In my recent columns for The Tidings and AngelusNews.com, I’ve been reflecting about marriage and the family, trying to help us pray and prepare for the important Synod of Bishops that will begin in just a few weeks.
Pope Francis called this synod because he understands that the family in our time is in distress.
We see the same signs everywhere in contemporary society. Our world is losing its sense of what marriage is and what the family is for.
This is one of the great issues of our time. Because marriage and family are the foundations of society and culture.
The Church has been entrusted with the beautiful truth about marriage and the family. And our world needs to hear this “good news.”
God’s plan for marriage and family is written into the natural order of creation.
In God’s creation, there is something unique — something beautiful and sacred — about the relationship between man and woman in marriage. Their union in love as husband and wife creates new life, a new generation of human society.
We need to proclaim the truth that in God’s plan marriage is a sacrament — a living sign of the reality of God’s love for every person. We also need to proclaim the truth that marriage is a vocation of love — a calling that God gives to husbands and wives to bear witness to his love and to build his Kingdom, the family of God on earth.
But marriage and family are not only religious or private matters. How we define these realities has implications for society and our obligations to the most vulnerable citizens, children and the elderly.
And part of our mission as Catholics requires that we be engaged in the cultural and political conversation about marriage.
Right now, in my opinion, the debates reflect the way our ideas have been distorted by the individualism in our culture.
So we need to help our neighbors understand that love is more than a personal emotion and that marriage is more than a relationship that is for the benefit of the individuals who want to marry.
Married love is life-giving and forms a “community” of persons. And every family becomes a part of the wider society. This is what the popes mean when they say that the family is the “basic cell” of society.
We need to encourage a fuller, richer understanding of what family means.
When we talk about family, we mean not only a husband and wife and their children. Families are made up of younger generations and older. Families are made up of many different individuals all living in relationships of love and caring for one another. Families are parents, grandparents and children; aunts, uncles and cousins.
Promoting strong marriages and strong families is a core issue of human dignity and social justice and part of what it means to have a good society.
So we need to examine the impact that our policies and laws and cultural practices are having on the stability of marriages and the unity of families. We need to examine the impact on children, who are our society’s future.
As we work to help our society understand the beauty of marriage and family, we also need to look for new ways in the Church to help families.
We need to talk more about the issues of family life in our catechesis. We need to look for ways to inspire our young people to the vocation of marriage, and new ways to prepare them to be good husbands, wives and parents.
Some of our parishes have a practice of every month recognizing and blessing couples who are celebrating the anniversaries of their marriages. We need to share good ideas like this.
The ancient Church spoke of the family as the “domestic Church.” This is a beautiful image for us to think about and reflect on. The family is the place where Jesus is at the center and where the values of the Gospel are lived and passed on.
So let’s pray for families and married couples this week. And let’s keep looking for new ways to help Catholic couples to live their married lives more faithfully and more joyfully.
And let’s keep praying with Pope Francis for the Holy Spirit to guide the bishops in the upcoming synod.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary, the Mother of the Holy Family and every Christian family, to give us the courage to be open to life and to proclaim the Gospel of the family and the beauty of marriage in our society.