Family as Sign Print
Friday, 24 August 2007 09:47

Written by Keith Strohm

We hear a lot today about the differing variations on family. We have single-parent families, same-sex parent families, blended families, and the steadily diminishing original two-parent families. It's easy, with all of this variation, to walk away with the notion that the human family is merely a biologically pragmatic arrangement or helpful social construction--the basic building block of human society.

These are, in a very certain sense, truths. However, to say that these elements define the notion of "family" in its totality is to reduce the rich significance of the family in the fullness of human life and denude its very real power for the world today. Family is not just a biological reality and a building block of society, it is also a participation in the Trinitarian Life of God Himself--particularly when it flows from the sacrament of marriage. David over at Cosmos--Liturgy--Sex has an insightful post on the rupturing effects of divorce on the family. In it, he highlights the very real sacred dimensions of marriage and family:

A family relationship has an existence, an ontology, that is more than simply the sum of its parts. It is not simply an aggregate of the multifaceted relationships among the various members of the family. The family relationship has its own existence. Its foundation begins with the marital union between wife and husband. Its ontology arises from the fact that marital union is the most unique and perfect interpersonal bodily participation in Trinitarian Communion. The marital relationship gives rise to the potency for integrating other persons (children) into it, but this marital relationship is the foundation for the entity known as the family. Thus, while the rupture of other relationships within a family can damage its over all health, the rupture of its ground–the marriage– destroys the whole. What is left is only the possibility for individual relationships. There is no whole left by which all of the multipersonal relationships can be integrated.

This is why the Apostolic Tradition speaks of a family as the domestic Church, and it is precisely because of this ontology that John Paul II said that the grace of God flows through the family. Like the Universal Church, the family is a sign and sacrament of God's love, one that can help accomplish what it signifies. God's love is made present to the world through the family united to Him and each other.

Therefore, part of the work we are called to do (transforming cultures and social institutions to render them more just and human) includes supporting the discernment and living out of solid, godly marriages, where men and women are prepared for the vocation of self sacrifice and giving, and helping the growth and nurturing of family life.

In a culture that often views multiple children as a burden rather than blessing, this is no easy task.

Yet the call remains.