During his recent apostolic journey to Mexico and Cuba, Pope Benedict spoke beautifully about the importance of marriage and the family to society:
Pope Benedict XVI: “The mystery of the Incarnation, in which God draws near to us, also shows us the incomparable dignity of every human life. In his loving plan, from the beginning of creation, God has entrusted to the family founded on matrimony the most lofty mission of being the fundamental cell of society and an authentic domestic church. With this certainty, you, dear husbands and wives, are called to be, especially for your children, a real and visible sign of the love of Christ for the Church. Cuba needs the witness of your fidelity, your unity, your capacity to welcome human life, especially that of the weakest and most needy.”
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote is a powerful passage from Evangelium Vitae on the connections between the family founded on marriage and the gospel of life. Drawing these connections is particularly appropriate as we reflect on the meaning of the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which was marked, as always, by a tremendous outpouring of prayer and sacrifice at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. and other events throughout the country. As we come to understand from reading Bl. John Paul II’s words, protecting and promoting marriage and the family protects and promotes a culture of life!
Bl. John Paul II: Within the “people of life and the people for life”, the family has a decisive responsibility. This responsibility flows from its very nature as a community of life and love, founded upon marriage, and from its mission to “guard, reveal and communicate love”. Here it is a matter of God’s own love, of which parents are co-workers and as it were interpreters when they transmit life and raise it according to his fatherly plan. This is the love that becomes selflessness, receptiveness and gift. Within the family each member is accepted, respected and honoured precisely because he or she is a person; and if any family member is in greater need, the care which he or she receives is all the more intense and attentive.
The family has a special role to play throughout the life of its members, from birth to death. It is truly “the sanctuary of life: the place in which life-the gift of God-can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth”. Consequently the role of the family in building a culture of life is decisive and irreplaceable.
As the domestic church, the family is summoned to proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life. This is a responsibility which first concerns married couples, called to be givers of life, on the basis of an ever greater awareness of the meaning of procreation as a unique event which clearly reveals that human life is a gift received in order then to be given as a gift. In giving origin to a new life, parents recognize that the child, “as the fruit of their mutual gift of love, is, in turn, a gift for both of them, a gift which flows from them”.
It is above all in raising children that the family fulfils its mission to proclaim the Gospel of life. By word and example, in the daily round of relations and choices, and through concrete actions and signs, parents lead their children to authentic freedom, actualized in the sincere gift of self, and they cultivate in them respect for others, a sense of justice, cordial openness, dialogue, generous service, solidarity and all the other values which help people to live life as a gift. In raising children Christian parents must be concerned about their children’s faith and help them to fulfil the vocation God has given them. The parents’ mission as educators also includes teaching and giving their children an example of the true meaning of suffering and death. They will be able to do this if they are sensitive to all kinds of suffering around them and, even more, if they succeed in fostering attitudes of closeness, assistance and sharing towards sick or elderly members of the family.
Evangelium Vitae, no. 92 (all emphasis added)
About this series:
Every Sunday, the Marriage: Unique for a Reason blog will feature a short quote from either our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, or our late Holy Father, Bl. John Paul II (or occasionally another pope). These two 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.
Pope Benedict XVI: The Eucharist, as the sacrament of charity, has a particular relationship with the love of man and woman united in marriage. A deeper understanding of this relationship is needed at the present time.
Pope John Paul II frequently spoke of the nuptial character of the Eucharist and its special relationship with the sacrament of Matrimony: “The Eucharist is the sacrament of our redemption. It is the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.” Moreover, “the entire Christian life bears the mark of the spousal love of Christ and the Church. Already Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist.”
The Eucharist inexhaustibly strengthens the indissoluble unity and love of every Christian marriage. By the power of the sacrament, the marriage bond is intrinsically linked to the eucharistic unity of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church (cf. Eph 5:31-32). The mutual consent that husband and wife exchange in Christ, which establishes them as a community of life and love, also has a eucharistic dimension. Indeed, in the theology of Saint Paul, conjugal love is a sacramental sign of Christ’s love for his Church, a love culminating in the Cross, the expression of his “marriage” with humanity and at the same time the origin and heart of the Eucharist.
For this reason the Church manifests her particular spiritual closeness to all those who have built their family on the sacrament of Matrimony. The family – the domestic Church – is a primary sphere of the Church’s life, especially because of its decisive role in the Christian education of children. In this context, the Synod also called for an acknowledgment of the unique mission of women in the family and in society, a mission that needs to be defended, protected and promoted. Marriage and motherhood represent essential realities which must never be denigrated.
Sacramentum Caritatis (2007), no. 27
About this series:
Every Sunday, the Marriage: Unique for a Reason blog will feature a short quote from either our current Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, or our late Holy Father, Bl. John Paul II. These two 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.