The Virtue of Aseity and Family Life
Having defined the word aseity and explained its importance, let us now understand what aseity or personality, to use a more common term, receives and how it benefits from family life. In fact, it receives almost everything.
Personality is a profound force within us. Even so, in its first manifestations, it evidently tends to be timid. It is born in a fragile state and finds its natural support in family life.
What are those supports? The first support that personality receives from family life is that of heredity, and the second is tradition.
Let us hear what Pope Pius XII has to say about heredity in his Allocution to the Patriciate and Roman Nobility on 5th January, 1941:
The nature of this great and mysterious thing that is heredity—the passing on through a bloodline, perpetuated from generation to generation, of a rich ensemble of material and spiritual assets, the continuity of a single physical and moral type from father to son, the tradition that unites members of one same family across the centuries—the true nature of this heredity can undoubtedly be distorted by materialistic theories. But one can, and must also, consider this reality enormously important in the fullness of its human and supernatural truth.
One certainly cannot deny the existence of a material substratum in the transmission of hereditary characteristics; to be surprised at this one would have to forget the intimate union of our soul with our body, and in what great measure our most spiritual activities are themselves dependent upon our physical temperament. For this reason Christian morality never forgets to remind parents of the great responsibilities resting on their shoulders in this regard.
Passing from biological heredity to the role of tradition, Pius XII continues:
Yet of greater import still is spiritual heredity, which is transmitted not so much through these mysterious bonds of material generation as by the permanent action of that privileged environment that is the family, with the slow and profound formation of souls in the atmosphere of a hearth rich in high intellectual, moral, and especially Christian traditions, with the mutual influence of those dwelling under one same roof, an influence whose beneficial effects endure well beyond the years of childhood and youth, all the way to the end of a long life, in those elect souls who are able to meld within themselves the treasures of a precious heredity with the addition of their own merits and experiences.
Such is the most prized patrimony of all, which, illuminated by a solid faith and enlivened by a strong and loyal practice of Christian life in all its demands, will raise, refine, and enrich the souls of your children.6
Here you have a definition of what a home is. There is a reciprocal action between heredity and tradition. Thus, a family constitutes its own small internal world because it has a defined heredity that is derived from biological factors acting over psychological ones, these being formed by the faith and cultural values. A person born into this world feels himself marvellously placed because it is derived from a common foundation existing among the members of the family. It corresponds precisely to the most profound level of each one’s personality. It stimulates each one to be what he is. It favours the uninhibited blossoming of the characteristics of the family, and because of this, stimulates the blossoming of the individual characteristics linked to the family.
In short, the family, strengthened by heredity, naturally creates an environment of understanding, homogeneity, and spontaneity that helps the individual to blossom and develop.
There is also tradition. Each family transmits its way of being to the next generation, and in the act of transmission there is an increase in the strength of the personality. In this way, tradition reinforces biological heredity. There is a symbiosis between tradition and heredity that produces the ambience in which the family provides for the complete blossoming of the individual.
Let us imagine the case of a family, not a small nuclear family, but a numerous family with many children along with a large extended family, all of whom frequent the house. This ensemble constitutes an environment with concentric circles. The first circle, let us say, is a child’s home, entirely like him. The second circle is those homes that are a bit removed from his where there will be some similarities and some dissimilarities. Then we have a third circle: the outside world, the place where all similarities and dissimilarities meet casually and haphazardly.
If he feels supported, he can expand himself throughout these three circles. When he enters the outside world, he has all his relatives backing him up and who publicly think like he does, who feel like he do, and who impose themselves just like he does. He can face popularity or unpopularity because he has something to support him. In other words, he can expand his aseity or personality.
How different is the case of a nuclear family! It has few people, so there is not much variety. Since the home is dull, the person flees to the outside world, or he even brings the outside world into the home by putting televisions in several rooms giving the sensation that he is in the outside world.
As a result, when the person enters that third circle which is the outside world, he feels isolated. The child arrives at school isolated. Young boys or girls start out their social life isolated. They will have very little support, if any at all, but will certainly feel external stimuli or pressure of the fashions and the ways of being that are imposed by the media. If they resist, they will be persecuted, ridiculed, and ostracised. What is the result? They suffer insecurity, vacillation, doubt, isolation, and then capitulation. After enduring something like this for, let us say, ten years, if a person does not have a strong personality, he will succumb to the outside pressure, and his unique personality will be destroyed.
However, family life, when coupled with heredity and tradition, can have an effect on public opinion. Public opinion will no longer just be the fruit of the newspaper, radio, or television. The mass media will continue to have its influence, but the dominating influence will be family opinion, which is what matters most to an individual, as this is the ambience that surrounds him.
Public opinion will then function within the context of family opinions. The unifying element of public opinion will no longer be the omnipotent media acting upon the microscopic individual, but rather the omnipotent media acting through the filter of the extended family that not only includes relatives and immediate family, but also families of families.
Thus, a bi-directional flow is established. On the one hand, public opinion is shaped by the mass media. On the other hand, since the radio, television, and the press need to be popular, these also suffer the influence of the opinions of families so they can maintain their prestige.
We can now understand how public opinion the world over—so changeable, unstable, fallible, precarious, and capricious—can become stable, structured, normal, and healthy, and, as such, can largely protect itself from the mass media with its demagogic solicitations that are frequently tyrannical.
This is the idea of public opinion seen from a very different perspective.
6) Pius XII, Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di Sua Santita Pio XII, Tipografia Pliglotta Vaticana, 5 Jan- uary, 1941, pp. 363-366.