Family Synod ’14 – Family is a Gift from God

by Fr Duncan McVicar on 10/10/2014 -

Here are some of the highlights you can hear at the Family Synod: The Synod went on to reflect on the indispensable contribution of the lay faithful to the proclamation of the Gospel in the family: in particular, the young, ecclesial movements and new communities provide a service of vital importance, carrying out a prophetic mission that runs counter to the current of our times. Listening and believing in the laity, therefore, is shown to be essential, as it is in them and with them that the Church may find the answers to the problems of the family. The link between the crisis of faith and the crisis of the family was underlined: it was said that the first generates the second. This is because faith is seen mostly as a set of doctrinal mores, whereas it is primarily a free act by which one entrusts oneself to God. Furthermore, the weakness of the faith of many baptised persons was underlined; this often leads to the marriage of couples who are not appropriately aware of what they are undertaking. Another great challenge facing families today was mentioned: that of the “dictatorship of unitary thought” that aims to introduce into society those counter-values that distort the vision of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The crisis of values, atheist secularism, hedonism, and the ambition of power destroy families today, distorting it, weakening people and consequently rendering society fragile. It is therefore important to recover in the faithful the awareness of belonging to the Church, as the Church grows by attraction and the families of the Church attract other families. For its part, the Church, an expert in humanity, must underline the beauty and the need everyone has for the family, as it is indispensable. Mention was also made of the link between priests and families: they accompany families in all the most important stages of their lives, sharing in their joys and difficulties; families, in turn, help priests to experience celibacy as a full and balanced emotional life, rather than as a sacrifice. In addition, the family was defined as the “cradle of vocations” as it is precisely within the domestic walls, in common prayer, that the call to the priesthood is frequently heard. Christian marriage cannot be seen solely as a cultural tradition or a social need, but rather must be understood as a vocational decision, undertaken with suitable preparation that cannot be improvised in a few meetings, but must be carried out over a period of time. Mrs. Jeannette Toure’s testimony from the Ivory Coast brought these thoughts: It is obvious for us Christians to say that it is God who conceived the idea of the family and that in so doing, He gave us several principles in His word concerning its structure, as well as the role that each member must have. Therefore, it seems to me reasonable to think that He is the best placed to show us how all families must function in order to avoid the precipices that destroy them. The family must be image and likeness of God wherever it is. It must be so, in its surroundings, bearer of the Good News of Salvation by its witness of life. My children also in their turn try to be bearers of the Good News around them. Our choices and decisions must help our surroundings to know better, to accept and to love God. The family is the place where one can be oneself, take off one’s mask without being judged; the place where one learns to have confidence in oneself thanks to the admiring and at the same time lucid look that parents have for their offspring. It is the place where one lives love daily, where one escapes from loneliness, where one learns to share, to grow fully. The family is the place where social life is learned in gentleness and where one has an apprenticeship of differences; the place where one transmits values. Because the family must foster communication between its members, to become the place where love and paternal tenderness are expressed, in fact, must be expressed. You certainly know that the building of a family needs the generous engagement of spouses in this wonderful adventure, a challenge launched to the times by the decision to live in fidelity, the same with love, without looking back and, using the means to remain faithful, ceasing to dream of one’s own growth and comfort. There was a wonderful testimony of the couple Jeff and Alice Heinzen from the Diocese of La Crosse, USA – Here are some of the things they said: My husband and I have asked ourselves this question: “How did our parents live their lives as a married couple that lead us to where we are today as faith-filled married Catholics?” We realized that the witness of our parents, revealed in their daily actions God’s plan for marriage and family life. I have fond memories of participating in neighbourhood Corpus Christi processions and my father leaving early for work to attend daily Mass. During the month of May, I remember our family praying the rosary. I remember the frequent tender kisses my parents readily gave each other. We knelt beside our beds each night in prayer to ask for protection and blessings on our family. Every Sunday, we attended Mass as a family, then went from Church to visit our relatives. To all this we can add our mothers who reminded us to always love our siblings, to use our best manners with others, and to save our pennies to help those less fortunate. Our homes were schools of love and virtue and our parents were the primary educators. Our parents bore faithful witness to the joy and beauty of God’s plan for love and life. Unfortunately, not only in our evaluation of current culture, but also due to our pastoral experience, we know that many young people do not see the witness of married love that we experienced. So many youth grow up in homes broken by divorce or with no experience of married parents due to out-of-wedlock pregnancies. We have entered, as some social scientists have described, the age of the diminished family structure. This is more than a crisis. To quote Saint John Paul II, “[T]he role of parents as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it.” We must develop more robust and creative methods to share the fundamental truth that marriage is a divine gift from God, rather than merely a man-made institution. This will require us to examine the methods by which we teach our children about the nature of human sexuality and the vocation of marriage. We therefore see the issue before us not as a crisis of truth, but rather as a crisis of methodology. How do we as a Church, effectively share what we know to be true in practical, simple and convincing ways, so that all men and women are challenged and supported to live life-long marriages and build homes that reflect the domestic Church? In all of our pastoral planning, we must remember that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Solutions to the identified crisis can be found. This Synod has the ability to provide aid to husbands, wives and families. Let us open our minds and hearts to the Holy Spirit so that God’s will may be accomplished.


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