On December 21, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the Roman Curia on the occasion of their annual Christmas greetings. His address was something of a year-in-review, looking at key moments from 2012. One such key moment was the World Meeting of Families in Milian from May 30 to June 3, which the Pope said showed that “despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today.” And yet serious challenges remain, challenges that threaten the family “to its very foundations.” Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is actually a collection of quotes drawn from the Holy Father’s Dec. 21 reflections on the family and the human person. Here he goes to the heart of the cultural crisis of marriage and the family: ultimately it is a question of who the human person is and whether the given reality of being created male and female is to be accepted…or rejected.
“The question of the family is not just about a particular social construct, but about man himself – about what he is and what it takes to be authentically human.”
“Only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity.”
“The attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question.”
“According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed.”
“Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.”
“The child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. … From being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain.”
“When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defense of the family is about man himself.”
**Whoops! This post was meant to be shared on December 30th, the feast of the Holy Family. Sorry about that. Nonetheless, it’s a lovely reflection for any day.
Today is the feast of the Holy Family. It’s also the first day that Catholics are invited to participate in a special Holy Hour for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty as part of the bishops’ Call to Prayer movement. Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from Bl. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio and is a reflection about the connection between the Holy Family and every family.
Bl. John Paul II: And now, at the end of my pastoral message, which is intended to draw everyone’s attention to the demanding yet fascinating roles of the Christian family, I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way. And it will not fail to help Christian families – indeed, all the families in the world – to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard.
– Familiaris Consortio, no. 86 (bold added)
On December 8, Pope Benedict XVI released his message for the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2013). While the bulk of the message is about life, economic concerns, and freedom, Pope Benedict also discussed the role of marriage and the family in promoting a “culture of peace.”
Pope Benedict XVI: There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.
These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. The Church’s efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but addressed to all people, whatever their religious affiliation. Efforts of this kind are all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, since this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.
No one should ignore or underestimate the decisive role of the family, which is the basic cell of society from the demographic, ethical, pedagogical, economic and political standpoints. The family has a natural vocation to promote life: it accompanies individuals as they mature and it encourages mutual growth and enrichment through caring and sharing. The Christian family in particular serves as a seedbed for personal maturation according to the standards of divine love. The family is one of the indispensable social subjects for the achievement of a culture of peace. The rights of parents and their primary role in the education of their children in the area of morality and religion must be safeguarded. It is in the family that peacemakers, tomorrow’s promoters of a culture of life and love, are born and nurtured.
– Message for the Celebration of World Day of Peace 2013, 4 and 6 [emphasis added].
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” So says the Entrance Antiphon for today, the third Sunday of Advent, known as “Gaudete Sunday” from the first word in the Entrance Antiphon: “Rejoice/Gaude.” The Collect, too, speaks of awaiting “the joys of so great a salvation” brought about by Jesus’ birth. It is fitting, then, to reflect on the following passage from Bl. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, where the Holy Father speaks of the family’s role of bringing joy into the world.
Bl. John Paul II: The Christian family has a special vocation to witness to the paschal covenant of Christ by constantly radiating the joy of love and the certainty of the hope for which it must give an account: “The Christian family loudly proclaims both the present virtues of the Kingdom of God and the hope of a blessed life to come” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, no. 35).
– Familiaris Consortio, no. 52
One of the key emphases of this Year of Faith is the New Evangelization, the task of re-kindling the faith in those parts of the world where many people have been baptized but are not living out their faith to the fullest. A year ago in his address to the Pontifical Council for the Family, Pope Benedict XVI explained that the family itself plays a key role in evangelization:
Pope Benedict XVI: The family founded on the Sacrament of Marriage is a particular realization of the Church, saved and saving, evangelized and evangelizing community. Just like the Church, it is called to welcome, radiate and show the world the love and presence of Christ. The reception and transmission of divine love are realized in the mutual commitment of the spouses, in generous and responsible procreation, in the care and education of children, work and social relationships, with attention to the needy, in participation in church activities, in commitment to civil society. The Christian Family to the extent it succeeds in living love as communion and service as a reciprocal gift open to all, as a journey of permanent conversion supported by the grace of God, reflects the splendour of Christ in the world and the beauty of the divine Trinity. St Augustine has a famous phrase: “immo vero vides Trinitatem, si caritatem vides” — “Well, if you see charity, yes indeed you see the Trinity” (De Trinitate, VIII, 8). And the family is one of the fundamental places where you live and are educated in love and charity.
