Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason. This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.
Other Ecclesial Challenges
In this section (nos. 103-104) Pope Francis calls the reader back to a common theme from Pope St. John Paul II’s Pontificate: the genius of women. He writes with admiration of women, who show “special concern … to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood” (no. 103).
Secular discussions about the relationship between the sexes tend to look at them in terms of power; the Church consistently reminds the faithful that because Jesus Christ was “obedient unto death,” He has turned the whole idea of power around. Scripture teaches:
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the learning of the learned I will set aside.’ Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor 1:18-25).
Therefore, since it is the one who most closely imitates Christ, the Crucified One, who is highest in the Kingdom of God, those who seek earthly power are on the wrong track. Pope Francis points this out when he writes that the reservation of the priesthood to males is unchangeable, “but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general” (no. 104). He goes on to reiterate that Mary is the most important human being after Christ; she is “more important” than any bishop (no. 104). The Holy Father encourages the pastors of the Church to be mindful of the gifts that women can bring to decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.
Pope Francis is reminding us of something that we know from experience of family life. As the saying goes, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Mothers have a kind of direct impact on the family dynamic that is exceptional. They have a unique capacity to raise their family up or bring them down; but often this is not acknowledged by the world as a “power.” In fact, a recent study showed this to be true. One of the authors of the study, Deborah Carr, told The Huffington Post: “A wife’s happiness in the marriage has the power to overtake a husband’s marital unhappiness to make his overall life quite pleasant.” Women: use your true powers of attentiveness and nurturing to bring joy to your families!