October 7, 2007

Fr. Roy Cimagala

Family in a secularized society

I just came across a report of the state of the family in todayís Europe. The figures are alarming. Thereís no doubt that the family in that so-called developed part of the world is in dire crisis.

Everyday, it said, 2880 children are killed through legal abortions. In Spain, abortion has increased by 75% over a 10-year period. Since 1980, marriages have declined by 23%. About 32% of children are born outside marriage in Europe. In Sweden, the average length of marriages is only 13 years. In some European countries, marriages last for only 9 or 7 years.

Though we donít have the corresponding figures in our country, I feel that our situation is not much better. I remember reading somewhere that thereís a sharp decline of parents living with their children, from 65% in 2000 to 52% in 2005.

In that article, it was noted that family activities have declined. Spending time with the family, for example, decreased from 29% in 2000 to 19% in 2005. Eating outside with the family also fell from 38% in 2000 to 18% in 2005.

Of course, these are just sociological data. We donít really know whatís happening inside the hearts of the people concerned. For all you know, some wonderful things may be happening in their lives, through Godís grace.

But to the extent that we are responsible for our actions, we should do everything to strengthen our sense of family, arming it adequately to face the many challenges of our secularized society.

A secularized society is one where God is relegated to the corner, made at best a decoration, but never as our constant guide, or our loving Creator and Father. His laws and commandments, our paths to our true joy, are ignored.

A secularized society is people just doing things on their own, guided in their conceit and vanity by their reason alone without faith. Their understanding of man is purely material, and strictly time and earth-bound. Nothing beyond.

They simply follow what seems reasonable and practical at the moment. Responses to issues and problems easily become shallow, selfish and Pavlovian. They miss our spiritual and supernatural dimensions.

With this frame of mind, hardly anything is held absolute. Everything is relativized. There is a great tendency to slide to trivialize things and to rationalize. One becomes very vulnerable to cheating, to vices of lust and greed, and many other evils.

The sense of commitment weakens, and if no conversion is made, it dies and disappears. To achieve a semblance of peace and order in society, subtle manipulations are made, if not fear being generated, then external threats and force.

Love as the spirit uniting us weakens. Love is corrupted, and is slowly being replaced by its different caricatures. In the end, man is dehumanized. This is the result of a secularized society. Without God, man degenerates.

We have to strengthen our sense of family, first by fortifying the love between spouses. But again, the true nature and force of love can only come from God. On our own, we simply have theories that actually are only a shot in the dark.

Itís unfortunate that many of our celebrities, our popular public role-models, fail miserably in this responsibility. The way the split between a Filipino actress and her foreigner husband was explained away recently, was a mockery of the nature and purpose of marriage.

The indissolubility of marriage is not a Catholic truth. It is an inherent property of the nature of marriage, before it is a Catholic teaching. And marriage is based on true love, not on money, convenience or psychological and cultural compatibilities.

I worry about the effect things like this have on our young. That they scandalize is bad enough. But that they donít scandalize anymore, as things appear now, is worse. We seem to have lost our sense of sin, of what is good and evil.

We have to purify and strengthen our sense of love, marriage and family. This is indispensable to create and keep a truly human society, not a secularized one fit for the dogs.

(Email: roycimagala@hotmail.com)

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