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote from a letter Pope Leo XIII sent to the bishops of Peru in 1898. In the letter, Pope Leo reminds the bishops that no human law can change the meaning of marriage, which is established by God. At the same time, civil law can regulate what are often called the “civil effects” of marriage: the rights and duties given to married couples in light of their role in society. The Pope also speaks eloquently of the many fruits of the sacrament of marriage.
Pope Leo XIII: We are concerned about the whole Christian flock, as Our apostolic duties require, for We have given frequent instruction concerning the sanctity of marriage. Jesus Christ, the author of the new covenant, translated the duty of nature into sacraments, and this duty cannot be divorced from religion and immersed in worldly [affairs]. Preceded by sacred rite, it can bring about a more tranquil and happy life for the spouses, strengthen family harmony, raise children more correctly, and suitably provide for the welfare of its community. Indeed, We have treated this matter in greater detail in Our apostolic letter Arcanum divinae sapientiae consilium. In that letter We wanted to remind the faithful of the vigilant cares which the Church has shown for preserving the honor and sanctity of marriage, for the Church is the best guardian and avenger of mankind. We also reminded the civil authorities of what matters they could rightfully regulate. It is not necessary for Us to bring each of these examples to your attention. It is, however, relevant to mention again that the leaders of the state have authority in human affairs which led to marriage and generally concern civil matters. However, in the truly Christian marriage, they have no authority, for this matter should be left to the jurisdiction of the Church, which is not established by men.
–Quam religiosa, no. 4 (August 16, 1898), emphasis added
Pope Pius XI: “By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God’s decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises. Hence the nature of this contract, which is proper and peculiar to it alone, makes it entirely different both from the union of animals entered into by the blind instinct of nature alone in which neither reason nor free will plays a part, and also from the haphazard unions of men, which are far removed from all true and honorable unions of will and enjoy none of the rights of family life.”
– Encyclical Casti Connubii, no. 7 (December 31, 1930), emphasis added
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from a homily given by Pope Benedict at the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid. The context is a reflection on vocations.
Pope Benedict XVI: During this prayer vigil, I urge you to ask God to help you find your vocation in society and in the Church, and to persevere in that vocation with joy and fidelity. It is a good thing to open our hearts to Christ’s call and to follow with courage and generosity the path he maps out for us.
“The Lord calls many people to marriage, in which a man and a woman, in becoming one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24), find fulfilment in a profound life of communion. It is a prospect that is both bright and demanding. It is a project for true love which is daily renewed and deepened by sharing joys and sorrows, one marked by complete self-giving. For this reason, to acknowledge the beauty and goodness of marriage is to realize that only a setting of fidelity and indissolubility, along with openness to God’s gift of life, is adequate to the grandeur and dignity of marital love.”
– Homily at Prayer Vigil with Young People, World Youth Day, Madrid (Aug. 20, 2011), emphasis added
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is another oldie-but-goodie. It comes from Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, well known as the first modern “social encyclical.” Perhaps lesser known is the fact that Pope Leo spoke in this encyclical of marriage as a “right” not able to be tampered with by the State, and as playing a key role vis a vis the State. His latter point is picked up at length in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which spills much ink discussing “the family, the first natural society” (see nos. 209ff, esp. 216).
Pope Leo XIII: “In choosing a state of life, it is indisputable that all are at full liberty to follow the counsel of Jesus Christ as to observing virginity, or to bind themselves by the marriage tie. No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God’s authority from the beginning: ‘Increase and multiply.’ [Gen 1:28] Hence we have the family, the ‘society’ of a man’s house – a society very small, one must admit, but none the less a true society, and one older than any State. Consequently, it has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.”
