The family is the seedbed for the early growth of self esteem.
Ideally, self esteem is first nurtured by the caring mother and father. The home environment, including siblings, add to the positive influences on the infantile intelligence which can be set for attunment with what is good, beautiful and true in life.
In real life, however, nursing self esteem in a child meets obstacles, slight or strong. The child himself may have physical deficiencies, such as in the case of autistic children. There is also the complex combination of racial, social, and economic difficulties. In China, the female child is unwanted. In India, the caste system determines the child's place in society as a noble or as a pariah or shunned outcast.
Not very few are illegitmate children, and realization of being illegitimate can create an unseen streak in personality. The flaw in character may not be immediately be seen, but this can be manifested later on in life when the child is a grown husband or wife, a worker or professional, or simply a grown person.
Alchoholics and habitual drug users may well examine possible influences which can be traced by way of genetics, heritage or family upbringing.
But there are stories, even made into unforgettable movies, of children who recovered the lost treasure of parent and home. The movie "Always in my Heart," tells how a child whose father was in prison was denied by the mother the knowledge that her father was really alive. The odd circumstances in the film leading to a happy reunion was deeply stirring.
From the family, the self starts his journey and treks to his life's goals with a spiritual pack on his back.
Let the human family thrive!
The family bond strengthens the self, while serving meaningful moments that make life more delightful and unforgettable.
I was an only child, but Rene a first cousin who was three years younger than me was my soul mate. We were close in play, in frequenting the cinema, and in traveling out of town.
I treasure his innocent smiling face which always lightened our moments of togetherness. After my 6th grade, we traveled together to Baguio City on a first class train and an airconditioned taxi which speedily zigzaged through the perilous Kennon mountain road. Rene and I could only hold on to our front seat, silently praying. We only smiled again when we safely reached the envigorating City of Pines. "A happy trip," we immediately telegrammed grandmother Marcela, not realizing she and my aunties would travel to join us going through the same perilous route. Rene and I got reprimanded but the experience proved worth it, as everybody enjoyed the summer vacation.
The movie Seven Sullivans is about seven brothers from the eldest who was in his teens to the youngest, a tiny tot. The movie opened with the brothers racing to the railroad track, the youngest helped several times in hurdling fences and mounds. The train passed with the brothers gleefully waving at the father who waved back from the trains's engine room. The brothers were unseparable until their joining the Navy and being assigned in the same battle ship. Tragedy hit when Japanese bombers destroyed the ship, the seven brothers trapped when they tried to rescue a brother in the hospital berth. The movie ended with the father waving from the train's engine room seeing only in memory his seven lost sons.
Stronger we can become, when we experience the best moments of early togetherness. In famiy bonding, life as a joyous journey begins.
Early friendship opens the self to attunement with social reality.
I recall my earliest friendship outside my family circle with the Valeriano boys. The Valeriano family was a neighbor, and the three Valeriano boys, ages twelve, eight and five included me in their games. Among them, Eddie the youngest was my age. He was a constant companion in play and games in which winners take the lot, such as marbles and bottle caps. Of course as a friend, I once also had to take Eddie's part in a fist-fight with a boy who taunted Eddie to boxing match.
At grade three, I regularly fetched another friend Enrique for a daily walk to school. We enjoyed company and play, and he and a classmate Cecilio would visit me and we would simply sit and talk along the railroad track near our home.
Transferring to a private school run by Spanish Dominican priests, I observed that friendship was the flocking of birds of alike feathers: The Spanish boys were clannish, the gays were library student aides; and the the fair-looking and plain-looking ones had their own separate groups.
It does seem that race, hormones, physique, etc. are but some qualities which determine friendly ties. No wonder, it's difficult to break social barriers even among mature people and nations.
In the American Jesuit seminary where I took my priestly studies, the No Particular Friendship rule was strictly enforced. It was a good rule since we found the core of friendship which is openness to others without unhealthy attachments to them. Thus, I enjoyed company during afternoon walks exchanging short extemporaneous sermons; we did gardening and I pushed the wheelborrow as we gathered carabao manure for the chapel garden; the stage club involved us in portraying roles in skits and plays shown to outside visitors.
Early friendship molds the friendly personality all of us need to develop. And friendliness, a criteria for spirituality, is a free way to harmony with life.
Let us discuss a matter of life and death, forcible abortion.
As a young priest, my first assignment was Quiapo Church in the heart of Manila where thousands of devotees come to pray to a Black Nazarene icon.
