Peace be with you!
This time I wish the Peace of Christ not only to each one of you individually but in a particular way to every family. We celebrated our Unity Congress III, as every year, in our Cathedral dedicated to the Holy Family, so we could have the inspiration and graces from the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It is by looking at them that we want to reflect upon the teachings on the family that we received during our Unity Congress III. Thus, the family is the subject of my Pastoral Letter for the year 2010-2011; I invite all the communities and groups to meditate on this subject during the year, and also use the texts that the speakers gave us during the Unity Congress. Beside this, we will continue through all the year to recite daily after every Mass the prayer for the family that we learnt at the Unity Congress III.
1) The speakers
I want, first of all, to thank the three speakers, Fr. Paul K. sdb, Fr. Cajetan and Dr. Peak Yolande, who came from India to share with us their deep preparations and their long experience in the field of the family. No doubt that their teaching has been truly in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Even in the most delicate matters, which I shall speak about later, their stand has been absolutely with the stand of the Catholic Church. I therefore invite you to read their texts published in the souvenir-book.
Speaking about our Unity Congress III, I want to thank you all for your participation: 143 couples (286 persons), 212 single married (their family being in their Country of origin), 27 single unmarried, 22 new registered, 28 clergy, 51 ushers, choir 29, total: 661. As for the age of the participants, 15% were below 40 years, 45% between 40 and 50 years, 32% between 50 and 60 years and 8% over 60 years. The biggest majority, 77%, was between 40 and 60 years, with a predominant percentage between 40 and 50 years. I noticed that the subject of the family interested especially those who were already married and in the first 15-20 years of their marriage.
These figures are encouraging for me, the clergy and the organizers of the Unity Congress III, in a particular way the Kuwait Pastoral Council and the few from Couples for Christ who participated in the preparation of the Unity Congress.
But, we also have to be realistic. If we look at the nationality of those who participated, we see a problem: the Unity Congress III was attended by almost all hailing from India. The Indians were 448, the Filipino 52, Sri-Lankans and Nigerians 4 each and all the others 1 or 2. As for the Rites, the Syro-Malabarians were daily between 20 and 25, the Catholic Syro-Malankara and the Copitic Catholics just some few, and the Maronites 1. At the conclusion Mass there was 1 Greek-Catholic family. This absenteeism was more strange considering that the subject was the family as such, something beyond the Rites and particular communities. Concern for the family is supposed to be for all. But we have to deduce that the participation in the Unity Congress III was almost by Indian Latins only. It is a discouraging remark for our Church which strives to form ONE Catholic entity.
Family in the diversity of the Rites and languages. But, we do not have to be discouraged. I started the initiative of the Unity Congress three years ago exactly because of that; I had noticed that we are not ONE Catholic Church but many Catholic Churches beside each other. The Unity Congress III showed us that we have still a very long way to go before reaching a more satisfying result, so we do not have to give up but to continue with our Unity Congresses and to invent even other initiatives in order to realize our purpose, so well expressed in the theme of the First Unity Congress (2008): "May they all be one" (Jn 17:21). We have to especially convince ourselves that the unity of the Church is not a fruit of our Unity Congresses or of other initiatives, however good they may be, but a grace from God. Prayer for unity has to be our first engagement in the Church. Unity is a gift that we must ask daily of God. Along with prayer, we are called to go out from our narrow and ethnic mentality and look at people who belong to other communities. This is the conversion that God requires from us: to be brothers and sisters of all and not only of those who are members of my nationality or of my Rite. Also, this conversion is a gift from God that we have to ask with humble and contrite heart.
3) Common problems in the families
I mention here the problems which were expressed in almost all the workshops.
· The different work schedules that prevent the family to spend time to be together and many times to eat together.
· Lack of patience, which leads to a lack of understanding and, as a consequence causes many misunderstandings.
· Dominating of one another. Not always it is the man who dominates, but the ego hidden in everyone, be it he or she. Normally it is the one who has a better salary who believes that they can dominate the other.
· Lack of communication between husband and wife. The stress of work pushes people, especially the men, to relax watching by television and so mutual communication is reduced. Beside TV, the computer and internet offer other occasions to escape from the familial ambience.
· Absence of prayer together. In many families the Rosary is not said every day, and especially not with the grown up children.
· Job pressures – long hours. These schedules are many times inhuman.
· Absence of the partner. In the case of the "single married".
· Sharing the same flat with other families. Sometimes the bed of the different couples are divided just by a curtain. This prevents any private conversation and often is a cause for infidelity.
· Financial problems. Causes tension in the family and lack of communication.
· Sexual abuses on children. The father’s abuse of his child daughter.
· No sexual satisfaction.
· Extra-marital affairs.
· Extended family influence. The family of the wife or the husband wants to dominate, sometimes even from the homeland.
· Marriage with non Catholics or non Christians.
· Abuse of alcohol and drugs.
· Insecurity of the future. When the job is terminated, the worker many times has no secure place to go to continue his life.
· Decisions not shared either because of his/her dominating attitude or for many other reasons.