– Rerum Novarum, no. 12 (emphasis added)
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from a particularly beautiful section of Bl. John Paul II’ 1994 Letter to Families, one that is packed with rich reflection on childbearing, children, motherhood, and fatherhood. As we ponder during Respect Life month on the gift of life “in all its grandeur and beauty,” the late Holy Father reminds us here of the radical (in the eyes of the world) teaching of the Catholic Church: Every child is willed by God and wanted by Him, no exceptions. There is no such thing as an “unwanted” child. Because of this, parents are called to have an attitude of joyful receptivity toward the children, both actual and hoped-for, that are entrusted to them but are not their product or possession. Radical indeed!
Bl. Pope John Paul II: “God ‘willed’ man from the very beginning, and God ‘wills’ him in every act of conception and every human birth. God ‘wills’ man as a being similar to himself, as a person. This man, every man, is created by God ‘for his own sake‘. [GS 24] That is true of all persons, including those born with sicknesses or disabilities. Inscribed in the personal constitution of every human being is the will of God, who wills that man should be, in a certain sense, an end unto himself. God hands man over to himself, entrusting him both to his family and to society as their responsibility. Parents, in contemplating a new human being, are, or ought to be, fully aware that God ‘wills’ this individual ‘for his own sake’.”
– Letter to Families, no. 9 (italics original, bold added)
In his homily October 7 at the opening mass for the Synod of Bishops gathered in Rome to discuss the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of the connection between marriage and evangelization. (The Gospel and the First Reading of that Sunday both spoke about marriage.)
Pope Benedict XVI: The theme of marriage, found in the Gospel and the first reading, deserves special attention. The message of the word of God may be summed up in the expression found in the Book of Genesis and taken up by Jesus himself: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24; Mk 10:7-8). What does this word say to us today? It seems to me that it invites us to be more aware of a reality, already well known but not fully appreciated: that matrimony is a Gospel in itself, a Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis. And it is not by chance. Marriage is linked to faith, but not in a general way. Marriage, as a union of faithful and indissoluble love, is based upon the grace that comes from the triune God, who in Christ loved us with a faithful love, even to the Cross. Today we ought to grasp the full truth of this statement, in contrast to the painful reality of many marriages which, unhappily, end badly. There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage. And, as the Church has said and witnessed for a long time now, marriage is called to be not only an object but a subject of the new evangelization. This is already being seen in the many experiences of communities and movements, but its realization is also growing in dioceses and parishes, as shown in the recent World Meeting of Families.
– Homily at the Holy Mass for the Opening of the Synod of Bishops (Oct. 7, 2012), emphasis added
Bl. John Paul II: According to the plan of God, marriage is the foundation of the wider community of the family, since the very institution of marriage and conjugal love are ordained to the procreation and education of children, in whom they find their crowning (see GS, 50).
In its most profound reality, love is essentially a gift; and conjugal love, while leading the spouses to the reciprocal “knowledge” which makes them “one flesh,”(Gen 2:24) does not end with the couple, because it makes them capable of the greatest possible gift, the gift by which they become cooperators with God for giving life to a new human person. Thus the couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother.
– Familiaris Consortio, no. 14 (emphasis added)
- FAQs on marriage and children
- Bl. Pope John Paul II’s writings on marriage on the Church Teaching page
About this series:
Every Sunday, the Marriage: Unique for a Reason blog will feature a short quote from our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, our late Holy Father, Bl. John Paul II, or another pope. These men have given the world an immense treasury of wisdom about marriage, love, and the meaning of the human person, all of which are topics integral to the Church’s witness today. Their words are well worth reflecting on, as we have much to learn from these wise successors of St. Peter.
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from the Encyclical Arcanum Divinae (On Catholic Marriage) by Pope Leo XIII, published in February of 1880.
