Family and Society: a time for work and a time for celebration

One highlighted event of the 7th World Meeting of Families was the “Festival of Testimonies” involving an open dialogue between Benedict XVI and families from around the world. We offer a summary of the experience of the Rerrie family from the United States.

My name is Jay. I’m Jamaican and work as an accountant. This is my wife, Anna and she’s a special education teacher. And these are our six children, ranging in age from two to twelve.”

This is how the Rerrie family introduced itself to Pope Benedict XVI during the Festival of Testimonies that was broadcast over live TV from Milan on 2 June 2012.

For Jay and Anna Rerrie the spirituality of unity has helped them to maintain a solid relationship with each other, and it has united their family in times of difficulty.

In early 2006, when the labour market had entered into a severe crisis, Jay had to find a new job. In spite of the many obstacles, they agreed that they wanted to keep their mutual love alive, facing the moment with courage, even though Anna was expecting their fourth child and wondering how they would support the family when Jay was jobless.

They decided together that even though she was pregnant, she could return to teaching, and they moved to another city where a school was prepared to hire her.

Jay also found a job there, in  an office where he spent many hours trying to finish the four months of work that was left undone when no one was working there. His efforts gained him the esteem of his new boss.

But it wasn’t the same at home. “My wife and small children in school: a recipe for disaster!,” Jay explained. “There wasn’t enough time to be together.” Anna found it difficult to accept, having grown up in a home where the family was always together for supper. Now Jay would often return home when the children were already in bed sleeping.

Meanwhile, the company he was now working for began to have problems and, once again, he found himself jobless. Anna’s overall reaction to this sorrowful news was comforting for Jay. It resulted in a deeper experience of unity with each other. “The next  two months,” Anna recalls, “were enjoyable and unnerving at the same time. But it was fantastic to have Jay at home!”

In a few months their savings began to dwindle, but they never stopped believing. Then there was a telephone call. It was an offer of a better job, one closer to home, with hours that were compatible with the family schedule.

“I think I understand this dilemma, “ the Holy Father told them, “So I would like to invite employers to think of the family, so that the two priorities can be reconciled.  It seems to me that you naturally must be creative but, at least each day, bring some joy into the family, some attention, some giving up of your own will in order to be family together. And then there is Sunday, the feast day, the Lord’s Day, also the “human person’s day” because we are free. This comes from the Creation story, the original intention of the Creator  that one day, everyone would be free. In this liberty of being one for the other, for yourselves, you are free for God. I think that this is the way for us to defend human freedom, by defending Sunday and other feast days as days of the Lord God and therefore days for the human person. Good luck to you! Thank you!”