4) Proposals from the workshops
+ More interaction between the clergy and the families. The priests should regularly visit the families of their own Parish.
+ Family Counselling team. To have people available to help in the difficult moments of the family.
+ Workshops for children.
+ To obtain approvals that the certificate of Marriage Preparation Course given in Kuwait be recognized by the Church in Kerala.
+ To reach out to the Catholics who are in the camps.
+ To participate with communities that help in the family life: Neo-Catechumenal community, Couples for Christ, Renewal in the Holy Spirit. This is important especially for the single married.
+ Marriage Preparation Course in other languages than English because many don’t know English enough to follow the Course.
5) Some orientations
At this point I should respond to the problems and to the proposals. However, in a Pastoral Letter I can only point out to some indications which can help in family problems.
5.1. Three altars
A family can overcome all its problems and be very happy if it is faithful to the three altars.
The first altar is the one on which we celebrate the Eucharist. I remind you to what I wrote during these last four years about Eucharist. Without the Eucharist we cannot face the difficulties of our job, society, and of our family. In the Eucharist we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and he gives us his body and blood, his life. In the Eucharist Jesus gives himself to all, not only to those who are pure and clean but also to those who are struggling against passions and temptations of any kind: money, sex, career, social position, etc. In the family, and in religious communities as well, we need to learn from Jesus to die to ourselves. If we want to resurrect to a life of understanding, peace and love we have to many times renounce ourselves, our personal habits, traditions, visions and opinions. This ‘death’ is the necessary condition for peace in the family and in social life. We should not live this kind of death with a psychological depression and sadness but as a participation for the good of others. In the Eucharist Jesus Christ doesn’t give us only the example of total renouncement to himself till his physical death, but he especially enables us to die to ourselves for others, he gives us a sure hope of resurrection in our family life. In the Eucharist we receive the Word of God, the Father, the power of the Holy Spirit, the presence of Jesus Christ: the Trinity is with us and in us! From God, who "causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as on good" (Mt 5:45), we learn how to love all, how we should love our wife or our husband, and from him we receive the power to do it. If you have problems in your family life, psychologists and doctors can help you but their help will be very limited if you don’t look for the essential help: the Eucharist. How many couples I met in my life who have been saved by Eucharist! Without Eucharist you cannot live your family life in peace.
The Eucharist is necessary not only in order to tolerate and to love each other but also to receive power to do the will of God. Marriage has two purposes: 1) the sanctification of the spouses, 2) to collaborate with God, the only Creator, to procreate children. I shall speak later about the first purpose. About the second, to procreate children, the speakers taught us about the mission of the parents, to be open to life. I would like, in this context, to quote the teaching that His Holiness Paul VI given on 25 July 1968 in the Encyclical "Humane Vitae" (No. 11):
Observing the Natural Law
11. The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, "noble and worthy.'' It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.
When I look at the number of children in our Vicariate, I see that this teaching of the Church is not followed. One or maximum two (the third one comes normally by chance or by mistake) is the number of the children in our families. I know your objections: life is expensive, etc. We should not forget what Jesus said:
Do Not Worry
25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own". (Mt 6:25-34). I remember that when we started to introduce a tariff for the sacraments, the famous 10 KD for catechism, etc. the strongest reactions came from quite rich people, not from the poor!
The parents who are closed to life don’t obey God in their marriage. Even the obedience in the number of children needs to be nourished and strengthened by the Eucharist. Eucharist is the center of our Christian life, so any aspect of our daily life should be referred to the Eucharist and we will receive from the Eucharist light, encouragement, fidelity, obedience, joy.
I invite you again to read my four Pastoral Letters on the Eucharist. They are now printed all in one volume and you can ask it from your Parish Priest.
The second altar is the marital bed. How many strange and distorted ideas we have on this matter! Many times intercourse is seen as something "permitted" in the marriage and we think that only the priests and the nuns who live in celibacy are more near God. I cannot forget the experience of a very kind extraordinary minister of the Holy Communion who told me that he cannot physically meet his wife if he has to distribute Holy Communion the next day! So, marital intercourse is considered as something dirty, related only to the pleasure of the flesh and not to God. To correct this mentality, I realized that the attire of the extraordinary ministers of the Holy Communion was too "priestly" and I informed the priests that they should be changed. Unfortunately, the new attires in all the parishes are much worse. I don’t know how long I will tolerate this horrible dress that they use now. No, marital intercourse is the extension of the sacrament of marriage that you celebrate in the church. In marital intercourse you obey God who said: "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it" (Gen 1:28) and you renew the sacrament of your marriage, so it is a blessing from God. Sometimes people think that the sacrament of marriage ends in the Church, after that there is the normal life of the spouses and the sacrament of marriage is something of the past, finished, just to avoid living in concubinate. No, God will always follow you in your life, especially when you put into practice his will to be one. Just as the priests exercises his priesthood when he celebrates the sacraments, in the same way you exercise your sacrament of marriage when you, couples married in the church, meet sexually. Finally, even marital intercourse is a moment of true offering if it is enlightened and empowered by the Eucharist.
