The family of humanity

Mary Clarin

Mary Clarin

Editor’s Note: Mary Clarin, an Archbishop Carney S.S student in, Port Coquitlam, B. C., won third prize in the Fr. Ted Colleton Scholarship contest. This is an edited version of her essay.

From Neanderthals to Ancient Egyptians, from the Romans to twenty first century Canadians, throughout history mankind has consistently proven that there is strength found in solidarity. Since the beginning of recorded humanity, people have unified in efforts to protect their families and build their communities. “Patterned after God, (humans are) designed for relationship, exchange, sharing and love,” therefore, when fulfilling their God-made designs, peoples have flourished. The greatest civilizations revered in history have their success attributed to the power of a united humankind. Unfortunately, in today’s age of the information revolution, society has twisted the generation’s perspective on solidarity and disregarded the importance of family. Influenced by materialism, misguided individualism and a detrimental habit of hedonistic tendencies, the modem generation is in grave danger of losing one of humanity’s most defining characteristics; that is the ability and choice to “love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) Pope Francis tells us that the family is the “engine of the world and of history.” His words highlight the important truth that without the unique values of unity and love, originating distinctly from familial relationships, the future of the world and humanity itself is at stake.
Above all else, the nature of humanity is defined by its design: “made in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:27). The inherent dignity and capability to love within every human is what sets people apart from all the other creatures of the earth. Moreover, it is within the family structure that the full potential of our ingrained capabilities are realized. Saint Francis of Assisi confirms that all peoples are “children of the one Father and therefore brothers” and sisters in the family of humankind. The importance and impact of family on society cannot be underrated. The family is where future generations learn what is to be valued thus the family shapes the values of the future. Sadly, the rise of secular influence in recent decades has begun to reject the beauty and power of family in favour of pursuing self interest. The transformation of society’s priorities to favour personal advancement over the betterment of the community is at the heart of all the troubles facing the world today.rom Neanderthals to Ancient Egyptians, from the Romans to twenty first century Canadians, throughout history mankind has consistently proven that there is strength found in solidarity. Since the beginning of recorded humanity, people have unified in efforts to protect their families and build their communities. “Patterned after God, (humans are) designed for relationship, exchange, sharing and love,” therefore, when fulfilling their God-made designs, peoples have flourished. The greatest civilizations revered in history have their success attributed to the power of a united humankind. Unfortunately, in today’s age of the information revolution, society has twisted the generation’s perspective on solidarity and disregarded the importance of family. Influenced by materialism, misguided individualism and a detrimental habit of hedonistic tendencies, the modem generation is in grave danger of losing one of humanity’s most defining characteristics; that is the ability and choice to “love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mark 12:31) Pope Francis tells us that the family is the “engine of the world and of history.” His words highlight the important truth that without the unique values of unity and love, originating distinctly from familial relationships, the future of the world and humanity itself is at stake.

The shift in priorities within the current generation can be largely attributed to the growing mindset of a consumer culture. While it is important to acknowledge that humans are earthly beings with physical needs, “people have a dignity that is priceless and worth far more” (Pope Francis) than anything we can buy or own. The value of a person is learned first through the family but, with a culture more focused on materials than relationships, even family has become secondary to the idolized power of money. To see the world as a train and the family as the engine, like Pope Francis says, is to realize that the only fuel compatible for this God-made vessel is the love of God. Misplacing the value of family behind earthly things is synonymous with fuelling an engine with ketchup. With a society that fosters a respect for money greater than a respect for people, even the notion of family becomes objectified rather than cherished and respected.

Moreover, the materialistic culture of the world is beginning to foster a dangerously misguided sense of individualism. Due to the idolization of material goods, people are becoming apathetic to the needs of the greater community in favour of their personal interests. Rather than shaping a culture of love, the majority of the modem generation has become blinded by the allure of selfish ambition. Just as an engine has many parts that work together in order to function, the family of humanity is made up of unique individuals that need to be unified to create a better world. While each part in the engine needs to be taken care of with equal respect, a bolt on its own has no purpose. The bolt can buy itself nice polish and all the things it wants but ultimately cannot fulfill its purpose without considering the rest of the engine. Alone, a person can do so little but “together (humanity) can do so much.” (Helen Keller)

Individualism on its own can foster a healthy value of oneself. However when it becomes an overreaching philosophy based on ultimate concern for self, blood families are faced with divorce, national families are faced with civil war and the global family is faced with genocide, war and natural disasters caused hy global warming. Within Canada alone, the Vanier Institute of Family records state that four in every ten marriages end in divorce due to selfish reasons such as infidelity, addiction and ambition. While seemingly unrelated. these major tragedies are all caused by the same disregard of the well-being of the whole human family. Sugarcoating a society of selfishness with phrases like ‘fight for independence,’ does not eliminate the reality of the brokenness now present within our human family.

Consequently, the philosophies of materialism and individualism have created a culture with destructive hedonistic tendencies. The community and common good are pushed aside by hedonism, which considers pleasure as the ultimate goal of life. True happiness has become a precious commodity in recent years because of this damaging mindset and the search for contentment in many cases has led to betrayal, exploitation and death. These tragedies are the repercussions of a misinformed search. Just as passengers on a train to Disneyland can be temporarily entertained with tourist stops, so too can people be distracted by earthly pleasures. However, every attraction, break and detour only keeps people away from the true goal. Becoming obsessed with the things of this world only prolongs the separation from our ultimate paradise of heaven. Inevitably, people feel discontent because no thing can fulfill the longing in their hearts but God. The dissatisfaction people face can often lead to desperate and misguided choices such as masturbation, alcoholism and gambling. These choices in turn lead to instability and disunity within families due to the fostering of objectification and irresponsibility.

Ultimately, it is only in having faith in the power of God through the family that these issues within society can be fixed. As one human family under God, people must come to accept that “if one member suffers, all suffer together. If one member is honoured, all rejoice together.” (1 Cor 12: 26) Every person was crafted by the Father God for a purpose and therefore should be respected as a fellow brother or sister in Christ. Each person has a role to play within the engine of the world. The grease that will allow the parts to work together is mutual respect and love. When all peoples see each other as part of a family, the love and power of God will be seen through the resulting respect, peace, and success the world will come to know.

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