Archbishop's Message

THE CHALLENGE OF INDIVIDUALISM IN FAMILIES

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,

Pope St John Paul II observed in Familiaris Consortio, “If it is true that the family is the place where more than anywhere else human beings can flourish and truly be themselves, it is also a place where human beings can be humanly and spiritually wounded.” As much as our families, have been domestic churches, giving rise to numerous witnessing models of true Christian discipleship, they have also been challenged by THE ENEMY OF INDIVIDUALISM .Individualism, which crept into West as early as 1960s, has recently spread its influence to culturally more cohesive societies like India. As Christian families, facing a sea of changes in the understanding and interpretation of every aspect of our lives, we are obliged to equip our families to face the challenge of Individualism that we are faced with.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis identified and addressed the growing influence of individualism facing our families in the social and cultural milieu of our times in his Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Amoris Laetitia’. Holy Father devotes the second chapter of his Exhortation to reflect on ‘The experiences and challenges of families’. He observes that the growing danger represented by an extreme individualism weakens family bonds and ends up considering each member of the family as an isolated unit, leading in some cases to the idea that one’s personality is shaped by his or her desires, which are considered absolute. (No.33)

Let us take time to reflect on this irony of our modern lives. Isn’t it true that even in an age of information, explosion and advanced technologies of telecommunications, we are increasingly growing individualistic, secluded from each other and even withdrawing into caves of isolation or imaginary fortresses of a virtual reality? This growing sense of individualism and isolation is an important concern for Christian parenting. G Hofstede in his book, ‘Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations across Nations’ presents the following differences between individualist parenting and collectivist parenting.

  • Individualist parenting stresses on independence..
  • Collective parenting stresses on inter-dependence.
  • Individualist parenting encourages children to be on their own, to choose their likes and dislikes, achieve their self-set targets and occupy themselves on their own..
  • Collective parenting encourages children to interact with others by creating the possible environment of togetherness, collective living and seeking. Goals, likes and dislikes are set in consultation and out of collective experience.
  • Individualist parenting lays importance on one’s right over things.
  • Collective parenting lays importance on the value of sharing.

There is a real need to strike a proper balance between these two types of parenting. We need to provide an atmosphere for positive self expression and at the same time also encourage our children to evolve their identity in and through their interaction with the world around them.

The dangerous trend in our families to confuse freedom with individualism can lead to isolation of members within a family. 0n 16th May 2018, Cardinal Robert Sarah, author of ‘God or Nothing’ addressed a gathering at Washington D C, where he made an interesting observation. “...it is so important to fight to protect the family, the first cell of the life of the Church and every society. This is not about abstract ideas. It is not an ideological war between competing ideas. This is about defending ourselves, children and future generations from a demonic ideology that says children do not need mothers and fathers. It denies human nature and wants to cut off entire generations from God.”

Cardinal Sarah proposes a three point plan to face the challenges of our times:

  1. Be prophetic:

    We need to discern the challenges facing our families today and the threats facing our Christian identity. He encourages us to discern carefully – in your lives, your homes, your workplaces – how, in your nation, God is being eroded, eclipsed, liquidated.

  2. Be faithful:

    Cardinal Sarah invites us to commit ourselves to the Truth of the gospel and the mission of bearing witness to God’s plan through our family life. In the words of Saint Catherine of Siena: “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear."

  3. Pray:

    He Pray: quotes the words of Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est, “People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone.” Coming together to pray as the family is the most effective way to bring own barriers of individualism and developing at through sense of unity in our family.

    Dear friends, facing the challenge of individualism in our Christian families today, only our prayer together and for each other can strengthen the foundational identity and unity of our family life.

    Let us seek the intercession of our Archdiocesan patron, St Thomas, whose feast we celebrate this month, for our families.

With prayerful wishes,

 

Most Rev. George Antonysamy

Archbishop of Madras - Mylapore