Every month for a year, Pope Francis invites us to join him in praying for a specific intention. So far, 2019 has seen us praying for young people and the example of Mary (January), human trafficking (February), recognition of the right of Christian communities (March), doctors and their collaborators in war zones (April), the Church in Africa, a seed of unity (May), the mode of life of priests (June), and the integrity of justice (July).
For August, our dear Lolo Kiko asks us to include families in our daily prayers—particularly “that families, through their life of prayer and love, become even more clearly ‘schools of true human growth,’” he says in a video on the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.
Indeed, this “foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation,” as he described the family in a 2014 conference, is challenged daily by numerous factors; among them, work, money, power, and possessions.
Also Read: Pope Francis’ Prayer of the Five Fingers
Even Filipino families, as prayerful and close-knit as they are, are not exempt from the threat of being splintered. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, marriage in the Philippines has decreased by 14.4 percent from 2006 to 2017. Meanwhile, online news magazine niussp.org reports that annulment and nullity cases filed at the Office of the Solicitor General have escalated from 4,520 in 2001 to 11,135 in 2014.
Looks like the Philippines is about to relinquish its reputation as one of only two countries in the world (Vatican City being the other) where there is no divorce. After the House of Representatives’ committee on population and family relations approved last February 2018 a measure allowing divorce in the country, CNN Philippines reported that one in two Filipino adults actually approve of divorce for couples with irreconcilable differences, as per an SWS survey.
What’s a family to do? First, acknowledge and accept that there will be struggles along the way. “In families, there are difficulties,” said Pope Francis in the 2015 World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “In families, we argue; in families, sometimes the plates fly; in families, the children give us headaches. And I’m not even going to mention the mother-in-law.”
“But in families, there is always, always, the cross. Because the love of God, of the Son of God, also opened for us this path.”
Then, make the home a safe and loving space that brings people together. “Like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures,” said the Pope. “These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children, by siblings. They are little signs of tenderness, affection, and compassion. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Homely gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work.”
Finally, be an example for future generations to follow. Initiate conversations with the family during mealtimes, make Sunday Mass or short road trips on the weekend a regular habit, and keep fights or “discussions” between you and your spouse private.
“May our children find in us models and incentives to communion!” said Pope Francis. “May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown!”