33rd Sunday A
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
19th November 2023
“The family that prays together stays together”
“The family that prays together stays together” is etched in memory because of a picture that hung on the kitchen wall at home. Though few in words it represents an understanding and hope that is a diminishing reality in society to-day. Our families have changed beyond our imagining. The traditional family structure of father/mother and children is no longer a given. A myriad of different arrangements not always involving a commitment or vows have gradually evolved, creating over time different household arrangements many of them temporary in nature.
On hearing our 1st Reading from the Book of Proverbs many, women especially, would greet its praise of the “perfect wife” with a wry smile – such were the expectations of the good wife. Something of that understanding of marriage and family is what is in our Constitution currently and so is the subject of significant debate. In the Reading and the Constitution, the understanding is that the woman’s place is/was in the home as a carer of the family. We know that has changed beyond recognition – partly because women would no longer be confined by family duties but also the desire of women to use their personal gifts and skills in society. This was often classified rightly as the “liberation of women”. The opportunity for education and participation in society at all levels has transformed women’s lives on one level but has also impacted dramatically on the nature and structure of our families.
Women’s new roles and opportunities in the workplace has been a great blessing but also an enormous challenge for some. The demands of work and family leaves so many living under great stress. Such stress, if continuous, can lead to ill-health physically and place great strain on a marriage relationship.
For that reason, one’s heart goes out to all the mothers and wives who live under great strain to “keep it all together”. Prayer alone cannot guarantee the stability and support that is required on the part of the whole family to ensure a fairer distribution of the demands made on mothers and wives.
Why you might ask do I dwell on women’s role in family? The Church in its wisdom has always held the family to be both the foundation of society and a “church” in its own domain referring to it as the “domestic church”. The reason the church gives the family such priority and prominence is that parents are the primary carers and educator of their child in the ways of faith but also creates a school of character and virtue by the witness of their lives.
There are no perfect wives or husbands!, nor perfect parents. Neither do perfect families exist. But by the miracle of love, fidelity and forgiveness new generations grow in wisdom, character and confidence to take their place in society. In our new challenging work/life situation women need the support of their husbands and families to enable them enjoy life while meeting their obligations in family and career.