The third altar is the table at which we eat. I know your problems for this point. You mentioned them in the workshops (different schedules of work, long hours, etc.). However to be at table together is an essential moment for communication. Almost all of you complained in the workshops the lack of communication. To pray together, to eat together means to live together. I invite you to read especially the last point of my Pastoral Letter 2010-2011 on Sunday where I wrote on the experience of those families in Egypt who celebrate Sunday as the Day of God and of the family. I know that Sunday is a working day for you (even in Egypt and in all the Arabic Countries), but try to have at least the evening dinner together. Don’t neglect Sunday as the day of the family. It is through this communication that you can also know how your children use internet. Pay much attention to facebook, netlog and other accounts which are very dangerous because you don’t know what may show up on the screen and with whom you chat. I strongly advise my priests not to use facebook and similar aspects of communication; they are extremely dangerous. We have to choose between remaining faithful to God and looking for consolation in the world, knowing that the peace of the world is not the peace of Jesus.
5.2. Other recommendations
The Christian marriage is an engagement between husband and wife to help each other towards the way to Jesus Christ, and to encourage each other to have Jesus as the person always present in their family. How can a non-Christian part help the Christian part in this way towards Jesus? Therefore a marriage with a non-Catholic is not an ideal one: too many differences of traditions, mentality, way of prayer, concept of the marital life, interpretation of the Bible, theology of the Sacraments, etc.
How can we help our community: children, young people, single married, married? The church is open to all. The Eucharist that we celebrate together is really for all. But in our time we need a stronger formation, in order to resist the attractions of the world (internet, TV, sex, alcohol). In the workshops you mentioned three kinds of community which can help our faithful: "Couples for Christ", "Neo-Catechumenal Way", "Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Holy Spirit". There are also others in our Church (El-Shaddai, Legio Mariae, etc.), but I limit myself to these three mentioned by you. They are excellent occasions for a true Christian formation in our time. Very recently, on 17 January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI addressed some thousands of priests, seminarians, catechists, and families (with many children!) of the Neo-Catechumenal Way and said: "For more than 40 years the Neocatechumenal Way has been contributing to revive and consolidate Christian initiation in the dioceses and parishes, fostering a gradual and radical rediscovery of the riches of baptism, helping the divine life, the heavenly life that the Lord inaugurated with his Incarnation, coming in our midst, being born as one of us. This gift of God for his Church is placed "at the service of the bishop as one of the ways of the diocesan accomplishment of Christian initiation and of permanent education in the faith" (Statute, art. 1 paragraph 2). Such service, as my predecessor the Servant of God Paul VI reminded you in the first meeting he had with you in 1974, "will be able to renew, in today's Christian community, those effects of maturity and deepening which in the early Church were realized in the period of preparation for Baptism" (Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, XII , 406).
Accomplished profitably in the last few years has been the process of writing of the statutes of the Neocatechumenal Way that, after a period of validity "ad experimentum," was approved definitively in June 2008. Another significant step carried out in these days, with the approval of the competent dicasteries of the Holy See, is the Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way. With these ecclesiastical seals, the Lord confirms today and entrusts to you again this precious instrument that is the Way, so that you can, in filial obedience to the Holy See and to the pastors of the Church, contribute, with new impetus and ardour, to the radical and joyful rediscovery of the gift of baptism and to offer your original contribution to the cause of the New Evangelization. The Church has recognized in the Neo-catechumenal Way a particular gift aroused by the Holy Spirit: as such, it tends naturally to insert itself in the great harmony of the ecclesial body. In this light, I exhort you to seek always a profound communion with the pastors and with all the components of the particular Churches and the very different ecclesial contexts in which you are called to operate. The fraternal communion between the disciples of Jesus is, in fact, the first and greatest testimony to the name of Jesus Christ".
My invitation to all the priests and to you all, my dear faithful, is to see in these initiatives approved by the Church "a particular gift aroused by the Holy Spirit", as the Pope said. We should not neglect the call of the Holy Spirit addressed also to our Church in Kuwait.
Another help for the family is the establishing of a team for family counselling in every Parish. I hope that this initiative will start as soon as possible.
For two years we have been organizing a week of spiritual retreat for children in every parish. The children spoke to us about their problems with you, the parents. Some children even suffer sexual abuses from their parents and, in spite of the violent prohibition from them, they opened their injured heart to us. What is happening in some families is a monstrous crime that the children will bear with them throughout their life. Some of you have already ruined the future of their children, they have already put them in prison for life, the horrible prison of their destroyed psychology. You made your children not the flowers of your family but the martyrs of your mad sexuality. Be ashamed!
Dear brothers and sisters, I conclude this Pastoral Letter of mine inviting you to come back to God, if you have left Him. He is our only true source of peace and joy. All of us are migrants in this beloved Country, even me your Bishop, we don’t have many social support, God is our stronghold and our shepherd. Let us meditate in silence this beautiful Psalm (22):
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
God loves you!
+ Camillo Ballin, mccj
Kuwait, 20 January 2011