Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Work and family

TO immediately give the focus of this essay, let me quote some lines from Pope Paul II’s “Laborem exercens”, his encyclical on human work.

“Work constitutes a foundation for the formation of family life…These two spheres of values—work and family—must be properly united and must permeate each other.” (10.1)

I feel that there’s a tremendous need for us to have a good understanding not only of the crucial roles work and family play in our lives, but also of the intimate mutual relationship that exists between the two.

Work depends on the family, and vice-versa, the family depends on work. I believe much of our problem today stems from our failure, quite common, to blend these two basic values properly.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church echoes the same concern when it says: “Family and work deserve finally to be considered in a more realistic light, with an attention that seeks to understand them together.” (294)

Work assures a means of subsistence and serves as a guarantee for raising children. It also has a highly educational value so important in the life and responsibility of families.

It is a school of virtues for all the members of the family. The sense of justice and solidarity, the sense of order and priority, the virtues of prudence, fortitude, industry, patience, determination, etc. are learned through work.

Work should not be pursued in a strictly economic way where things are simply calculated in terms of money and of cold, often inhuman inefficiency. It should help in the humanization of men in the family.

The family, on the other hand, should not be so understood and developed as to deny the importance of work. It should also help in the humanization of work, giving work its heart and soul.

In many countries, and even in ours, anomalies regarding this intimate relationship between work and family exist, causing untold damage in the lives of persons and of societies in general.

Everyone should be encouraged, from individuals to different social institutions and even the government, to know and build up the healthy dynamic relationship between work and family.

Thus, the same Compendium says: “It is necessary that businesses, professional organizations, labor unions and the State promote policies that, from an employment point of view, do not penalize but rather support the family nucleus.” (294)

We have to realize deeply that on these values depends to a large extent our authentic development, both as individual persons and members of society, both in our material and temporal aspect as well as in our spiritual and supernatural dimension.

We should try to avoid situations where we have to travel great distances to the workplace, to keep two jobs, and to fall into physical and psychological fatigue that reduce the time devoted to the family.

We should also try to avoid situations of unemployment which have material and spiritual repercussions on families. Tensions and family crises have negative influences on attitudes and productivity in the area of work.

Work conditions should always be attentive to objective and subjective family needs, since we are dealing with persons, and not machines or objects.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The thirst for unity

THIS is what we should actively foster these days. We seem to be running amok, and in a bitterly divisive and destructive mode lately. We cannot go on like this, unless we have no other interest in life than to destroy ourselves until death, doom and irretrievable perdition.

Why, even little issues, faults and problems are blown out of proportion, creating a lot of noise and generating waves of tension in everyone. What is needed is healing, reconciliation, understanding, restraint, prudence, etc. In short, unity.

Unity is a basic need, a law of life. It's not only a necessity for the individual, but also and especially for the society. It is what makes us live properly and decently, and work effectively.

It is a constant and permanent need of ours. But we have to learn to work it out, simply because we cannot presume that it will just come about automatically. We are more complicated than what that would imply.

Disunity can only manifest a wound that needs to be healed, a problem that needs to be solved. Disunity is anti-life. It heralds and leads to death. Before that happens, it causes a lot of waste, in time, money, effort, everything.

Disunity makes men hate each other, fight and quarrel. It starts when one only his own interest in mind, without giving due attention to the common good. Its worst virus is when one's self-interest is seen to be what the common good is, even what God's will is.

It follows the logic of the flesh, the world and the devil. It's good in sowing intrigues, in destroying possible bridges among the people. It's reason on a rampage, unattached to faith and charity, and fed by passions and anger.

Unity, of course, is not a matter of uniformity. This is because we simply are different, unique individuals, unrepeatable despite modern cloning technologies, and with different backgrounds and circumstances.

Unity can tolerate and even foster a certain variety and plurality of views and positions. It respects them and tries to integrate them into a life-enriching combination that would redound to the good of all.

We need to build and live unity because we are all brothers and sisters living in the same world and in the same country. For a Christian believer, these natural reasons can even give way to supernatural motives.

We need to be united because we are all children of God, the image of Christ imprinted on each one of us inspite of our sinfulness. We have to learn to look at each other as another Christ. We have to learn to help each other to be consistent to our Christian dignity.

This unity can only be possible if union with Christ is made its source and fount. It's a union that is nurtured by a continuing dealing with him through prayers, sacraments, sacrifices, active application of Christian doctrine to life and culture.

This is the unity that is able to overcome the fragmentation of our inner life, and the division and conflicts of our life with others. This is the unity that is the antithesis of sin, the cause of all conflicts. It's a unity that requires constant conversion.

Only when we are united with Christ can we aspire to be instruments of unity and peace wherever we may be. We have to develop the habits of praying for everyone, of sowing understanding and charity in our dealings with others.

We have to develop the appropriate attitudes and virtues--wanting always to be agents of concord among us all, ready to overcome conflicts, to forgive and to ask for forgiveness also. We should stay away from any trace of resentments.

These efforts, of course, will need a lot of sacrifices, of self-denial, of acts of humility. We need to know how to be silent, how to listen and understand others well, how to be truly interested in the good of others, giving excuses for them whenever necessary.

This is the thirst for unity that we should always have!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Living the Eucharist

WE are now winding up the Year of the Eucharist, both worldwide and locally. In the Vatican, they are having the Synod of bishops to
discuss varied relevant issues.

I gathered that some delicate points are being discussed, and that some measure of discretion is being asked of the participants in talking to the media about the issues. Let’s just pray for a smooth and fruitful sailing of this Synod.

