Families and peace

For the Feast of the Holy Family today, I spoke about a theme from the Message of Pope Benedict for the World Day of Peace. The Holy Father said that:
Indeed, in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace.
As a priest who regularly hears the confessions of children, I know that children often fight with each other and argue with their parents: this might seem to contradict the Holy Father's optimism.

But I think he is absolutely right. One simple way that parents exercise their authority and teach peace is to tell children "No!" or "Stop that!" From parental correction, children learn what is right and wrong. Good parents also, of course, explain things and teach children what is good and holy too. But ultimately, if Caius is pulling Livia's hair, Mum or Dad has to tell him to stop it.

The importance of the family is that this injunction is given by one who loves the child and for whom the child has a natural and deep-seated love in return. The moral education that a parent can give is far more effective because of this mutual love. The various possible alternatives to the family that social dreamers have proposed from time to time have all been disastrous failures. In the sad case that a child has to be taken into public care, the authority of carers is never more than a very poor second best, however good they are. Even the most secularist will accept that "foster care" of some sort is better than anything even further removed from the natural family.

The Holy Father has used this World Day of Peace to underline the point that the family is essential to a peaceful society,
The language of the family is a language of peace; we must always draw from it, lest we lose the “vocabulary” of peace. In the inflation of its speech, society cannot cease to refer to that “grammar” which all children learn from the looks and the actions of their mothers and fathers, even before they learn from their words. (n.3)
and that therefore
whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace.

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