Pope Leo XIII: If, then, we consider the end of the divine institution of marriage, we shall see very clearly that God intended it to be a most fruitful source of individual benefit and of public welfare, Not only, in strict truth, was marriage instituted for the propagation of the human race, but also that the lives of husbands and wives might be made better and happier. This comes about in many ways: by their lightening each other’s burdens through mutual help; by constant and faithful love; by having all their possessions in common; and by the heavenly grace which flows from the sacrament. Marriage also can do much for the good of families, for, so long as it is conformable to nature and in accordance with the counsels of God, it has power to strengthen union of heart in the parents; to secure the holy education of children; to temper the authority of the father by the example of the divine authority; to render children obedient to their parents and servants obedient to their masters. From such marriages as these the State may rightly expect a race of citizens animated by a good spirit and filled with reverence and love for God, recognizing it their duty to obey those who rule justly and lawfully, to love all, and to injure no one.
– Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum Divinae, no. 26 (emphasis added).
Just last Saturday, September 22nd, Pope Benedict XVI offered beautiful words about marriage and the family to participants in the meeting of the Christian/Centrist Democrat International. In his remarks, the Holy Father connected life and marriage – a perfect statement to share on the eve of October, which is Respect Life month!
Pope Benedict XVI: The commitment to respecting life in all its phases from conception to natural death – and the consequent rejection of procured abortion, euthanasia and any form of eugenics – is, in fact, interwoven with respecting marriage as an indissoluble union between a man and a woman and, in its turn, as the foundation for the community of family life. It is in the family, “founded on marriage and open to life” (Address to the Authorities, Milan, 2 June 2012), that human beings experience sharing, respect and gratuitous love, at the same time receiving – be they children, the sick or the elderly – the solidarity they need. The family, moreover, constitutes the principal and most significant place for the education of the person, thanks to the parents who place themselves at the service of their children in order to draw out (“e-ducere“) the best that is in them. Thus the family, the basic cell of society, is the root which nourishes not only the individual human being, but the very foundations of social coexistence. Blessed John Paul II was right, then, to include among human rights, “the right to live in a united family and in a moral environment conducive to the growth of the child’s personality” (Enc. Centesimus annus, 47).
The authentic progress of human society cannot forgo policies aimed at protecting and promoting marriage, and the community that derives therefrom. Adopting such policies is the duty not only of States but of the International Community as a whole, in order to reverse the tendency towards the growing isolation of the person, which is a source of suffering and atrophy for both individuals and for society.
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from a lesser-known writing of Bl. Pope John Paul II, Letter to Women, which was published in 1995.
Bl. Pope John Paul II: Dear sisters, together let us reflect anew on the magnificent passage in Scripture which describes the creation of the human race and which has so much to say about your dignity and mission in the world.
The Book of Genesis speaks of creation in summary fashion, in language which is poetic and symbolic, yet profoundly true: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). The creative act of God takes place according to a precise plan. First of all, we are told that the human being is created “in the image and likeness of God” (cf. Gen 1:26). This expression immediately makes clear what is distinct about the human being with regard to the rest of creation.
We are then told that, from the very beginning, man has been created “male and female” (Gen 1:27). Scripture itself provides the interpretation of this fact: even though man is surrounded by the innumerable creatures of the created world, he realizes that he is alone (cf. Gen 2:20). God intervenes in order to help him escape from this situation of solitude: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18). The creation of woman is thus marked from the outset by the principle of help: a help which is not one-sided but mutual. Woman complements man, just as man complements woman: men and women are complementary. Womanhood expresses the “human” as much as manhood does, but in a different and complementary way.
When the Book of Genesis speaks of “help”, it is not referring merely to acting, but also to being. Womanhood and manhood are complementary not only from the physical and psychological points of view, but also from the ontological. It is only through the duality of the “masculine” and the “feminine” that the “human” finds full realization.
– Letter to Women, no. 7
You just never know when the Holy Father will talk about marriage! Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from a relatively obscure source: an address of Pope Benedict XVI to the new ambassador of Hungary to the Holy See. In it, he talks about marriage’s place in Europe, but we could easily substitute “America” for “Europe.”
