Life & Family

We live in an age that stresses personal goals, careers, happiness, work, religion and spirituality. The emphasis is on the individual and how best that individual can satisfy them-self. There are as many degrees and types of living, ideals and morals as there are people. Since one of the common denominators is freedom to do as one pleases, there is very little to contrast. To this way of thinking, everyone is free to be and do whatever he pleases without causing anyone any harm. This state of animated blahs perpetuates only darkness, for light is kindled by a clash of ideas, from strong concepts of right and wrong, from leaders who are fearless and stand tall on the side of justice.

We do not find choices between good and evil thrust upon us today — only the confusion of half-truths, blatant evil disguised as part of modern living, and an indifference to sin called "tolerance" and "love”. Self-satisfaction at everyone else's expense is considered a kind of fulfillment and any reaction to the contrary is an infringement on personal freedom.

Married life has become to many a necessary burden, but a burden that is shed very easily. Faithfulness has become merely a biblical term no longer relevant or possible in an age of modern enlightenment. Adultery and fornication have passed from unfaithfulness and sin to an inability to love only one person and the fulfilment of one's basic needs. Children who are to be the fruit of love are considered mere accidents, financial burdens, consumers of the world's food supply, an infringement on personal freedom to utilize untapped talents which are destined to be forever buried. This, alas, is the thinking of the minority to the dismay of the disheartened majority.

Not every family suffers from all these evils. But perhaps it is safe to say that we are all tainted in some way with their effects. What can we do to correct these ills? Where do we start? Do we run away and hide in some remote area or will that hopeless spirit follow us wherever we go? Do we band together for mutual up-building and protection? What happens to the rest of mankind if we retreat? Are the problems facing us so gigantic that we are forced to stand still as we wait for the final blow? Do we form minority groups for protection, growth and perseverance?

Whatever we find must be applicable to every form of Family Living. We must also keep in mind that the Family Spirit concept is not always synonymous with family life. Bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh makes for brothers, sisters and relatives, who may be as distant as strangers in a foreign land. The world will always be blest with families or it will become extinct. It is not always blest with a family spirit in the midst of its families. The result is that every facet of daily life is affected with selfishness, indifference, lack of respect, cruelty and coldness.

The Family is at the root of all society and the Family Spirit is a special quality that feeds the Family with vigour and vitality. When that spirit is present, there is a desire to cling together in time of crisis, to sacrifice in time of need and strength to face the demands of communal living.

The spirit of a family relationship affects our entire lives and we have suffered from the lack of that spirit. In neighbourhoods there is fear of murder and robbery. Over the fence chit-chat is non-existent for the "personal living" concept has made us disinterested in our neighbour's welfare. We fear his burden will become ours and we are little concerned with his heartache, loneliness or suffering. The aged become merely another obstacle to surmount. Each home is only a house in which individuals live — alone together — in miniature motels. Neighbours are competitors instead of partners, suspicious instead of trustful, indifferent instead of helpful, cold instead of loving, greedy instead of generous. We no longer consider ourselves living in neighbourhoods, but only as living next to "hoods”. We live in wealthy, middle class or poor sections of a city, rather than communities of people living together for mutual growth.

As the individual family lives, so lives the immediate community, the parish, the city, the nation and the world. A country-side is ugly or beautiful according to the tiny seeds sown in abundance. From weeds come shocking overgrowth that is neither appearing nor inspiring but from selected seeds, cared for and pruned during growth, come trees to delight the eye and fruit to nourish the body. Let us see what is lacking in our family living and its various aspects — why it is unsightly and distressing — why it has sunk to such depths in so short a time. Do the Laws and Gospels tell us what we can or cannot do? If so, let us look deeply to see if there is any solution to such a problem.

First, we know a few things we cannot do, and one of them is we cannot run away. We are to change the world, transform it as we are transformed, renew its spirit as ours is renewed, and we are to do this in the midst of the wickedness in the world. This creates within the soul a family spirit — a concern for others — a desire to diffuse goodness — a capacity to love — a new strength to sacrifice — an ability to bear fruit a hundred-fold.

Within the individual soul there is the Family of Persons — a need to share, to give, to radiate, to express concern. There is no longer an isolated individual, seeking self alone, but a togetherness — one in will, in purpose, in love.

Family Spirit is born within the soul and that Spirit extends itself to everyone, everywhere, in every facet of everyday life. A constant source of unending love is poured forth from the soul. A spark is kindled within cold hearts, harmony restored where dissension once reined, faith where cynicism and unbelief were masters.

The more we rebel, the further we go from harmony and Family spirit, no matter how hard we try. This constant giving and receiving on the part of the soul is at the core of the Family Spirit within us. As we habituate ourselves to this type of Family living we spread this spirit to others. As our Spirit is the initiator of goodness in our regard, we become the initiators of goodness in the lives of others. As we love ourselves, so we love our neighbour out of that infinite source of goodness within us.

