Family life is a vocation

Now it is time that we change the gear and think of family also as a vocation, just like the religious life, established by Jesus himself by being born into a family in Nazareth and that is the strongest biblical foundation of family life as a vocation.

Family life is a vocation

By Joe Palathunkal
Bishop Gregory Karotemprel CMI (Emeritus) gave me two books authored by him when I visited him in Rajkot a couple of days ago. One was “Gift of God” about the vocation of religious life, and the other was “Living Our Spirituality”. Then I thought of family life and asked: Isn’t it a vocation, a gift of God, like the religious life?

Catholics can only think of vocation about religious life or priestly life and they are so conditioned that they cannot think of the most basic to the raison d’être of the church — the family life as a vocation.

The family is the basic and the base on which the Church survives and religious life comes after family, not before. Religious or priestly vocations come from good Catholic families, and that is a conventional understanding about religious vocation.

Now it is time that we change the gear and think of family also as a vocation, just like the religious life, established by Jesus himself by being born into a family in Nazareth and that is the strongest biblical foundation of family life as a vocation, whereas Bishop Gregory says in the book that “Religious Life cannot be proved from the New Testament, in the manner in which existence of an authoritative teaching authority can”.

Jesus himself got his call to lead a life with an extended family of his disciples from his own family, though ultimately it was a call from his own heavenly Father whom only he knew.

If we can think of family as a vocation, our attitude towards family life will change drastically. Now most people look at family only as a sociological arrangement and adjustment to bring up children and to give mutual security. Nobody, perhaps, thinks of family life as a vocation from God, a call that the spouses must cherish it in their hearts as a gift of God, just as Bishop Gregory calls the religious life. It will make a sea-change in every Catholic family.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta re-defines family as a God’s call in these beautiful words: “Whatever you do for your family, your children, your husband, your wife, you do for God.” If you look at family life as a vocation and follow the words of the Mother with the blue-striped saaree, then everything you do will be with love, the basic theology of the Catholic faith – Deus caritas est (God is love). Remember the famous encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI.

God called Noah as a family man to save the drowning humankind by making an ark; God called Moses who grew in the family of Pharaoh to lead all the families of Israelites out of the slavery of Egypt; God called Abraham as a family man to go to the land flowing with milk and honey carrying with him all other families; and finally God called Jesus to save humankind from a carpenter’s family in Nazareth.

The call of redemption of the whole humankind is always related to the family; in God’s plan the redemption of the collective humanity is somehow connected to the basic collective called family. Mother Teresa says it differently in these cryptic words: “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.”

(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)

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