The Distanced Relationship with Family Members (Church Restoration Series V) By Fr. Anand Muttungal
28 Oct 2011
When I came to know from the sisters of Missionaries of Charity that they visit their homes once in ten years. I felt sympathy for them. But it made me to reflect over the present life of priests and nuns. So also, what in fact motivated to enforce such an unattached life from one’s family by the Founder of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa? No doubt, it was a divine intervention that inspired her to do it to develop a distanced relationship with family members for the sake of kingdom of God .
What is this distanced relationship? It is a spiritual relationship that all consecrated persons will have to develop with parents, siblings, relatives, friends and neighbours of the native place. In this relationship they will have to put total loyalty to the promise made at the time of ordination and final vows to become consecrated persons. They shall neither be affected by the joys and sorrows of their families nor try to fetch any material benefit to them out of way. But remain committed to the mission of Christ because the meaning of consecrated life is strict adherence to the vow of chastity, obedience, poverty along with total commitment to the wellbeing of the people for whom they are working. This relationship is justified because when boys and girls join to become consecrated persons their families offer them as gifts to God without expecting anything in return.
There is a growing tendency among most of the consecrated persons to violate the promise of non-attachment to their family members. Just after ordination or first vow they get actively involved in the family matters. The family members keep on informing them about the daily affairs of their families. It makes them mentally present in the family. This, one or the other way adversely affect their dedication to the mission. The communication explosion has ignited this issue further.
The other matter of concern is the financial aspect of the family. If the priests are from wealthy families then they receive huge amounts from the families and lead lavish lives which divide the priests community as ‘haves and have nots’ despite both taking the same vows. If it is in the other way, then they try to support the families financially. They also make efforts to get their relatives employed or admitted to reputed educational institutions through their influence. Since priests are not in a profession to earn excess income it may lead them to barrowing and other malpractices. In some places where Christians are thickly populated priests are allowed to take up late Masses in any Church in the diocese. Reducing priesthood into a mere profession some use this opportunity to collect sufficient income to meet financial demands of their families. Some search for benefactors within and outside the country. The priests who fail to rise up to the demands of the family members become unacceptable among them and often, face the allegation of being a miser. It will have an adverse influence on the dedication of the consecrated persons.
Lord Jesus was very clear when he said, “No one who sets his hand to the plough and then looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God ." (St. Luke 9:59-62). The consecrated persons will have to be maid aware of its implications on themselves and the family members. The Church that is trying to revive herself will have to strictly instruct the consecrated persons that they are not ordinary persons called to get entangled with family issues. The vocation that they claim to have received from the Lord demands highest sacrifice of detaching and distancing themselves from the families. This issue might look very simple but it is one of the core aspects to revive the Catholic Church. The Church also may have to organize special awareness programmes for family members and close relatives of the consecrated persons in their home dioceses. It can create awareness of the nature of vocation and its demands. It can free their minds from tension and improve their commitment to the evangelizing mission.