February 23, 2014
Before creating 19 new Cardinals yesterday, Pope Francis addressed the College of Cardinals on Thursday morning and introduced their topic of discussion during the Extraordinary Consistory.
“During these days, we will reflect in particular on the family, which is the fundamental cell of society. From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family then is an image of the Triune God in the world.”
Pope Francis continued, “Our reflections must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality which is so simple and yet so rich, consisting of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings, as is the whole of life. We will seek to deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires. May we do so thoughtfully and without falling into ‘casuistry’, because this would inevitably diminish the quality of our work. Today, the family is looked down upon and mistreated. We are called to acknowledge how beautiful, true and good it is to start a family, to be a family today; and how indispensable the family is for the life of the world and for the future of humanity.”
-Address of Pope Francis to the Extraordinary Consistory, February 20, 2014 (bold added)
Pope John Paul I, known especially in Italy as “il Papa del sorriso,” or “the smiling Pope,” while greeting the various groups of pilgrims in attendance at his General Audience on Wednesday, September 13, 1978 (just eighteen days after his papal election, and just fifteen days before his death), told the following story at the conclusion of the Audience:
“On our right, on the other hand, there are the newlyweds. They have received a great sacrament. Let us wish that this sacrament which they have received will really bring not only goods of this world, but more spiritual graces. Last century there was in France a great professor, Frederick Ozanam. He taught at the Sorbonne, and was so eloquent, so capable! His friend was [Father] Lacordaire, who said: ‘He is so gifted, he is so good, he will become a priest, he will become a great bishop, this fellow!’ No! He met a nice girl and they got married. Lacordaire was disappointed and said: ‘Poor Ozanam! He too has fallen into the trap!’ But two years later, Lacordaire came to Rome, and was received by Pius IX. ‘Come, come, Father,’ he says. ‘I have always heard that Jesus established seven sacraments. Now you come along and change everything. You tell me that he established six sacraments, and a trap! No, Father, marriage is not a trap, it is a great sacrament!’ So let us express again our best wishes for these dear newlyweds: may the Lord bless them!”
Pius IX was right, of course: marriage is not a trap, marriage is a great sacrament. John Paul I didn’t recall the story simply because he thought it was funny (imagining this conversation between Pius IX and Lacordaire is somewhat humorous, though)—no, John Paul I recalled the story because it’s important! The sacraments do not trap us, because Christ does not lead us into traps, and he instituted the sacraments. The Catechism affirms this, quoting the Council of Trent: “‘Adhering to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, to the apostolic traditions, and to the consensus . . . of the Fathers,’ we profess that ‘the sacraments of the new law were . . . all instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord” (CCC 1114). Christ instituted the sacraments.
Further, the Second Vatican Council taught that the “purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 59). The sacraments sanctify us: this is why Christ gave them to us—“For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). By being incorporated into the body of Christ and by worshiping God, we are sanctified.
Marriage is not somehow exempt from this sanctifying power. It is true that married people do not always dispose themselves to be sanctified by their marriages, but nevertheless God can and does sanctify his people through the sacrament of marriage, and for that we give him thanks and praise.
Thank the Lord today for the gift of marriage, and if you are married, thank him for the gift of your marriage, by which he sanctifies you and your spouse. For “marriage is not a trap, it is a great sacrament!”
“The future of humanity passes by way of the family. It is therefore indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor to save and foster the values and requirements of the family. I feel that I must ask for a particular effort in this field from the sons and daughters of the Church. Faith gives them full knowledge of God’s wonderful plan: they therefore have an extra reason for caring for the reality that is the family in this time of trial and of grace. They must show the family special love. This is an injunction that calls for concrete action.
Loving the family means being able to appreciate its values and capabilities, fostering them always. Loving the family means identifying the dangers and the evils that menace it, in order to overcome them. Loving the family means endeavoring to create for it an environment favorable for its development. The modern Christian family is often tempted to be discouraged and is distressed at the growth of its difficulties; it is an eminent form of love to give it back its reasons for confidence in itself, in the riches that it possesses by nature and grace, and in the mission that God has entrusted to it. ‘Yes indeed, the families of today must be called back to their original position. They must follow Christ.’”
The Supreme Court decisions on the two marriage cases could come any day now. Instead of a Pope Quote, this Sunday we’re sharing two salient quotes from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, a compilation of Catholic Social Teaching. Both help us to understand why it is part of Catholic Social Teaching to uphold, strengthen, and defend marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“The family, in fact, is born of the intimate communion of life and love founded on the marriage between one man and one woman. It possesses its own specific and original social dimension, in that it is the principal place of interpersonal relationships, the first and vital cell of society. The family is a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order.” (no. 211, emphasis original)
“Society, and in particular State institutions, respecting the priority and ‘antecedence’ of the family, is called to guarantee and foster the genuine identity of family life and to avoid and fight all that alters or wounds it.” (no. 252, emphasis original)
Summer is wedding season! Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is a piece of advice Pope Benedict XVI gave to a group of engaged couples in September 2011 during a pastoral visit to Ancona, Italy.
Pope Benedict XVI: Fidelity, indissolubility and the transmission of life are the pillars of every family, the true common good, a precious patrimony of society as a whole. From now on found your journey towards marriage on these pillars and witness to this among your peers, too: such a service is precious!
