The minister amidst his family
Pope Shenouda III | 21 June 2010
Strange indeed to see ministers with a double personality; behaving in the ministry in a completely different way than at home! In Sunday Schools, for instance, they appear like holy angels, uttering humble and gentle words, seeking the prayer of everybody as sinners, weak and undeserving. At home, their real character appears in wrath, violence, rebuking, insulting and hitting! Therefore, it is not enough for nominating somebody for priesthood to seek the opinion of his colleagues in church where he seems a good example, for the opinion of his family is likewise essential to judge if he has any service at all.
If such a person has any service at home, he may turn into a harsh watcher over everybody or a teacher commanding and preventing in a way far from religion!
I remember, in my youth, there was a certain minister who, on seeing some cosmetics with his sister, rose against her with insults and threw the cosmetics out of the window! Is this a spiritual way of ministry that can make his sister love church or respect church ministers? Such a minister may one day rebuke his parents if they do something he does not like!
Actually, such is not ministry, or at least is a violent and proud way of behavior by which the minister keeps away from his family or considers them an offence! He cannot bear their different spiritual way, especially when they sometimes prevent him from church and from ministry. They do that because they see that his ministry made him violent and obstinate, lose gentleness and love, and neglect his duties under the pretext of being busy with the ministry and its requirements. In fact, he becomes an offence to his family!
How then can one serve one's family?
1. Providing assistance:
A minister may give a lesson on the Good Samaritan, while he himself is not one. Therefore, religion is not mere knowledge but a life we lead. Try then to be helpful at home. Instead of getting angry for instance if you find the table is not yet ready and teach them to be punctual, you can assist your mother in preparing food, arranging the table, and washing the dishes. It is a small thing, only a few minutes, by which you will gain the love and prayers of your mother and sisters.
Some ministers do not only refrain from serving their family, but they also want to be served at home!
They do not even arrange their bed and room! Is ministry only preparing and delivering lessons, not also giving a hand at home? You can help your younger brothers or sisters with their lessons and you will gain their love and attachment, while they will benefit spiritually. Why do you not learn some useful hobby like repairing electric apparatus to save them money going for repairs?
2. Cheerfulness and love are a kind of ministry at home.
Be cheerful at home creating an atmosphere of joy and happiness. Your lovely smile and your nice stories and quizzes will make everybody love you, especially the small children. Do not be like those who know nothing of the Paradise of Monks except 'Go into your cell and cry over your sins', or like those who learn from the Holy Scripture only the words of Wise Solomon, "By a sad countenance the heart is made better." (Eccl 7: 3) They are not satisfied with being themselves gloomy, frowning, grave and weeping, but want all the family to be like them! They say that laughing is a sin, and blame whoever laughs, accusing him of being languid! They forget the words of the Scripture that there is a time to laugh (Eccl 3: 4), "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Phil 4: 4) and that "Love, joy, peace" (Gal 5: 22) are among the fruit of the Spirit.
St. Arsanius, though known for being tearful, was cheerful before others. You also, do not let your family think that godliness causes gloominess lest they fear to be godly because of you! Be an example of spiritual cheerfulness and peace of heart.
3. Respect to everybody is a main point in ministering to one's family.
Beware lest your heart becomes exalted making you disdain or judge others or look down on them! Do not put before your eyes only the words, "Convince, rebuke, exhort" (2 Tim 4: 2), because people are sensitive to hard words void of respect to the older. Rather remember that St. Paul said to his disciple Timothy concerning dealing with others, "with all longsuffering and teaching." (2 Tim 4: 2) "Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, the younger as sisters." (1 Tim 5: 1, 2) Even a bishop must be blameless, gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, nor quick-tempered (1 Tim 3: 2, 3; Tit 1: 7) Do not then let your ministry make you forget the virtue of respecting others or your spiritual mission. Be a good example in gentleness, etiquette, and calmness. Let the young learn from you practically how to be decent. Do not talk to elders as a teacher but gently.
4. You can teach others indirectly, through some story about a holy father, contemplation on a certain verse, an experience of a wise person, or a nice joke, but be careful to omit any painful words that may be in the story.
Do not say to your father, for instance, 'Come, dad, let me speak to you some words for your salvation'! Rather, tell a story to your younger brothers so that your father may hear it by chance or intently and benefit from it.
5. You should serve your family with humbleness and prudence, and prudence will teach you humbleness and decency.
Do not behave boldly toward the older or with authority to the younger. Always be young amidst your family, not appearing as more learned, more spiritual, or of a purer heart, otherwise you will lose their friendship and yourself. What will you benefit if ministry has taught you authority, wrath, reproach, and hard-heartedness and set a barrier between you and the others? Before joining ministry, learn to be cheerful and take into consideration that everybody is sensitive.
6. Your mission is to convince, not to compel.
You are a mere witness to the truth, as the Lord has commanded us, "You shall be witnesses to Me." (Acts 1: 8) God said this to His people in the past, "I have set before you today life and good, death and evil ... I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life that both you and your descendants may live." (Deut 30: 15, 19) If you could convince them to do good and they did it by their own will, they will receive their reward, but if they did it against their will, what reward will they receive? Do not make your family wish you had not joined ministry, seeing that you had been better before! Do not rob the others' freedom, but help them to love God; and if they loved Him, they would love to do good by their own will without forcing them, and their intent will be purified.
7. In ministry, beware literal teaching.
Do not be a Pharisee in teaching within or outside home. Let not your attitude concerning means of amusement be literal, causing your family sadness, nor be lenient and leave the matter without limits. You ought rather to be prudent as an example to them, discerning between good and evil out of conviction not extremism. They have the right to have some amusement, but it should be faultless.
Do not treat them as if they were monks or hermits, but on the contrary, draw their attention reasonably to the wrong. Give them a bright image of your godliness instead of presenting religion to them as a bitter medicine they have to drink for their health. See what the father apostles did to the Gentiles (Acts 15: 28, 29), or what St. Paul said to the Corinthians, "I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it." (1 Cor 3: 2)
8. Give them a good example with your successful life.
Give them an example of success and distinction in your studies, making your family rejoice at your distinction, in your social life being the object of trust and love of the others, in your spiritual life being blameless, and in your practical life in general. They will take you as an example and will be attracted to the Lord who they loved through your life. Your family will be proud of you, will accept your words, and will obey your invitation to the church. Your father will set you as an example to your younger brother. If you give God His rights, you ought not only to ask others to do, but your ministry also ought to be a success. It will really be a success if you have virtue and not merely speak about it! You will be a lesson to the others even in your silence.
9. Having done all this, you can then introduce to them the word of God.
Begin with your younger brothers or sisters. The young like stories, and will love you if you tell them Bible stories, Saints biographies, history, or even animal stories. The young also like songs and hymns, and can learn Bible verses. You can give them some quizzes and competitions. You will have a class starting with one child and extending to include children from the other branches of the family or from the friends and neighbors. Time will come when even your mother or father likes to listen to your stories on your or their mouths. You can tell the stories during the meals in the dining room or in the living room, addressing them to the children, but the old will listen to them indirectly.
10. Worship within the family.
A pious family can have a common worship, even partly.
This will be the subject of the coming article next week, God willing.