“Behind good manners, there are bad habits”. These are the words of Pope Francis, uttered recently with reference to the family. A warning to live Christianity to the full and especially within the fundamental nucleus of society. A warning that should be taken in consideration both in interpersonal relations between spouses and children, as well as the tangible expression of how one should conceive a journey of faith.
But how do Christian families really live in the world? In totally different ways, depending on whether you live in Rome, the cradle of Catholicism, or whether you live in Mosul, Iraq, or in South America or on the other side of the globe, in Australia.
Iraqi Christians – for example-in the north of the country were stripped of all their personal belongings, houses, in a manner that, as mentioned by the Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako, not even Genghis Khan came to conceive and practise when eight centuries ago, he had invaded the territories that today correspond to Iraq. In those lands, the family that wishes to profess Christianity, cannot live, not even survive. It is of no coincidence that the neighbouring Kurdistan has prepared a series of camps to accommodate frightened women and children facing the horror of Isis.
There are those who fled but also those who “emigrated” willingly to evangelize. This is the case of Juan and Maribel, Mexican couple who lived in California and then together with their 8 children went on mission to Cape Town, in South Africa. Everyone, young and old, live in a Christian way putting tehmselves at the service of the poorest in a a shantytown, in very dangerous area. There, they celebrate their Christianity in a different barrack every time. They receive no wages but Providence is on the agenda. They get help on a daily basis from everyone, especially food. The Neocatechumenal communities of origin (California) helps with the rent and other expenses. But it is a difficult placeyo live in, the place is full of new mosques and many different religions. When children invite their companions at home, they are amazed to see how they eat at the table. or the relationship with parents. Or that boys and girls have separate rooms; many people in fact live together, there is so much promisquity and violence within the family. The true mission is simply to show the beauty of a Christian family.
On Saturday the Eucharist with communities that cathcise and Sunday is the highlight of the day: praises. A real and proper home where the father presides over the celebration. They sing praises with various instruments, the banquet table (flowers and cross) and then the round of experiences: the dad asks the children if the Word has “resonated” in facts of their daily lives, what problems they have had at school, if they have passed judgement on one of their brothersand exhorts them to ask for forgiveness and to give them the kiss of peace. Then to finish, before the ‘benedictus’ the father gets up, the children line up and one after another they are given the blessing.
In Perth, Western Australia, the situation is different. In the family Spissu, Sardinian origin, there are 8 children. The house where they live, is in an area where there is a Catholic Church, and where there are people of dfferent races: Indians, Pakistanis, Americans, Europeans, Africans, Chinese, Russians, South Americans. And as a result all religions, even sects and new age. Baldaivis, is a neighborhood with very few Christians, and the Spissu family are like a small seed thrown to the ground. Slowly you get to know the people of the neighborhood that are attracted by “different interpersonal relationships” because of their eagerness to under stand they become more acquainted: so you can celebrate mass every day at 7 a.m. with those who so desire.
What strikes the eye from these accounts is the way to witness being a Christian family in different parts of the world: whether there is war, or whether you are alone in a land where the word of God has not come and where poverty is the first thought and where noone pays ay heed to religion , right there the Christians take on a meaning of strong commitment, totalitarian, convinced. They sacrifice everything, even their lives. A slap at a certain opportunism in living religion, that today, in the world dominated by relativism, reigns among Catholics too.
The estimates on current persecution of Christians, compiled by Bishop JohnMcAreavey’s, Chairman of the Council for Justice and peace of the Irish Bishops ‘ Conference is disconcerting: each year, at least 100,000 Christians are killed because of their faith, or 273 per day, amounting to 11 victims per hour. And others are tortured, imprisoned, exiled, threatened, attacked, marginalised, discriminated against “.
Currently, Christianity is the religion that is the most oppressed in the world and its people are persecuted in at least 110 countries. In addition: today, 80% of all discriminatory acts that are perpetrated in the world is directed against Christians. Hard to even live as a “family” in some contexts.
But even in the affluent west, the family is losing the essence of being Christian. For this Pope Francesco wanted the Synod. It is indeed “able to propose again to today’s world, in some ways so similar to that of the early days of the Church –as is written in ‘Relatio ante disceptationem’-the charm of the Christian message about marriage and the family, emphasising the joy they give, but at the same time to give real answers impregnated with charity to the many problems which particularly affects existence today”.
An ideal embrace between the extraordinary Synod of October 2014 and 2015 GeneralSynod. It is of no coincidence that just today, on the same day as the International day, which will be celebrated in Colombia for the fifth time running, the event dedicated to the missionary family. According to the Pontifical Mission Societies of Colombia (POM), who promote the initiative, “it is in the family that you learn sacred values as love and be loved, unity in diversity, sharing, service …” Behold, this means being a true family.