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Summary: For a holy and healthy family, there is a need to identify which of the functional principals a family needs to counter any dysfunctional tendencies.

In the Bible, and among many of the Saints, family life was messy, and this actually was the raw material that God’s grace used to form holy people. Yet, for a holy and healthy family, there is a need to identify which of the functional principals a family needs to counter any dysfunctional tendencies, like the functional principle of:

1.Meal time bonding with grace before meals. Functional families also have a sense of humor with inside jokes, favorite stories, anecdotes, shared memories, all of which delight and reinforce a healthy bond.

e.g. A Non-Catholic example of trying to incorporate grace before meals comes from a female Jewish rabbi who said that she discovered a family who every night at dinner would hold hands, close their eyes, and say in unison, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with us."

Moved by this other family's nightly peace ritual, Rabbi Fuchs told her husband and children at supper that evening to "Sit down ... quietly, don't jump up right away and get the ketchup," she said, "we are now going to hold hands and pray."

The family was a little nervous with this new idea, but they did as they were told. Next, as she puts it, in her "most rabbinical voice," she declared that everyone was to find a place of peace inside themselves. She recited the words of the prayer for peace, and waited, as she says, "for blessing to descend on the dining room."

And how did the family react? She writes, instead of blessing, "all hell broke loose."

The older child took "Let there be peace on earth," and sang it out in a raucous voice. "The younger one began whining because she wanted to get up and microwave her soup." Both of them left the table, collided in the kitchen, started yelling at each other, resulting in two crying, whining, hungry children, and a husband angry at changing the dinner rules with no warning.

In turn, our mother/rabbi ended up crying too as her vision of a peace-fill world, let alone a peaceful dinner, crumbled in the hands of her own family. (Fuchs, 1996, pp. xvi-ii).

But, Rabbi Fuchs says that later in the same evening while they were sitting around reading and relaxing, they discussed what had happened at supper. She admitted to them that she had been bossy. She says, that she had been trying to "prepare, serve, and feed faith" to her children, "like homemade, nutritious baby food."

She goes on to say that she realized she had been bossy not only with her family but with holiness itself. The next thing that happened was a moment of grace. Her daughter pulled off an imitation of her that got them all laughing about the whole affair.

The rabbi says of the laughter, "in that moment of laughter...we experienced something larger than ourselves. I had read, prayed, and even preached that 'God forgives our sins,' but I didn't know that until I began forgiving my children and they began forgiving me" (Fuchs, 1996, p. xvii).

She concluded with: “Who would have thought that out of the mess of that evening meal there could have emerged such gold.”

Source: Entangled in Mystery: History and Hopes for The Center for Congregations and Family Ministries by J. BRADLEY WIGGER

Although not explicit in the previous example, the story ended with another principal of functional families: Apologizing as an essential practice. The family will have conflict yet remain friendly and trusting when the argument becomes history. We say and so things we regret, but we quickly apologize, ask for, and receive forgiveness.

And, courtesy teaches children that the habit of saying "please" or “thank you," “you’re welcome” or “I’m sorry” often dispenses with explanations, defensive arguments, and misunderstandings.

A Catholic example of family prayer apart from grace before meals comes from Tom Hoopes, who noted like many of us know, that the rosary stops a busy family in it’s tracks, quiets the world’s noise, gathers us together, and focuses us on God and not ourselves. This does wonders for a family psychologically and emotionally.

3. A final example comes from the Old Testament book of Judges that presents Samson's relationship with Delilah and the disastrous results. Among other things, one functional principal not practiced in this story is accountability, whereby each family member tells the others of their intended destinations, expected activities, time of return, and how to reach them, which fosters trust and helps eliminate worry.

By the way, family disintegration is a theme in the book of Judges. The book depicts the progressive fragmentation of households to teach certain lessons like only Bible stories can.

Many of us already know what happened:

After going to a Philistine city and seeing a Philistine woman, Samson returned to his parents and told them to "get her for me as a wife" (14:1-2). His parents objected, asking whether there was not someone among their own people he could pick rather than "a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines" (v. 3). Apparently they knew that intermarriage was not permitted in Israel (Deut. 7:1-3), and they are to be faulted for not standing firm.

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