International Day of Families is celebrated by the United Nations on 15 May each year to highlight the importance of the family as the fundamental unit of a society. It has long been a fact that happy and productive adults are the result of their parents spending time with them. However, in today’s world of constant media bombardment, high stress and longer working hours, families are finding it more challenging to spend “quality time” together on a regular basis.
I recently observed a family having dinner at a hawker centre. Each member of the family was engaged with his or her respective electronic device – parents and children either tapping away on mobile devices or connected to earphones. The table was silent. A study conducted in 2009 by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) showed that when families ate dinner together at least three times a week, and without the distraction of handheld devices, their children were less likely to become involved with drugs and alcohol. Thus, being present at the same table is not enough. The real “magic” of the family dinner comes from stimulating discussions that serve to strengthen family bonds. The family meal is an excellent opportunity to discuss issues, make plans, and learn about one another’s interests in a non-judgemental way. It is also the perfect time to talk about values and the Christian faith, sharing stories from the Bible and one’s own experience.
My dear brothers and sisters, on Sunday May 15th, I ask that you set aside quality time with your family, using your time not only to reconnect with your children, spouses, parents or siblings but also to explore the Catholic faith together as a family. In addition to sharing a meal together, I offer the following suggestions on ways to celebrate the International Day of Families this year:
- Read the Bible together. If you have young children, read a Children’s Bible or watch a DVD that will help relay the Bible stories in a way that is engaging to young children. Afterwards, discuss what you have read or watched, bringing the story into the modern-day context. What would Jesus do or say today? Could Jesus be walking among us in His disguise?
- Initiate a family discussion that explores ways that your family can assist others by taking action through volunteerism or almsgiving.
- Pray together, remembering family members who are far away or who have become alienated from the Catholic faith.
- Go for a walk together or spend an afternoon at the park with a picnic and games. Meaningful discussions can happen naturally when family members are relaxed and having fun!
- Plan a “family night” where you stay in and play games or just watch a movie together with the phone and computer turned off.
Marriage and the family is a vocation to build the Kingdom of God. The family has been and continues to be God's salvation plan. Listening with an open mind and heart and without judgment is the key. Seek first to understand before being understood. In this way, your family will grow strong, being able to withstand hardships together. Children will become good citizens and examples for all to follow.
The emotional and social benefits that come from families spending quality time together are priceless. May International Day of Families be a special day for you and your family, and may you keep the feeling alive all year long!
Yours in Christ,
Archbishop Nicholas Chia
Archdiocese of Singapore Family Resources
Family Life Society - To promote a deep understanding and reverence for marriage, family and human life and to make our services available to all. Tel: 6488 0278; Website: www.familylife.sg
Choice - a weekend stay-in program for young adults aged 18 to 40 years, with the aim of discovering self and the importance of relationships within the family, with friends and the larger community. Tel: 9046 2297 / 9685 9416; Website: www.choice.org.sg
Engaged Encounter (EE) - a marriage preparation stay-in programme for couples planning to get married. Suitable also for couples who wish to know one another better. Tel: 6782 3912; Website: www.catholic.sg/ceespore
Marriage Preparation Course (MPC) - a six-weekend program for engaged couples preparing for marriage. Tel: 9848 2864; Website: www.catholic.sg/MPC
Natural Family Planning (NFP) - a natural form of fertility awareness based on a woman’s menstrual cycle to postpone and achieve pregnancy. Safe, scientific and with no side effects. Tel:9106 1990;
Couple Empowerment Programme (CEP) - Helping newly married couples understand common issues and build emotionally intelligent marriages/families. Tel: 97879705
Marriage Encounter (ME) - A stay-in weekend for happily married couples to enrich their coupleness and family life through the use of various “tools” of communication. Tel: 9670 5390
Couples for Christ (CFC) - A family life renewal program for married couples, youth and children. Tel: 6284 1880; Website: www.cfc.org.sg
Retrouvaille - A lifeline for troubled & Hurting Marriages. “If you are serious about making your marriage work, this programme could be worthwhile for you”. Tel: 6749 8861; Website: http://www.helpourmarriage.sg/
Beginning Experience (BE) - A peer ministry for the widowed, divorced and separated individuals to facilitate the resolution of the grief surrounding the end of a marriage/relationship and to promote healing. Tel: 9647 9122; Website: http://www.besingapore.com/