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Friday, February 4, 2011

Family: Live and Transmit the Faith Part 2 of 3

This is the 2nd of 3 parts of my paper on the family, reflecting the thoughts of Pope Benedict XVI.  The last portion of the paper discussed the importance of marriage and ended with the discussion that God at his very heart is love.  Love something that is such abundance nowadays it seems like, but when you pause to reflect is it really?  Is true authentic love that imitates to the best of our ability the divine love of God in an abundance or is it slowly fading into the lesser love of eros love.

Part 2 of 3

            The necessity of authentic agape love as well as eros love in marriage and by extension the family is shown in the self-giving nature of love.  “The experience of being welcomed and loved by God and by our parents is always the firm foundation for authentic human grown and authentic [moral] development, helping us to mature on the way towards truth and love.”[1]  The welcoming love of the family, not only parents but also, grandparents and relatives is essential in the formation of the person, how can one learn love, and by extension truth if they have never, felt loved.  “The family is the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love.”[2]  Love is such a great gift, and the greatest gift that can be given by parents to their children so that they can learn that example, apply, and follow it in their own lives.  The Christian faith helps families as they journey along this road.  “Christian faith and ethics do not wish to stifle love but to make it healthy, strong, and truly free:  This is the exact meaning of the Ten Commandments, which are not a series of no’s but a great ‘yes’ to love and to life.”[3]  Love is not the guarantee of a problem free life, suffering is a part of our fallen nature, and where many families began to falter is when there is the onset of suffering.  However, “we must accept the crisis in which it seems that it is no longer possible to stay together.  Husbands and wives must learn to move ahead together…love one another anew with a love far deeper and far truer.  So it is that on a long journey, with its suffering, love truly matures.”[4]  When the going gets tough for marriages and families, the tough must get relying on God and through Him mature in himself or herself. 
            A foundational aspect of the family is that it needs God to survive.  So much today is seen the absence of God in the lives of young couples and all too much those lives end in the pain of divorce.  This is easily remedied since “each generation, all parenthood, and every family has its origin in God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”[5]  Accordingly, God is the origin of the family, which makes perfect sense since he is the origin of all life.  “Without trust in God, without trust in Christ who in addition gives us the ability to believe and to live, the family cannot survive.”[6]  The family finds its basis in God and if he is not present then things begin to fall apart.  He is the stabilizing force that brings order and meaning to the existence of the family.  “The family is a living organism…and what is important is that the Word of God, which keeps the flame of faith alive never be lacking.”[7]  Consequently, the foundational aspect of God is shown in the family and the necessity to keep the faith alive and vibrant in the home.
            The family, which is under attack and under revision in today’s culture, is a foundational aspect of society, which must be maintained.  “None of us gave ourselves life or single-handedly learned how to live.  All of us received from others both life itself and its basic truths.”[8]  Life must have come from somewhere and thus the vital role that authentic family life plays in society.  “The family, founded on marriage, is the ‘patrimony of humanity,’ a fundamental social institution; it is vital cell and pillar of society…the family is an intermediate institution between individuals and society, and nothing can completely take its place.”[9]  The family is what holds our society together.  Without the traditional family, there would be what could amount to chaos due to the lack of any guidance given to children.  In the extreme sense as seen most significantly in Europe is the serve population decline due to the lack of children.  This lack of children stems from the lack of a solid family foundation.  The family is a necessary good for peoples, indispensable foundation for society, and something that should always be treasured.  For children the traditional family atmosphere is a unique good because children are the fruit of the complete self-giving love of the parents, who gave them life.[10]  “The family is irreplaceable for the personal serenity it provides for the upbringing of children.”[11]  The family is the primary societal foundation that allows for the growth of society but in the direction of solid faith and morals orientated towards God without which the family would cease to exist.
            The human family and in specific each family must have an openness to life.  The fruit of the self-giving love of spouses is meant to be children.  The family is a safe and peaceful place where life can be brought into existence and nurtured in the faith and truth.  “I [Pope Benedict] would like to stress the fundamental vocation of the family to be the first principal place where life is welcomed.”[12]  Many times, it is seen that unwanted life is murdered by abortion and this is the sad reality of the world today.  Life is not welcomed it is seen as undesirable and a burden.  Families are not formed completely because of this lack of openness to life.  They see their marriage as lacking something but cannot place their finger on what it is.  However, they have closed themselves off to the very thing that would bring fulfillment.  “The family…is the “cradle” of life and of every vocation”[13]  Without the vocation to family life and to marriage all other vocations would evaporate.  Life comes from the self-giving of two people brought together by God, forged into one flesh that bring a new life into the world.  This new life is their responsibility to educate in the ways of faith and truth.


[1] Pope Benedict XVI, “World Congress of Families: What Parents Should Do (given as a Homily),” Catholic Insight 14, no. 8 (September 2006): 12-14.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Address at the prayer vigil for the Fifth World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain, July 2006, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 23.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Address to participants in the ecclesial diocesan convention of Rome, July 2006, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 70.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Meeting with priests of the Diocese of Albano, August 2006, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 72.
[5] Pope Benedict XVI, “World Congress of Families: What Parents Should Do (given as a Homily),” Catholic Insight 14, no. 8 (September 2006): 12-14.
[6] Pope Benedict XVI, Questions and Answers (Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 2008), page 32.
[7] “Benedict XVI On World Meeting of Families,” Catholic Online, http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=3449 (accessed September 21, 2010).
[8] Pope Benedict XVI, “World Congress of Families: What Parents Should Do (given as a Homily),” Catholic Insight 14, no. 8 (September 2006): 12-14.
[9] Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Address to the participants of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, May 2006, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 22-23.
[10] Cf. Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Address at the prayer vigil for the Fifth World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain, July 2006, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 24.
[11] Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Address to the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in Aparecida, Brazil, May 2007, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 25.
[12] Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Visit to St. Martha’s Dispensary, Vatican City, Dec. 2005, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 21.
[13] Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Angelus, February 2007, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 36.


Last section, part 3 will be posted tomorrow

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