May. 5, 2013
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)
Mar. 3, 2013
At 8:00 p.m. Italian time on Thursday, February 18, Pope Benedict XVI concluded his pontificate and the Church entered a time of “Sede Vacante,” the time in between the end of one pontificate and the election of a new pope. For helpful materials on the Sede Vacante, please see this USCCB resource page.
Thank you, Pope Benedict, for your leadership of the Church during your eight years as pope! In a particular way, thank you for your consistent and courageous teaching on the meaning of marriage. You have given the Church a wealth of insight on what marriage is and why it matters to the world.
Please visit the Church Teaching page and click on Pope Benedict XVI to see a selection of the many, many addresses, speeches, and exhortations on marriage by our now-Pope Emeritus, such as:
“God created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community of love and life.” – Homily at the closing mass of the 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan (June 3, 2012)
“Dear friends, all human love is a sign of the eternal Love that created us and whose grace sanctifies the decision made by a man and a woman to give each other reciprocal life in marriage. Live the period of your engagement in the trusting expectation of this gift.” – Address to engaged couples (Sept. 11, 2011)
“Marriage has a truth of its own – that is, the human knowledge, illumined by the Word of God, of the sexually different reality of the man and of the woman with their profound needs for complementarity, definitive self-giving and exclusivity – to whose discovery and deepening reason and faith harmoniously contribute.” – Address to Members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota (Jan. 27, 2007)
We will continue to share Pope Benedict’s wisdom about marriage, the human person, and the family here on Marriage: Unique for a Reason. Thank you, Holy Father Emeritus.
Feb. 22, 2013
- About the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty
- Sign the pledge to fast on Fridays for life, marriage, and religious liberty
- Join the Call to Prayer Facebook event
This week’s intention and reflection:
Intention: For the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the selection of the next Holy Father: that the next pope may be granted wisdom and strength in leading the faithful into deeper relationship with Christ, that through our own continual conversion, we may witness to the sanctity of all human life through our words and actions.
Reflection: Today is the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus names Peter the rock and foundation of his Church and declares that “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” As we await the transition of a new pope, the successor of St. Peter, let us pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, trusting in the Lord’s Providence, and thankful for the pastoral care of Pope Benedict XVI over the last eight years. He has consistently presented the invitation of Christ to each of us as to an ever deeper and more personal friendship with Himself, a friendship which is transformative: “Christians are people who have been conquered by Christ’s love and, accordingly, under the influence of that love… they are profoundly open to loving their neighbor in concrete ways. This attitude arises primarily from the consciousness of being loved, forgiven, and even served by the Lord, who bends down to wash the feet of the Apostles and offers himself on the Cross to draw humanity into God’s love” (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2013). Let us then continue our Lenten journey faithfully, responding to the Lord’s tender love and allowing Him to transform us, that we may bring His light to the world, witnessing to the sanctity of each human life.
Did you know? Pope Benedict XVI recently linked respect for life with peace: “The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.”
Feb. 17, 2013
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from the next-to-last Wednesday audience of Pope Benedict XVI, given on Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013. As reported by Vatican Radio, thousands of pilgrims in excess of the 3500 ticket-holders gathered to hear the Holy Father’s words, given two days after his surprising announcement that he would “renounce the ministry of the Bishop of Rome” on February 28, 2013. In his remarks, Pope Benedict reflected on the meaning of conversion, a traditional Lenten theme, and on what it means to live as a Christian in today’s society.
Pope Benedict XVI: “Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact that we live in a society that has Christian roots: even those born to a Christian family and formed in the faith must, each and every day, renew the choice to be a Christian, to give God first place, before the temptations continuously suggested by a secularized culture, before the criticism of many of our contemporaries.
“The tests which modern society subjects Christians to, in fact, are many, and affect the personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, practice mercy in everyday life, leave space for prayer and inner silence, it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many take for granted, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases. The temptation to set aside one’s faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed several times throughout one’s life.”
- Wednesday audience (Feb. 13, 2013), Vatican radio translation
Feb. 8, 2013
The U.S. bishops are promoting a pastoral strategy of prayer, penance, and fasting with the goal of rebuilding a culture of life and marriage and protecting religious liberty. One of five components of the pastoral strategy is an invitation to fast and abstain from meat on Fridays from now until November 24, 2013 (the Feast of Christ the King).
You can sign the pledge to fast on Fridays by visiting www.usccb.org/fast.
You can sign up at the same page for email reminders and a weekly intention and reflection. Or you can text “FAST” to 99000 to receive weekly text reminders.
This weeks’ intention and reflection
Intention: For a greater reverence for the gift of marriage and family in our nation and for the healing of those suffering from troubled or broken marriages, especially children. (Written by Bishop Kevin Rhoades, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Chairman of USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth)
Reflection: February 7-14 is National Marriage Week, a collaborative effort to strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a stronger culture of marriage. In an address to Latin American and Caribbean bishops in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI lauded precisely this kind of marriage-building initiative: “No effort is therefore wasted in promoting anything that can help to ensure that each family, founded on the indissoluble union between a man and a woman, accomplishes its mission of being a living cell of society, a nursery of virtues, a school of constructive and peaceful coexistence, an instrument of harmony and a privileged environment in which human life is welcomed and protected, joyfully and responsibly, from its beginning until its natural end.”
Did you know? Strong marriages and families benefit society in numerous ways. A USCCB review of research on the benefits generated from families rooted in marriage can be found here: “Marriage and the Family in the United States: Resources for Society.”
Feb. 3, 2013
Pope Benedict XVI continues to speak and preach about marriage, giving us ample wise words to reflect on. Today’s Pope Quote comes from a recent papal address (January 19, 2013) given to the participants in the plenary meeting of the pontifical council Cor Unum. In this address, the Holy Father lays out two visions of the human person, and of what brings happiness. In doing so, he shows how intimately connected marriage is with what it means to be human, particularly man’s social nature.
Pope Benedict XVI: “The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great ‘yes’ to the dignity of persons called to an intimate filial communion of humility and faithfulness. The human being is not a self-sufficient individual nor an anonymous element in the group. Rather he is a unique and unrepeatable person, intrinsically ordered to relationships and sociability. Thus the Church reaffirms her great ‘yes’ to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of the faithful and generous bond between man and woman, and her no to ‘gender’ philosophies, because the reciprocity between male and female is an expression of the beauty of nature willed by the Creator.”
- Address (January 19, 2013), emphasis added
Jan. 13, 2013
Today’s Sunday Pope Quote comes from another recent address by Pope Benedict XVI, this time his homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Jan. 6, 2013). While he does not mention marriage directly, the Holy Father offers guidance and exhortation to bishops (and all of us) to courageously preach the truth, even when it runs against the prevailing cultural headwinds (as the Church’s teaching on marriage most certainly does).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The humility of faith, of sharing the faith of the Church of every age, will constantly be in conflict with the prevailing wisdom of those who cling to what seems certain. Anyone who lives and proclaims the faith of the Church is on many points out of step with the prevalent way of thinking, even in our own day. . . . Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous. And this courage or forcefulness does not consist in striking out or in acting aggressively, but rather in allowing oneself to be struck and to be steadfast before the principles of the prevalent way of thinking. The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves. ‘Those who fear the Lord will not be timid’, says the Book of Sirach (34:16). The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates.”
- Homily on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Jan. 6, 2013), emphasis added
Jan. 6, 2013
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.”
Dec. 23, 2012
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].
Dec. 9, 2012
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.