The Families of Cana aspire to be holy, not only as individual family members and not only as married couples, but above all as families. This wish to become holy as a family transpires in an atmosphere of a marriage feast, which in the Gospel of Saint John represents the Banquet of the Kingdom of God, the great celebration of the nuptial love of God-with-us.
Family life and the Banquet of the Kingdom
Throughout the Old Testament, God celebrates His covenant with His people through a festive meal. That is how it happened with Abraham, Moses and the prophets, and that is how it is appears described in the Book of Wisdom. When Jesus arrives, God comes so near that this meal can be taken in the home of every family. The first home where it was taken is naturally in Nazareth, where Jesus shared his meal with Mary and Joseph for thirty long years. Then the gospels tell of how the Banquet of the Kingdom took place in the house of the newly-wed couple in Cana, in the house of Zacchaeus, in the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, in the home of Simon Peter, in the house of Simeon the Pharisee, and of how He became Eucharist in the house of Mark, called the Cenacle, and finally in the house at Emmaus. Also, the first Christians celebrated their faith in their houses, even to the point of Saint Paul, in his letters, addressing himself to “the church that meets at [the] house” (Rom 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15;) of certain families, that is, the church that shares a family meal and the Eucharistic meal.
The Families of Cana hope to recover the profoundly celebratory meaning of family life, as a sign of the conjugal alliance between God and His people. Therefore the marriage feast of Cana takes place in the family home as well as in the Eucharistic celebration at the church on Sunday.
Family life and unity
Throughout the Old Testament, the alliance of God with his people is made possible because of the “yes” of different families. Indeed, at the origin of the people of God we find not only Abraham as an individual, but Abraham as the head of a family, and it is with Sara his wife that he sets out for Canaan. And it is though her that the promise of a descendent is realised. Centuries later, arriving at Canaan, Joshua does not proclaim his own personal faith but that of his whole family in whose name he spoke: “As for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh” (Josh 24:15). The “yes” of Mary required the “yes” of Joseph so that Jesus would live among us in family. The Acts of the Apostles describe the conversion of entire families that received baptism in a single celebration (cf. Act 16:33).
In today’s world, matters of faith seem to be generally incapable of assembling entire families. It is believed that each family member should have his or her own system of beliefs and choices without interfering with the other members of the family, and even the baptism of babies is postponed so that it can be they who choose their faith later in life. The response of Joshua, speaking in the name of his household, or the decision of the first converts to Christianity to baptise their families all at one time, seem in the eyes of the modern world to be outdated and authoritarian.
The Families of Cana hope to be part of the great biblical tradition and in that way contradict the scattering of modern families. According to the Second Vatican Council, they hope to be small Domestic Churches (Lumen Gentium, 11: AAS 57), where children are brought up in the Catholic faith from the cradle, because the – 8 – education they receive should challenge them to be holy and growing up should be an adventure as they journey towards heaven.
Fruits of the Holy Spirit
In this context of the Alliance, the Holy Spirit cultivates some specific fruits:
Joy: Families of Cana are full of joy and express it with festive songs and dancing, praying with their whole bodies, celebrating life, friendship, love and trying to nurture occasions of family recreation, pleasant conversation and cheerful games. When the Lord lets them share His cross, the joy becomes mingled with pain but does not become despair or lamenting, rather, it lets itself be infused with serenity for the yoke of the Lord is easy and His burden light (cf. Mt 11:30)
– Sharing as a family: Families of Cana share family time and space as much as possible, contradicting what the Pope called “the individualism of our postmodern and globalized era” (Evangelii gaudium, 67). In this way, Families of Cana find time and a space in their homes to share conversations, games and activities, not allowing television to silence the sharing of life, nor allowing extracurricular activities, work or even apostolic undertakings to hinder family engagement and collaboration between brothers and sisters. Starting from the very meaning of the word Feast or Banquet, and from the whole biblical tradition that culminates in the festive meals of Jesus, family mealtimes are absolutely central, and, along with family prayer, are part of family “prime time”.
– Simplicity: The Wedding at Cana was certainly very different from the vast majority of modern day weddings. Pope Francis refers to these modern day weddings in his exhortation Amoris laetitia, and appeals to fiancés: “Short-term preparations for marriage tend to be concentrated on invitations, clothes, the party and any number of other details that tend to drain not only the budget but energy and joy as well. The spouses come to the wedding ceremony exhausted and harried, rather than focused and ready for the great step that they are about to take. (…) Here let me say a word to fiancés. Have the courage to be different. Don’t let yourselves get swallowed up by a society of consumption and empty appearances. What is important is the love you share, strengthened and sanctified by grace. You are capable of opting for a more modest and simple celebration in which love takes precedence over everything else”. (AL 212) Families of Cana try to recuperate the biblical sense of the wedding not only at the beginning of their family life but also during their entire journey, living their family love with great simplicity and austerity too, far from the mundaneness that infects today’s world
– Generosity: Families of Cana are generous with the Lord, since He is generous with them by not allowing a shortage of new wine in their houses. This generosity is expressed firstly within the bosom of the family itself, which is opened to life in accordance to the doctrine of the Church, as expressed in the papal encyclicals and exhortations Humanae vitae, Familiaris consortio and Amoris Laetitia. Their openness to life is also expressed in their willingness to imitate Mary by serving their extended families, their communities and parishes, the poor, the abandoned, the marginalised, friends and neighbours, with doors and windows open to everyone and being close to everyone.