In the United States, there is a common misperception that growing into full maturity necessitates striking out on your own. People thus tend to measure success by degrees of independence.
Children move away to the other side of the country for school or work, and it is always seen as an occasion to celebrate; never mind how hard it is to maintain the integrity of families across long distances. We demand a house and a car for everyone; never mind that such a lifestyle is extravagant and unsustainable, especially in light of our planet’s deteriorating climate.
Everyone bemoans the loss of close families, but very few are willing to treat the cause. As Pope Francis points out in his Encyclical, Laudato Si’, environmental and cultural decay have occurred precisely because people refuse to live locally and modestly. We are perpetually chasing after the next big opportunity for “self-fulfillment.” We no longer find our primary identity as children of God, our parents, and the land of our birth. The sacred glow of the homestead has faded.
To save our planet and our culture, families need to live together again and share the same spaces and experiences across generations. That’s what we’ve done for all of human history until the last few decades. Without the structure of family, our society has become atomized, materialistic, and confused about personal and collective identity.
Local communities are dying. Neighbors no longer know each other as friends. The number of lonely and marginalized individuals has grown without precedent, and alongside it, so has the welfare state.
The ultimate price of a culture of self-sufficiency is that when the day comes when you can no longer care for yourself, no one else will be around to help you.
Let’s pray and live for family.