In Cebu and in many other dioceses, congresses and other assemblies are being held to see what have been accomplished in terms of Eucharistic devotion in the past year.

Were there an increase and an improvement in Eucharistic piety among believers? What initiatives can be made to sustain this devotion?
Questions like these are tackled in these gatherings.

These efforts are always necessary and need to be sustained with ever greater creativity, to perpetuate the awareness of the indispensable importance of the Eucharist, the sacrament that contains the real presence of Christ.

It’s a perennial challenge to all of us to find ways for everyone to develop and live a truly Eucharistic spirit. The Eucharist should not only be a matter of ideas, words and desires. It has to be lived in our daily activities and concerns.

Put in words, the challenge is how we can translate the many richly theological descriptions of the Eucharist into concrete impulses that guide and shape the minds and hearts of the people.

The ideal would be for the ordinary faithful to revolve their thoughts and desires around the Eucharist. The ideal would be for them to realize that everything they do, no matter how mundane, should start and end in the Eucharist.

That is to say, how can we make believers pine and long for the
Eucharist? How can we make the faithful relate everything they are, have and do to the Eucharist? How can they see that the Eucharist is relevant in everything in their life?

This is the most difficult part about the Eucharistic devotion. We tend to lose sight of the Eucharistic relevance in our lives as we immerse ourselves in our daily work.

The Eucharist is supposed to be the center and root of our interior life,the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. It is what builds the Church. But how can we make these very lofty truths of our faith a reality in life?

Obviously some continuing evangelization of the Eucharist is needed. For this we need teachers, experts and theologians, thoroughly grounded on the proper doctrine of our faith, to keep on talking about this most wonderful treasure.

Let’s hope that we can have sacred ministers as well as lay people who are endowed with a deep sense of mission in undertaking this delicate task. It’s sad to think that instead of doing this, some get entangled with purely political and partisan affairs.

I must say that we in the Philippines are blessed with a people whose capacity for faith is great. We just have to give more substance to that faith, to make it bear real fruits in the different aspects of our life, including business and politics.

But more than teachers, experts and theologians, what are direly
needed are living witnesses whose words and deeds and whose life in general eloquently show their Eucharistic soul.

How wonderful it would be if we have consistent believers whose
presence alone could lead others to discover the marvel that is the Holy Eucharist!

There are many anecdotes of great saints whose conversion to the faith was triggered by witnessing the simple and authentic Eucharistic piety of ordinary people. St. Edith Stein’s conversion was something like this.

Simple things like a genuflections before the Blessed Sacrament
properly done, frequent and active participation in Holy Mass, spending time preparing for it and giving thanks after it—these can go a long way in living the Eucharist well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Chastity in marriage

EVERYTIME I give a talk on this topic, I can't help but get amused by the look of disbelief I see on the faces of many people.

It is as if I'm talking about a very strange, arcane thing, a doctrine from the moon perhaps. I could almost hear their derisive reaction: "Hello, good morning, are you still on earth? Are you an alien?"

This simply confirms my suspicion. There's a lot of ignorance and confusion surrounding this basic aspect of married life. We can presume that from there, a lot of irregular and highly immoral marital acts must be taking place around us!

In the first place, there's that terribly mistaken notion that chastity is just a matter of not doing this and not doing that. It is a killer of freedom, a spoiler of spontaneity. It's even accused of being anti-human.

Many others now believe that chastity, if ever it has some use, is just for the young or the very old, the single if not the abnormal. They claim it has no place in a normally constructed person. And definitely no place in married life.

As if marriage bestows on a person the license to act as brutes, to follow simply the impulses of one's hormones and instincts. It is as if marriage means one can forget his conscience, his spiritual life, his supernatural destination.

Terribly lost in the minds of many is the beautiful truth that chastity is a virtue that perfects man, that makes him more human, that makes him have better human dominion over his animal urges.

Hardly appreciated is the fundamental truth that chastity is an affirmation of love, a defense of the true meaning and nature of human sexuality and marriage, removing them from the clutches of some blind forces.

If ever it involves sacrifices and self-denial, it is simply because as men and women we are free to choose to be either an animal or a person, a merely biological organism or a child of God. And in that choice, some struggle is unavoidable.

Making things worse are the shameless campaigns promoting population control, family planning, reproductive health, sex education, safe sex, etc., that twist, distort and disfigure the reality of human sexuality, chastity and marriage.

We have to remind everyone that chastity is indispensable in marriage because we continue to be human persons and children of God when we marry. We have to respect the nature of human sexuality.

The Catholic Church has always proclaimed the goodness and lawfulness of the acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place.

But she teaches that these actions should be effectively guided by objective criteria drawn from the nature of the human person and human action. We just cannot be governed by the laws of practicality and pleasure-seeking.

Chastity in marriage follows these criteria that respect the total self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. It includes as an essential element that of openness to life in the acts proper to marriage.

Thus, chastity in marriage necessarily excludes the intrinsically immoral act of contraception, defined as "any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation, whether as an end or as a means."

Contraception usurps God's power of giving life. It makes man, not God, the ultimate source of human life. It makes man, not God, exercise the power to dictate the coming into existence of a human person.

Besides, contraception breaks the naturally insperable connection between the unitive and procreative properties of the marriage act. It gets hooked with the unitive aspect with all its pleasure-giving component, and rejects the responsibility associated with its procreative aspect.

Actually, no matter how one sweetens or rationalizes it, contraception is a degradation of married love and a corruption of the couple concerned. It makes the marital act not an act of love, but rather an act of selfisness.

We need to make a strong and clear reminder of this fundamental requirement of married life, and to promote chastity in marriage everywhere.