- Address during Meeting with Young Couples in Ancona, Italy (September 11, 2001)
Sunday, May 26 is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. In his 1988 apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem, Bl. John Paul II wrote about the likeness between the Trinity and human persons.
Bl. John Paul II: God, who allows himself to be known by human beings through Christ, is the unity of the Trinity: unity in communion. In this way new light is also thrown on man’s image and likeness to God, spoken of in the book of Genesis. [link] The fact that man “created as man and woman” is the image of God means not only that each of them individually is like God, as a rational and free being. It also means that man and woman, created as a “unity of the two” in their common humanity, are called to live in a communion of love, and in this way to mirror in the world the communion of love that is in God, through which the Three Persons love each other in the intimate mystery of the one divine life.
Visit our Facebook page to share this quote with mothers you know!
In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI gave a conference at a General Audience on Saint Bridget of Sweden, because “this holy woman has much to teach the Church and the world.” A married woman, she reflected sanctity in her domestic life. Forming families is something that can truly make us holy.
Pope Benedict XVI: “We can distinguished two periods in this Saint’s life.
“The first was characterized by her happily married state. Her husband was called Ulf and he was Governor of an important district of the Kingdom of Sweden. The marriage lasted for 28 years, until Ulf’s death. Eight children were born, the second of whom, Karin (Catherine), is venerated as a Saint. This is an eloquent sign of Bridget’s dedication to her children’s education. Moreover, King Magnus of Sweden so appreciated her pedagogical wisdom that he summoned her to Court for a time, so that she could introduce his young wife, Blanche of Namur, to Swedish culture. Bridget, who was given spiritual guidance by a learned religious who initiated her into the study of the Scriptures, exercised a very positive influence on her family which, thanks to her presence, became a true “domestic church”. Together with her husband she adopted the Rule of the Franciscan Tertiaries. She generously practiced works of charity for the poor; she also founded a hospital. At his wife’s side Ulf’s character improved and he advanced in the Christian life. On their return from a long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which they made in 1341 with other members of the family, the couple developed a project of living in continence; but a little while later, in the tranquility of a monastery to which he had retired, Ulf’s earthly life ended. This first period of Bridget’s life helps us to appreciate what today we could describe as an authentic “conjugal spirituality”: together, Christian spouses can make a journey of holiness sustained by the grace of the sacrament of Marriage. It is often the woman, as happened in the life of St Bridget and Ulf, who with her religious sensitivity, delicacy and gentleness succeeds in persuading her husband to follow a path of faith. I am thinking with gratitude of the many women who, day after day, illuminate their families with their witness of Christian life, in our time too. May the Lord’s Spirit still inspire holiness in Christian spouses today, to show the world the beauty of marriage lived in accordance with the Gospel values: love, tenderness, reciprocal help, fruitfulness in begetting and in raising children, openness and solidarity to the world and participation in the life of the Church.”
- Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, October 27, 2010 (emphasis added)
Today, April 28, is the feast day of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, a married saint whom we profiled earlier in our married saints series. In honor of St. Gianna’s feast day, today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from the 2004 mass in which Bl. John Paul II canonized St. Gianna along with five others.
Bl. Pope John Paul II: “Gianna Beretta Molla was a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love. In a letter to her future husband a few days before their marriage, she wrote: ‘Love is the most beautiful sentiment the Lord has put into the soul of men and women’.
Following the example of Christ, who ‘having loved his own…loved them to the end’ (Jn 13:1), this holy mother of a family remained heroically faithful to the commitment she made on the day of her marriage. The extreme sacrifice she sealed with her life testifies that only those who have the courage to give of themselves totally to God and to others are able to fulfill themselves.
Through the example of Gianna Beretta Molla, may our age rediscover the pure, chaste and fruitful beauty of conjugal love, lived as a response to the divine call!”
- Homily at the Canonization of Six New Saints (May 16, 2004), emphasis added
Pope Gregory XVI (2 February 1831 – 1 June 1846) served in a chaotic period of European history. The French Revolution had uprooted the traditional way of life from most Europeans. Gregory was concerned that too much of the Christian tradition was being set aside. In one paragraph of his encyclical Mirari Vos, he defends the sacramental and indissolubility of marriage.
Now the honorable marriage of Christians, which Paul calls “a great sacrament in Christ and the Church,” demands our shared concern lest anything contrary to its sanctity and indissolubility is proposed. Our predecessor Pius VIII would recommend to you his own letters on the subject. However, troublesome efforts against this sacrament still continue to be made. The people therefore must be zealously taught that a marriage rightly entered upon cannot be dissolved; for those joined in matrimony God has ordained a perpetual companionship for life and a knot of necessity which cannot be loosed except by death. Recalling that matrimony is a sacrament and therefore subject to the Church, let them consider and observe the laws of the Church concerning it. Let them take care lest for any reason they permit that which is an obstruction to the teachings of the canons and the decrees of the councils. They should be aware that those marriages will have an unhappy end which are entered upon contrary to the discipline of the Church or without God’s favor or because of concupiscence alone, with no thought of the sacrament and of the mysteries signified by it.
—Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos #12, August 15, 1832 (Italics original, bold added)