IN 1993 the United Nations proclaimed May 15 to be the annual International Day of Families.
In promoting attention to the International Day of Families, the UN has provided a Background Note to explain it, as follows:
“The central goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focus on ending poverty, promoting shared economic prosperity, social development and people’s well-being while protecting the environment.
“Families remain at the center of social life ensuring the well-being of their members, educating and socializing children and youth and caring for young and old. From a policy perspective, taking families into account in the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals has a potential to speed up the achievements of many targets relating to individuals’ well-being.
“A number of family policies, such as those supporting the caregiving role of families, work-family balance for parents, empowering families to support their individual members’ health, education and well-being, have been found to contribute to overall development goals. Still, a broad range of family policies enacted at national levels and relating to different facets of family life have an often untapped potential to further contribute to the achievement of many national development goals.
“In particular, family-oriented policies can contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 1 to 5 relating to doing away with poverty and hunger; ensuring healthy lives and promoting of well-being for all ages; ensuring educational opportunities throughout the lifespan and achieving gender equality.
“The theme of this year’s observance of the International Day of Families focuses on Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
“Families have a unique role in ensuring health and well-being of children. Parents can improve children’s health outcomes by providing emotional support, ensuring preventive and sick health-care visits, including timely immunizations and proper treatment in times of illness. In turn, a number of policies and programs, can effectively assist parents in ensuring proper care and thus better health outcomes for their children.
“Policies and programs that increase family financial resources or improve caregiving behaviors also have the potential to positively influence child health and well-being, particularly for vulnerable families. For instance, cash or in-kind transfers, such as child allowances, or conditional cash transfers requiring parents to ensure their children’s preventive health care and school attendance go a long way into promoting children’s health and education outcomes.
“In addition, family policies for work-family balance impact health outcomes of all family members, especially the newborns. Paid parental leaves promote children’s well-being. For instance, maternity leave enables mothers to initiate and sustain breastfeeding, which results in lower risk of a number of illnesses for infants and mothers themselves. Paternity leaves help fathers establish strong bonds with their children and promote men’s involvement in household responsibilities.” (End of UN note, which speaks mainly to governments about policies.)
The family in God’s plan
The importance of the family to God’s kingdom is shown in His creation of a man and a woman, a couple commanded to have a family. And to Christians, the family is the basic unit of society as well as the most Basic Christian Community.
The first three of the Ten Commandments concerns Man’s relationship to God. The fourth is about the family—”Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
Jesus himself loved his mother Mary and his father Joseph. And he was obedient to them.
Jesus stressed the importance of this, which he reiterated as this “commandment of God.” St. Paul also stressed it, when he taught his disciples: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ (This is the first commandment with a promise.) ‘That it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.’ ”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2197, says: The fourth commandment opens the second table of the Decalogue. It shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after him, we should honor our parents to whom we owe life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honor and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with his authority.
No. 2198 states: This commandment is expressed in positive terms of duties to be fulfilled. It introduces the subsequent commandments, which are concerned with particular respect for life, marriage, earthly goods, and speech. It constitutes one of the foundations of the social doctrine of the Church.
And 2199 says: The fourth commandment is addressed expressly to children in their relationship to their father and mother, because this relationship is the most universal. It likewise concerns the ties of kinship between members of the extended family. It requires honor, affection, and gratitude toward elders and ancestors. Finally, it extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it.