Family Matters:What can 1994 teach us about the importance of family life?

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Home > Media > News > Family Matters:What can 1994 teach us about the importance of family life?
Family Matters:What can 1994 teach us about the importance of family life?

By Ben Smith, Director Office of Life, Family & Marriage

In the world of politics, family names such as Ogilvie, Hodgman, Bacon and Groom, count for a lot. But when it comes to changing your spouse’s contact details with their insurance company your family connection can mean nothing.

This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the United Nations’ Year of the Family held in 1994. The UN’s motto for the year was ‘Building the Smallest Democracy at the Heart of Society’. One of the UN’s key principles is that the “family constitutes the basic unit of society and therefore warrants special attention”.

One significant person who seized the opportunity to give families special attention was St Pope John Paul II. At the beginning of 1994 he released a Letter to Families which was the most concise and readable presentation of his extensive teaching on marriage and the family.

The Letter to Families begins by looking at the family not as an unimportant side act but as “the way of the Church”. This central importance stems from the connection that Jesus had with his own family in Nazareth and also with every human family. He encouraged all Christian families to follow the example of the Holy Family, by being spiritually united through prayer especially by reciting the Our Father together.

St Pope John Paul II also highlighted in the Letter to Families the idea of a ‘fairest love’. It is a love shown in the Holy Family and it is a love described by St Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 is his famous passage on what ‘love is’. St Pope John Paul II describes this scripture passage as a ‘hymn to love’; that is, a Magna Carta of a civilisation of love that the family is called to live. The graces that flow from the sacrament of Marriage and the other sacraments help to enrich and purify the love in a family.

Lastly, St Pope John Paul II also began the World Meeting of Families event in 1994 that has been held triennially. The theme for this first event was: ‘The Family, the Heart of the Civilization of Love.’

The quality of love in a family is of great significance to society and the Church as 1994 made evident. St John Paul II encouraged us to contemplate the life of the Holy Family to help us grow in love. What small step can you take today to grow in love for your family?