A tree without roots is a dead tree and a person without the family is a person without life. No one can live without the family. Everybody needs a family because the family is the right environment where to love and be loved, to live, to grow, to mature and to retire.

I think we have to communicate again to everybody what the real meaning of the family is: the family is a treasure, a priceless richness with an infinite value. Nothing can replace it.

I feel it is high time that, on the occasion of the International Day of the Family, we rediscover and fulfill the basic functions of the family.

In my view, the main function of the family is to pass on values. These values are transmitted first by our actions then by our words. Once we grasp these values they remain with us throughout our lives and become second nature to us.

It is the family that equips us with the aptness we all need to face every situation and circumstance. It gives us the energy, the inspiration and the motivation to go forward in life. When we fail, which we all do at some point, the family offers us the ability to start once again. It encourages us not to lose heart and to keep aiming high.

These values can be easily grouped under four basic and essential headings:

Human values: First of all, the family tells us how to be human and gives us the basic human values we need. It shows us how to live together, how to communicate and how to listen to each other.

The family is the right ambience where we can share our deepest thoughts and difficulties with whom we trust. It also provides us with models on how to support and respect each other and how to pardon whenever we fail one another.

In transmitting human values, the family also conveys the value of the dignity of life. With its action, the family tells us how to welcome life, how to celebrate life, how to rejoice with life and how to find time to recreate and be merry together. It teaches us how to care for each other in times of sickness, sadness, disability and old age.

The main function of the family is to pass on values

Social values: The family hands over to us the social values we need. In other words, it gives us the skills and the tools we need to live with others in society, how to live with people of different opinions, temperaments, cultures and religions. Above all, it tells us how to show solidarity with our neighbour in need, how to collaborate and cooperate with others and also how to live with justice and in full respect of the rights of other people.

Educational values: The family provides us with the educational values to keep abreast of the fast and rapid changing world. It does not only teach us the three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) but it also gives us the abilities and the power to interpret things, to reflect and to analyse what we see and what we hear.

Furthermore, the family steels us to persevere in times of trial or when things are not up to our desires. The family makes us realise that nothing in life is without a price, so it teaches us that hardships are part and parcel of human life. The family gives us that spirit of resilience which enables us to work harder to improve our reality. It also instills in us the motivation to work, whereby we give our share for a better world.

Religious values: Finally, the family bestows upon us the religious values that give security to every person. It manifests that by believing in God’s abiding presence with the family and by stopping regulary to thank Him, to praise Him and to ask Him for the family needs and the needs of all the people, especially the poor, the family experiences the power of prayer. It is said, that much prayer means much power, little prayer means little power and no prayer means no power. When the family entrusts their whole selves to Him and allows Him to guide them in all their endeavours they witness God’s glory on earth.

Keeping in mind the meanings and the functions of these four values, one can learn to appreciate how their integration leads to the development of healthy families. It is a healthy family that creates healthy persons who, in turn, generate a healthy society. The strength of the nation is not measured only by the strength of its economy but, primarily, by the strength of its families and the relationships within them.

The nation is indeed in the hands of its families. Hence, the investment in the family by both the State and Church can never be underestimated because it is the family who is, really and truly, the backbone of the nation.

When speaking about the family we are therefore aware that we are not speaking about a traditional unit but an important living and dynamic organism, which is vital for our survival. Hence, let us stop taking it for granted.

The Cana Movement will be marking the International Day of the Family by a conference that will be held today at the Catholic Institute, in Floriana, between 9.30am and 12.30pm.

Entrance is free.

Fr Joseph Mizzi is director of the Cana Movement.

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