Pope Benedict XVI: Marriage and the family constitute a decisive foundation for the healthy development of civil society, countries and peoples. Marriage as a basic form of ordering the relationship between a man and a woman and, at the same time, as a founding cell of the State community has continued to be modelled on biblical faith. In this way, marriage has given Europe its particular aspect and its humanism, also and precisely because it has meant continuously learning and achieving the characteristic of fidelity and self-denial that this implies. Europe would no longer be Europe if this basic cell of the social fabric were to disappear or to be substantially transformed.
We all know how endangered marriage and the family are today — on the one hand because of the erosion of their most intimate values of stability and indissolubility, due to the increasing liberalization of divorce laws and the ever more widespread custom of men and women of cohabiting without legal sanction and the protection of marriage, and, on the other, because of the different forms of union that have no basis in the history of culture and law in Europe. The Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that imply the support of alternative models of life for couples and the family. They contribute to the weakening of the principles of natural law and thus to the relativization of all legislation, as well as of the awareness of values in society.
– Address to the New Ambassador of Hungary to the Holy See (Dec. 2, 2010)
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from Bl. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio (The family in the modern world). Here he is discussing what it means for married love to be fruitful…and it might surprise you how truly wide and deep this concept is!
Bl. John Paul II: “Fruitful married love expresses itself in serving life in many ways. Of these ways, begetting and educating children are the most immediate, specific and irreplaceable. In fact, every act of true love toward a human being bears witness to and perfects the spiritual fecundity of the family, since it is an act of obedience to the deep inner dynamism of love as self-giving to others.
“For everyone this perspective is full of value and commitment, and it can be an inspiration in particular for couples who experience physical sterility.
“Christian families, recognizing with faith all human beings as children of the same heavenly Father, will respond generously to the children of other families, giving them support and love not as outsides but as members of the one family of God’s children.
. . .
“Family fecundity must have an unceasing ‘creativity,’ a marvelous fruit of the Spirit of God, who opens the eyes of the heart to discover the new needs and sufferings of our society and gives courage for accepting them and responding to them.”
– Familiaris Consortio, no. 41
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is from an address given by the Holy Father just a few days ago – Wednesday, August 29, the feast of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist. While he doesn’t mention marriage directly, his words speak to those who have uncompromisingly witnessed to the truth of marriage, and have suffered ridicule or worse for it. Keep in mind, too, that St. John the Baptist’s martyrdom was because of his witness to the sanctity of marriage! St. John the Baptist, pray for us!
Pope Benedict XVI: “Celebrating the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist also reminds us – Christians in our own times – that we cannot give into compromise when it comes to our love for Christ, for his Word, for his Truth. The Truth is the Truth; there is no compromise. The Christian life requires, as it were, the ‘martyrdom’ of daily fidelity to the Gospel; the courage, that is, to allow Christ to increase in us and to direct our thoughts and actions.”
– Address given August 29, 2012 (Zenit translation)
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is from Pope Benedict XVI’s 2010 apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini. More specifically, it is from a section of the document entitled “The word of God, marriage and the family.”
Pope Benedict XVI: “In the face of widespread confusion in the sphere of affectivity, and the rise of ways of thinking which trivialize the human body and sexual differentiation, the word of God re-affirms the original goodness of the human being, created as man and woman and called to a love which is faithful, reciprocal and fruitful.”
– Verbum Domini, no. 85
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote: a gem from Bl. Pope John Paul II’s teaching on the theology of the body. This is one to really chew on – it contains a wealth of wisdom about men, women, the body, and love. Note: when John Paul uses the word “sex” he means not the act of sexual intercourse but man’s sexual identity as male or female.
Bl. John Paul II: “The body, which expresses femininity ‘for’ masculinity and, vice versa, masculinity ‘for’ femininity, manifests the reciprocity and the communion of persons. It expresses it through gift as the fundamental characteristic of personal existence. This is the body: a witness to creation as a fundamental gift, and therefore a witness to Love as the source from which this same giving springs. Masculinity-femininity – namely, sex – is the original sign of a creative donation and at the same time the sign of a gift that man, male-female, becomes aware of as a gift lived so to speak in an original way. This is the meaning with which sex enters into the theology of the body.
– Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, trans. Michael Waldstein, sec. 14.4; italics original, bold added