~ Last year’s “On Love in the Family”, this year’s “Diagnosis of today’s Japanese Society” ~
Bonet Vicente SJ
Jesuit Social Center staff
Looking back to last year’s Seminar
The real situation of the family, the relations between husband and wife and between parents and children, the number of children and their education, family life and work, whether the working conditions are such that young people can build a family and educate their children, etc. are all signs that show the social condition of each society.
Likewise, the policies of each country related to those questions, children’s allowance, the cost of school education, the policies regarding work conditions so that young people can find stable jobs that allow them to become independent and found a new family, etc. are social problems that make clear whether that particular country really considers the family important or not.
With all the above in mind, we chose for last year’s seminar subject the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis “Amoris Lætitia” (“On Love in the Family”) to learn and think about the various questions related to family life.
In this seminar we tried two new features. The first one was to ask the participants of the first session to answer a questionnaire about the family.
Actually, the Pope himself, as a preparation for the whole Church to consider the issues concerning marriage and the family, and to know the opinions of as many people as possible, sent a questionnaire about those issues, not only to bishops but to all the members of the Church. However, due to several reasons, this questionnaire became very little known inside the Japanese Church. With this fact also in our mind, we decided to choose the main questions among the many of the above questionnaires and asked the participants of our seminar to answer them. This was a good preparation for a more active attitude during the seminar.
The second new feature was to have a symposium in which 3 lay persons with different family backgrounds spoke about their experience and the activities related to family in their own parishes. Marriage preparation, pastoral care of the family, the education of children within the family, etc. were the main topics dealt with. Seemingly, these were also very good points of reference for the participants of the seminar.
The main issues taken up in the lectures of the seminar can be summarized in the following way.
① The foundation of the love that brings joy. The deep meaning of love in the Old and New Testaments, and the love of the family that overflows from that meaning (the love between husband and wife, love for the children and the old members of the family), the way to the fulfillment of marriage as proposed by the Church, and the spirituality of love.
② The situation of the family, women and children in present day Japanese society. The “promises” of the politicians and reality. Children in poverty and the problems related to education. Problems faced by the families of foreigners, refugees and immigrants.
③ The pastoral duty of the Church regarding marriage and the family, and what is really done at present. The difference in what is done in each parish for the preparation of marriage and pastoral care of the family. And the pastoral care of the Church for the persons that could not achieve the fulfillment of their marriage as proposed by the Church, those who apply for the annulment of their marriage, the divorced and remarried, the same sex couples, etc.
In the comments that the participants write after each session, those of the type “It was a very good learning opportunity” were the most general. There were also comments like, “I attended the seminar after several years. It was very easy to understand. I will come again”, or “It was the first time for me to attend the seminar. I enjoyed it”. Regarding the pastoral activities of the Church related to marriage and the family, some people said that there are still many more things that can, or should be done. I thought it very important for the different parishes to listen to this kind of requests from lay persons.
I will pick out a few other comments that can help us to look back at the seminar. “The explanation of love in the Old Testament was very clear and enlightening”. “If you build a family based on economic priorities, you are bound to lose sight of the love for people”. “Looking at how love, overcoming all the hardships, grows to fulfillment, you can feel the change from darkness to light”. “I want to believe in the possibility of changing one’s hope and vision”. “I want to keep in my heart all what I heard today, and to communicate it to my husband and children”. “To support (become friends of) immigrant families should be a source of joy for ourselves”.
This year’s Seminar
For several years we have been dealing with the message of Vatican Council II and the official documents of the recent Popes about social problems. Enlightened by that message, in this year’s seminar we will try to make a “Diagnosis of today’s Japanese Society” as members of the Church. We want to feel anew the greatness of the mission we have received of evangelizing our society, and look for what the apostle Paul says, “Brethren, rejoice,…encourage one another…and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13, 11)