Part 3 of 3
The family thus becomes the place where the faith is nurtured, taught, and one of the places where conversion can occur. The family has the responsibility of guiding the child to the faith. “The family is the primary place of evangelization, for passing on the faith, for helping young people to appreciate the importance of religious practice and Sunday observance.” It falls to parents to foster this appreciation of the faith and the traditions that come with it. To guide them to an authentic understanding of the faith and thus parents are called to renew their faith so that they will be able to communicate effectively the faith to future generations not only to their children, but also hopefully to their children’s children. “Parents have the right and the inalienable duty…to foster the responsible exercise of their [children’s] moral freedom and their ability to love on the basis of their having been loved; and above all to enable them to encounter God.” Christian parents are then called to be a credible witness of the faith and hope that they have in Christ ensure that the good news of Christ reaches their children with the highest degree of clearness and authenticity. Following there needs to be cultivated a capacity for discernment in order to foster right judgment. “Children have the right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person.” One of the essential ways that the Christian family can pass on the faith is through teaching their children how to pray and to pray with them. By uniting themselves in prayer together, they unite themselves to Christ. Parents must also lead their children to the sacraments and into fullness into the life of the Church. Christian parents have the duty to let the light of faith shine on their families and through this exercise; they raise their family to God. Pope Benedict can be heard exhorting parents during a homily to help their children learn the faith.
“Dear Parents! I [Pope Benedict] ask you to help your children to grow in faith, I ask you to accompany them on their journey towards First Communion, a journey which continues beyond that day, and to keep accompanying them as they make their way to Jesus and with Jesus. Please, go with your children to Church and take part in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration! You will see that this is not time lost; rather, it is the very thing that can keep your family truly united and centered. Sunday becomes more beautiful, the whole week becomes more beautiful, when you go to Sunday Mass together.”
This quote shows the passion and desire that the Pope has, families to be united in faith, that through faith they will grow closer together and stronger in their bonds of love. Only through God who brought the family into existence and together in the first place will be found the strength to keep it together. “Only faith in Christ and only sharing the faith of the Church saves the family; and on the other hand, only if the family is saved can the Church also survive.”
Families that teach about the faith must teach it authentically, truthfully and thus accordingly have the duty to teach truth to their children. “One must then be re-educated to the desire to know authentic truth, to defend one’s own freedom of choice…to nourish passion for moral beauty and a clear conscience. This is the delicate duty of parents…and it is the duty of the Christian community.” It falls to the family to be the area where morality and conscience is formed. It is in this community where “the child is taught to worship and love God, learning the grammar of human and moral values and learning to make good use of freedom of truth.” Therefore, it is shown that the family whose fundamental necessity is shown in the natural law is on the supernatural level the fundamental school of Christian formation.
It then falls to the family, rooted in Christ that must be the first school of education in morality and values. “The family is also a school which enables men and women to grow to the full measure of their humanity. The experience of being loved by their parents helps children to become aware of their dignity as children.” Through authentic love, which all marriages and families are called to, the growth of the humanity of their children occurs. The light of truth is ignited in them and authentic freedom can be experienced. The definitive “yes” is given to Gods plan and of his calling us to choose him and by extension to choose all that is good, true, and beautiful. Parents guard this freedom to choose and are called to cultivate it properly so that the child grows in the fullness of his/her humanity as ordained by God. When families properly cultivate this atmosphere in their homes, they have a “unity and strength that helps society to breath genuine human values.” The evidence is abundant for when this cultivation does not occur properly, the culture that is around us today is an example of this. A modernity that is not rooted in authentic human values is threatened by instability and the confusion of roles that is currently occurring in the world.
The family is thus the first teaching moment that is brought forth where the child can learn authentic Christian values and morality. It is the innermost nucleus of truth about man and his destiny. Today’s culture seems to have a lack of attention to these aspects of truth that are brought forth by Pope Benedict XVI. The necessity of the family is written in the natural law and elevated by Christ by his simple birth into a human family and growing in wisdom under the tutelage of Mary and Joseph. Society today seems to be ignoring the obvious in their quest for what they believe to be truth when they are in truth violating laws that should not be violated. “Therefore, no law made by man can override the norm written by the creator without society’s becoming dramatically wounded in what constitutes its basic foundation. To forget this would mean to weaken the family, penalizing the children and rendering the future of society precarious.” Society stands on a precipice as new definitions of what marriage fundamentally is, and what families fundamental are is being explored. The Pope reminds us to look to the Family of Nazareth may it be for our families and communities the object of constant and confident prayer as well as their life model.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Benedict in America: The Full Texts of Papal Talks Given During His Apostolic Visit to the United States (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), page 47.
 Cf. “Benedict XVI On World Meeting of Families,” Catholic Online, http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=3449 (accessed September 21, 2010).
 Pope Benedict XVI, “World Congress of Families: What Parents Should Do (given as a Homily),” Catholic Insight 14, no. 8 (September 2006): 12-14.
 Cf. ibid.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Benedict in America: The Full Texts of Papal Talks Given During His Apostolic Visit to the United States (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), page 49.
 Cf. Pope Benedict XVI, “World Congress of Families: What Parents Should Do (given as a Homily),” Catholic Insight 14, no. 8 (September 2006): 12-14.
 Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Homily at Vespers in Munich, Germany, September 2006, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 88.
 Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Meeting with members of the Roman clergy, March 2006, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 85.
 Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Address to members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, February 2006, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 79.
 Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Address to the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, May 2008, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 84.
 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 26.
 Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Message for the Forty-First World Communications Day, January 2007, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 47.
 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 26.
 Pope Benedict XVI: Family, Address to participants in the International Congress on Natural Moral Law, February 2007, Spiritual Thought Series (Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009), page 6.
The following is the bibliography of resources used for the paper that appeared in the three sections over the past few days
Pope Benedict XVI: Family. Spiritual Thought Series. Washington D.C.: USCCB, 2009.
“Benedict XVI On World Meeting of Families.” Catholic Online. http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=3449 (accessed September 21, 2010).
Pope Benedict XVI. “Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace.” The Holy See. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents (accessed October, 27 2010).
Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict in America: The Full Texts of Papal Talks Given During His Apostolic Visit to the United States. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008.
Pope Benedict XVI. Questions and Answers. Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor, 2008.
Pope Benedict XVI. “World Congress of Families: What Parents Should Do (given as a Homily).” Catholic Insight 14, no. 8 (September 2006): 12-14.
Coulet, Jean-Michel, ed. An Invitation to Faith: An A to Z Primer On the Thought of Pope Benedict. Translated by Kate Marcelin-Rice. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007.
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Christianity And The Crisis Of Cultures. Translated by Brian McNeil. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009.
Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Values in a Time of Upheaval. Translated by Brian McNeil. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006.
Schurmann, Heinz, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Principles of Christian Morality. Translated by Graham Harrison. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986.