The recent ‘Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family’ held in October 2014, drew a lot of attention especially from the media. There were many speculations as to what would be the outcome of the ‘meeting’. There were many who were expecting life-changing outcomes from this Synod and there were also those who were rather skeptical. The euphoria created by this gathering of Bishops only underlies the fact that the issue of family is close to the hearts of many people.

Grandparents often tell their grandchildren that things were not the same during their younger days many years ago. We must acknowledge that the structure of the family unit has been changing in recent decades. However much as we realise that the family institution is being challenged today, we don’t seem to have the solutions or the inner desire to arrest the changing face of the family. All that we can do is to cling on to a sense of nostalgia of a past that may never return.

Many of us, if not all, know the importance of the family unit. There are numerous quotes that we are familiar with that accentuate the value of family living. Yet, in this fast changing world that we find ourselves in today, we are unable to cope with the new realities so much so that marriages don’t last; the domestic help knows more about a child’s life than the parents; grandparents become parents again; single parent families are on the rise, etc., etc. We look for quick-fix solutions rather than addressing the root causes of these problems that are rapidly becoming a common sight.

It is not possible that in a short piece such as this, to enumerate all the reasons for some of the problems, but I would like to focus on one issue – ‘Communication’. In an age where we have so many tools for communication, yet we have very little time to spend with each other. During the Christmas period, many people will take leave and are ready to spend it with their respective families. However, we do need to ask ourselves, ‘Are we really going to spend some quality time with one another and reconnect with one another or is it just going to be a physical presence’? One can be physically present but yet, not ‘connected’ with one another.

Scenes of families out for dinner and where no one talks to each other are becoming common these days… each person has his/her eyes fixed on the screens of their mobile devices – tablets and smartphones. Families barely have a conversation about the happenings in one’s life. There was a time when the dining table was the place for family meals and conversations. Today it is the TV room that acts as the gathering point for meals and there is hardly any conversation except for comments on the show they are watching. Parents work late into the nights so as to be able to provide for the family and on the flip side, the domestic helper knows more about the child’s life than the parents. Mum and Dad have no time for one another as they have to work hard to ensure their children get good education, private health care, etc.

I am not saying that communication will solve all our problems, but at least it can be a starting point for building relationships in the family: communication is the key to healthy family relationships. Spending time with one another is far more important than the gifts that you buy each other for Christmas. So make time for your family – with no tablets and smartphones. Talk and listen to each other and you will discover what a gift we are to one another. Blessed Feast of the Holy Family!