I was assigned to fill the need for priests to hear confessions during the 1964 Lenten season. When I reported for work I chanced to have lunch with other priests, and the jovial Bishop Pedro Bantigue arrived to join us. Standing after lunch, the good bishop beckoned to us priests seated at the table with the words, "I give you five!"
I did'nt understand what the bishop meant until a senior priest beside me explained, "You have been given the privilege to give five absolutions for abortion," a sin reserved to the bishop. It did'nt take long for me to realize that Quiapo church is the place where abortion gets a sure relief, because elsewhere abortionists are turned away by priests who did not have authority for this reserved sin.
Since abortion has been legallized in some countries like the U.S., the question arises whether we have the case of a legal but immoral law.
To explain, the U.S. and other countries uphold the separation of state and church, and so it is indeed possible that there are laws contrary to sectarian religious norms. Besides abortion, another concrete example is divorce which is contrary to Catholic Canon law, but legalized in Catholic Italy, a great embarassment to the Pope, the resident bishop of Rome.
Why is abortion then legalized? It has been legalized due to the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies of women who have been victims of rape, or met with serious medical or psychological handicaps. During the years when medically assisted abortion was unlawful, these women had no recourse but to seek quack doctors or crudely perform abortions themselves seriously endangering their lives. Through legal but timely abortion (period of still undeveloped fetus), the lives of women in great need are ensured. In sum, the abortion law is a life protection law.
We note, however, that legalized abortion does'nt mean abortion has become moral. Secular governments leave it to the woman to settle the morality issue, which is beyond the domain of this particular law. Women who are non-religious practitioners should find no moral issue in legalized abortion; the religious particularly Catholic women will certainly find this a moral issue. To repeat for Catholics, forcible abortion is not moral and is a grave sin, so grave that its absolution is reserved to the bishop.
But as a priest trained for confessional work, I am supposed to ask the penitent the relevant question in this case, "How long is the pregnancy. . . period of growth of the fetus?" If the penitent says "A month and not beyond," then the priest can grant her absolution. Even in the Roman Catholic Church, the theological debate on when the fetus starts human growth is unsettled.
Legalized timely abbortion may have a moral value after all.
The U.S. Oregon Death with Dignity Act is a groundbreaking law on death by choice.
Approved in 1994, it went through rough sailing and there are heated objections against it until today. Its main advocate is the Compassion in Dying organization, while its main protagonists are national right-to-life groups. In 2001 the Bush admiistration Justice Department even attempted to attack it. The formidable siege against the law, however, has not suceeded as the U.S. Supreme Court has decline to hear any appeal against the law, while a legal analysis by the Clinton administration Justice Department overturned a declaration of illegality by the federal Drug Enforcement Adminsitration.
Is the law moral? To note, there is a constitutional separation of state and church in the U.S. and so any law may be legal, but possibly not moral for some sectoral religious groups. In this legal dilemma, it is the right of sectarian groups to uphold their moral precepts among their membership, serving as it were a test of adherence by members. In the Philippines, for example, the Catholic Church is against contraceptives, but is unable to stop many couples from the use of birth control pills and other artifical devices.
As a Catholic priest educated in Catholic moral law, I was taught the tenets of double effect, which allows unplugging the life system of comatose terminally ill-patients. In this case, there is the passive withdrawal of the life system (oxygen source, fluid cords, ventilators etc.) with the dual effect of eventual death and relief of futile efforts to keep a patient alive.
The Oregon law is, however, is different since the tenet of double effect does not apply. The law allows medical prescription of lethal medication, an active not passive act done on the dying patient. Understandably, it is a controversial law.
Still, the Oregon law has prudence. It requires an extensive process: a request for lethal medication, patient not below 18 years old, ability to make and communicate decisions, Oregon residency, diagnosis of terminal illness of only 6 or less months to live, prescription given by 2 licensed physicians, documented request, 2 waiting periods prior to enforcement, and submission of documentation to the Oregon Department of Human Services. In sum the law is not a quick-fix to self-inflicted death.
While the law is being enforced and the Compassion in Dying organization advances similar laws in other states, we can expect legal challenges all over the nation.
Meanwhile there is a message for reflection: Covert and illegally assisted dying goes on in 49 states; death is a core truth of humanity and a healthy awareness of it should not make us lose our passion for life; compassion in dying is an empowerment not an alienation and abandonment of the dying; it heals society's fear and denial of death.
The spiritual man loves and relishes each moment of life. Death is but a facet of life, which is not less fulfliliing than life itself.