers and sisters are also important. Each family also has its own characteristics and rules. Each family has its own history, almost a culture of its own.
Personally, I particularly appreciated, especially during the summer and for many years, the presence of my cousins. My parents welcomed my mother’s sister and all her family. They used to come and camp on the grounds of our cottage. I have happy and vivid memories of this.
There are also what we call stepfamilies, in which beautiful values are found: following a failure, there is often a salutary recovery, an overcoming of conflicts.
A young person, for example, who was not fully accepted in his own family, was able to find a family that welcomed him at important moments in his life and felt happy there. Who hasn’t heard: this woman or this man was like a second mother or a second father to me?
There is what is called “a religious family”: the Holy Cross family, the Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Jesuits, etc. Women and men from different backgrounds come together to share the same ideal and the same mission. They share the same family spirit.
There is, of course, the Holy Family, the one for whom Saint Brother André had a great devotion. Mary and Joseph accepted God’s plan for each of them. What was asked of them was not obvious. They trusted the word of the angel, the dreams in which God met them and spoke to them.
Family also implies separation in a certain way: leaving one’s immediate family to find one’s own family. It is far from being a total break, but it is nevertheless something new, something different. It is also accepting the family of one’s spouse. This Holy Family also introduces us into the family of God’s children that is the Church, under the protection of Mary and Joseph.
May Saint Joseph, patron saint of Families, inspire us in our daily lives!
Bernard East, o.p.
Photography: Brother André and the Cantin Family (1922)