We are able then to be self-effacing, prefer the good of others to ourselves, do good to those who persecute us and forgive. We can truly be compassionate and merciful because our family life has enabled us to love.

Without Family Spirit there is no progress forward to give courage or digression backward to signal danger. Families become statistics, wage-earners categorized as givers or non-givers, workers or non-workers.

Family living on the national level is shaky and uncertain. Leaders are mistrusted; political office has become synonymous with cheating, bribery and lies. Sinful enterprises are condoned under the guise of freedom. Abortion and euthanasia are mere debates over heated questions. Political pressure rather than a deep desire for the right to life, ultimately decides the answer, formulates laws and rationalizes sin. Fear of the decisions of those in office creates a cold war between governments and the citizens of those governments. The integrity, honesty, justice and wisdom of those in office are held in question and then it is that both faith and hope in the nation waver. Love grows cold and with it loyalty.

The Religious Family has also suffered in this day of enlightenment. The security of that life is uncertain. Religious no longer feel bound together by the ties of the vows and mutual commitment. There is a new freedom that fills the soul with the cold chill of indifference to each other, to the aged and sick members, to the apostolate and to retirement. Disappointment and heartache dig deep into some hearts while others fear the future of the order they loved so dearly. Confusion over priorities and values causes dissension, and complicated solutions produce burdens too heavy to carry. The constant changing of theological views and opinions shake whatever semblance of stability remains. Vocations begin to waver. Hard-hearted rebellion against good changes or necessary modifications causes untold harm. The religious family loses togetherness and the sense of belonging.

The Family Spirit in our souls will result in ennobling and building up the Family Spirit in our life at home, in our community, in our parish and nation. In proportion as we are alienated from the Family Spirit in our soul, in that degree we are at enmity with our brother. Our relationship with our neighbour will be either close, distant or indifferent. Only when we live within the warmth of unselfish love can we invite others to come in from the cold.

Nations do not fall except when families have ceased to live in a Family Spirit. It is also true that members of families are not alienated from each other except when each member decides to stand alone.

Marriage VS Divorce

When I got home that night as my Wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, "I’ve got something to tell you”. She sat down and ate quietly. Again I observed the hurt in her eyes.

Suddenly I didn’t know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. “I want a divorce”, I raised the topic calmly. She didn’t seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, “Why”?

I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the chopsticks and shouted at me, “You are not a man”! That night, we didn’t talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our Marriage. But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Jane. I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her!

With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my company. She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Jane so dearly. Finally she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.

The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn’t have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Jane. When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.

In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn’t want anything from me, but needed a month’s notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our Son had his exams in a month’s time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken Marriage.

This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into out Bridal room on our Wedding day. She requested that every day for the month’s duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door every morning. I thought she was going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request.

I told Jane about my Wife’s divorce conditions. She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. “No matter what tricks she applies, she has to face the divorce”, she said scornfully.

My Wife and I hadn’t had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our Son clapped behind us, “Daddy is holding Mommy in his arms”! His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly; “Don’t tell our Son about the divorce”. I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office.

On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her.

On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me. On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. I didn’t tell Jane about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger.

She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, “All my dresses have grown bigger”. I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily.

Suddenly it hit me … she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.

Our Son came in at the moment and said, “Dad, it’s time to carry Mom out”. To him, seeing his Father carrying his Mother out had become an essential part of his life. My Wife gestured to our Son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day.

But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our Son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, “I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked intimacy”. I drove to the office and jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind. I walked upstairs. Jane opened the door and I said to her, “Sorry, Jane, I do not want the divorce anymore”.

She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead. "Do you have a fever"? She said. I moved her hand off my head. "Sorry, Jane", I said, "I won’t divorce". My Marriage life was boring probably because she and I didn’t value the details of our lives, not because we didn’t love each other anymore. Now I realize that since I carried her into our Home on our Wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us part. Jane seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away. At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my Wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and wrote, "I'll carry you out every morning until death do us part".

That evening I arrived home, flowers in my hands, a smile on my face, I ran up-stairs, only to find my Wife in bed ... dead. My Wife had been fighting CANCER for months and I was so busy with Jane to even notice. She knew that she would die soon and she wanted to save me from whatever negative reaction from our Son, in case we pushed through with the divorce. At least, in the eyes of our Son, I'm a loving Husband …

The small details of your lives are what really matter in a relationship. It's not the mansion, the car, property, the money in the bank. These create an environment conducive for happiness but cannot give happiness in themselves.

So find time to be your Spouse's friend and do those little things for each other that build intimacy. Do have a real happy Marriage!