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.
A People for Everyone
The Church as the Body and Bride of Christ is saved by Him as one. “No one is saved by himself or herself, individually, or by his or her own efforts. God attracts us by taking into account the complex interweaving of personal relationships entailed in the life of a human community” (no. 113). We are connected to one another.
Perhaps nowhere else is this as clear as in the family; in the family, we are bonded together for life to a number of other people, without any choice in the matter. As G.K. Chesterton put it: “The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born” (“On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family”). The people in our families were picked out for us by God, not by us. Even when a child is adopted, or someone is taken in to a family for a time, the mystery of that person always exceeds our limited understanding of them.
Chesterton continues: “Aunt Elizabeth is unreasonable, like mankind. Papa is excitable, like mankind. Our youngest brother is mischievous, like mankind. Grandpapa is stupid, like the world; he is old, like the world. Those who wish, rightly or wrongly, to step out of this, do definitely wish to step into a narrower world” (ibid.). It is in the family that we learn how to navigate the differences between people while maintaining love for them and living with them. When we are living it well, we learn in the family how to “bear with” one another with patience. We learn to place things in perspective and how to get along. We learn how to pray, how to approach God and others for forgiveness, and how to extend mercy to others as well.
These are the lessons that are extended to our parishes and the universal “family of families” which is the Church. Families, Pope Francis and G.K. Chesterton both remind you: God has given you each other precisely that you may journey to salvation together. May God bless that journey!
Amen my Lord
The Second Vatican Council spoke to all of us when saying, “All those…who exercise influence over communities and social groups should work efficiently for the welfare of marriage and the family.” Our response to family crisis should be to heal, not gossip. Resolve, not dissolve. Build the relationship, not destroy the relationship. Only God knows the vital role each member of a family will fulfill over the course of their life. To dismiss a person’s role in a family (adopted, in-law, unborn, elderly, etc.) once they have joined a family would be playing God. We should resolve during this time of Lent to mend wounds causing family tragedy. And by doing we will move closer to understanding the greatness of God’s mercy toward us.