Each issue carries an imprimatur from
the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Reprinting prohibited
Love and Respect in Family
“I just wish we had more time together.”
Both adults and children may experience a sense of loss
over time not spent with one another. In such moments,
slogans that suggest easy solutions to securing “quality
time” together quickly lose their appeal.
When my oldest child was two, he would patiently
stand on a sofa cushion, eyes glued to the window, awaiting
my return home from work. I remember watching him gleefully
greet me as I approached the driveway. I can still see
him peering out through a clear-paned window.
Who knows how long he had waited? Children often
may be our most effective teachers of the virtue of patience.
And perhaps children know, from within the experience of
loving and trusting innocence, something profound about
the mystery of God and the call to holiness in family life.
Time together of almost any type can support a spirit of
living holiness for the Christian family. But this is not some
distant type of holiness, limited to people who are “better
What, my family holy?
“Living into holiness” can include regular episodes of family
challenges: from the simplicity of spilled milk to missed
homework, from sibling teasing to objections to family curfews,
from the predictable uncertainty of teen driving to
worry about seriously ill family members.
Perhaps holiness emerges more from living through the
realities of life than from longed-for but rarely found opportunities
to “get away from it all.”
What is one thing the Catholic family should not forget?
Each family needs “to remember that a family is holy
not because it is perfect, but because God’s grace is at work
in it” (U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 376).
The grace of God that is present in family life comes alive through family hands and hearts
and through family members’ unspoken
daily sacrifices. All of this marks
them as faithful witnesses of Christian
The family is the first place of
community, the first place of love, the
first place of suffering, the first place of
forgiveness. In other words, it is the
place where holiness can come alive
and where relationships can thrive.
“What, me holy? What, my marriage
The married partners, united as
one in Christ, live each moment in a
loving relationship that “shows” itself
to their children, neighbors, extended
family members and strangers. Such
couples carry within their hearts a
union and a love born of Christ and
the Church. For sure, the Sacrament of
Marriage is one important way of living
the call to holiness.
When couples are blessed with the
gift of children, time seems to stand
still even as it embraces new life.
Through daily living of the Sacrament
of Marriage, couples initiate within
their children a living “handing on” of
what they cherish as people of faith.
No wonder the Christian family is
“called the domestic church. The
Church lives in the daily life of families,
in their faith and love, in their prayers
and mutual care” (USCCA, p. 284).
To celebrate a special wedding
anniversary of their parents some time
ago, my children pored over hundreds
of photographs to assemble a surprise
electronic family album set to music.
They selected timeless family moments
as they became our storytellers. Family
history and images of the domestic
church come alive each time we view
this treasured gift. I never tire of seeing
this special story of family and friends
as well as my children’s own childhood.
Parents are the first teachers of the
old maxim, “Actions speak louder than
words.” From within the daily
moments of family experiences, often
without the exchange of words, the
gospel is both loved and lived.
To be called a child
When my mother died, eight years after
my father, many people offered consoling
words. The most poignant came
from a longtime friend who said to me,
“No one is there now to call you ‘child.’”
This was a conversation-stopping
reminder of how important family and time are in this life. But it also triggered
a comforting reminder of another
sort: Life in the Church continues
for my deceased parents as part of the
communion of saints. Even today,
when I give voice to the word child, I
continue to do so as both parent and
child, together with others as one family
I am drawn to Paul’s Letter to the
Galatians, in which he reminds people
who had embraced Christianity that
“through faith you are all children of
God in Christ Jesus” (3:26).
We watch our children grow out of
clothes that no longer fit. But when a
parent laments that a child is growing
too fast, this may be more than a comment
about clothing sizes.
Children never need to grow out
of faith or family. They need not grow out of learning to offer and seek forgiveness.
But what happens when pressures
For example, during the teen years
young people may face never-before-imagined
enticements tempting them
to set aside fundamental values of faith
and family. Tensions and stress levels
may increase as family members learn
to cope with one another amid rivers
of uncertainty. When this happens,
young people need to be assured
that—no matter what—family and
Church are there for them. They
remain “God’s own child.”
Commandments are a welcome means
of promoting both faith and fidelity.
The Fourth Commandment
(“Honor your father and your mother”)
encourages children as they love and
respect parents, live harmoniously with
siblings, and (as adults) care for older
parents. It also challenges the state to
promote and support family life.
Children learn about fidelity in
many ways, for the lessons of daily life
can be lessons of fidelity. For example,
parents’ lives demonstrate endearing
expressions of faithfulness. An adult
child gives up a blossoming career to
care for a needy parent. A single parent
passes up a new job opportunity in
order to enhance family time together.
Extended family members gather periodically
to ensure that their stories of
life and faith are handed on from one
generation to the next.
The Sixth Commandment (“You
shall not commit adultery”) is a great
teacher of the call to live in faithfulness.
We remember that through God’s
gift of sexuality, “men and women
participate in his saving plan and
respond to his call to grow in holiness”
(USCCA, p. 405). This commandment
helps us to reject influences that promote
violating the sacred marital bond,
including suggestions that adultery is
The Ninth Commandment (“You
shall not covet your neighbor’s wife”)
offers common-sense support for living
in the joy of purity of heart. We do this
as we resist pressures and tendencies to
overlook the call to modesty and to living
a virtuous life. Our own spiritual development
is a powerful aid in this quest.
The virtue of chastity helps us to
live as responsible persons made in the
image of God. “Chastity unites our sexuality
with our entire human nature”
(USCCA, p. 405). We are “whole people,”
worthy of respect. How blessed we are!
As we live in mutual support, love and
respect, our commitments to one another
are strengthened. Through daily
prayer, alone or with others, we offer
praise and thanks to the one who calls
us to relationship.
I have a now-worn letter from one
of my children, urging me to attend a
math bee to cheer him on. He knew that
I traveled frequently for work. But as a
young child, what he really knew was
the importance of loving support and
mutual presence. Work waited that day.
Family relationships did not.
Family joy in living in faithful relationship
with others is not some naïve,
simplistic hope. We rejoice in the reality
that Christ lives within us—a people in
relationship with one another, a people
“living into holiness.”
Sustained and enlivened by the Spirit
of God, we are, together, children of God.
The theme of this article is drawn from Ch. 21 (pp. 277-
292), 28 (pp. 373-385), 30 (pp. 403-416) and 33 (pp. 439-
446) of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.
Next: Love, Respect and Justice for All
How does your family “live into holiness”
through its everyday encounters
Are most marriages and families you
know reflections of God’s fidelity?
What factors (individual and societal)
challenge faithfulness in relationships
today? What more could your parish
do to support strong families?
The Church calls the family the
“domestic church”—where we first
learn of community, love, suffering
and forgiveness. What will you do
within your marriage and/or family
relationships to make a stronger
response to this important mission?