Part 1 of 3: Marriage and family —the model is the Trinity…
(CUSA) – On June 29, 2014, the Archbishop of Denver, Samuel Aquila, wrote a pastoral letter on the family entitled “Family: Become What You Are.”
This letter was written as the church Prepares for the synod of bishops in October of this year and the visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia in September of 2015.
The letter is given in three parts, the first section of three describes the meaning and mission of the family as coming from the Holy Spirit.
The second section, which we will print Thursday, talks of challenges facing families. The third section, which we will print on Friday, offers practical answers to the difficult questions of family and married life. We hope you find it a contribution to your thinking on the issues of marriage and family. —DNW
by ARCHBISHOP SAMUEL J. AQUILA—
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Pope Saint John Paul the Great wrote in 1981, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family. It is therefore indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor to save and foster the values and requirements of the family.”
The truth and timeliness of this statement is as relevant now as it was more than 30 years ago. In fact, many of the challenges our society is facing today can be tied to the breakdown of the family.This is because, as St. John Paul explained, the family “is the basic cell of society. It is the cradle of life and love, the place in which the individual ‘is born’ and ‘grows.’”
Our Church will be focusing on the family in a particularly intense way between October 2014 and October 2015. This period will begin with the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops meeting in Rome to discuss the challenges to the family in the context of the New Evangelization. It will continue with the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015, and conclude with the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015.
Pope Francis has not declared an official “year” dedicated to studying and supporting the family, but I believe that God, in his Providence, has given us this period of time to build up family life and redouble our efforts to support “the cradle of life and love.”
Because the family and its future are so vitally important for our society and for the Church, I have decided to write this pastoral letter on the nature and mission of the family to help you “stand firm in your faith, be courageous, (and) be strong.” Family life is a great gift of God. Yet many families today feel weak and demoralized.
Family life throughout the world is wounded, broken in many cases, and misunderstood.
My hope is that this letter will provide a solid foundation for the faithful of the Archdiocese of Denver, and all people of good will, to effectively respond to the challenges that families experience today.The letter is comprised of three sections.
The first part is dedicated to explaining how the family’s mission and meaning comes from the Holy Trinity. The second section addresses the numerous challenges that the family and marriage are facing today. In the final section, I offer practical ways that families can live out their mission to be a place of love and life.
The Original Family and the Trinity
We live in an age of noise and competing messages, and whether or not we realize it, we are influenced by them. It is difficult to navigate these troubled waters and remain rooted in our faith, especially as the prevailing culture promotes the idea that “everyone has his or her own truth.”
The future Pope Benedict XVI described Western society today as being ruled by a dictatorship of relativism,4 and so, any discussion of the family should start by recalling its origins in the creation of Adam and Eve. By returning to our origins, we are able to recover the truth about the family’s meaning and purpose.
The first human family was formed by the union of Adam and Eve. In the story of creation we hear, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply ….’”
Then we hear, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh.”6 To “be fruitful and multiply” is a blessing bestowed by God on man and woman for the sake of their unity and it was not lost in the fall!
Since God created mankind “male and female, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man.”7 But our ability to reflect God’s love was damaged with the fall from grace that our first parents suffered when they chose to doubt God’s goodness and love and disobey his commands.
The truly good news is that with his death and resurrection Jesus Christ restored families’ ability to reflect the union in knowledge and love that is present between the three Persons of the Trinity. With his sacrifice of love, he “opened up vistas closed to human reason, for he implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God’s sons in truth and charity.”
Here, we are given a window into the origin of our desire to love and be loved, to know others and to be known. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council explained that the reason man “cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” is that he is created in God’s image and likeness. That means we are made for a level of communion that we can only attain through an exchange of love and truth, and we won’t be satisfied with less.
The Role of Marriage in the Family
The family is called to greatness! But today there is much confusion about the nature and purpose of marriage, which is the foundation of every family.
Why are people experiencing this confusion? Many intermediate causes can be cited, but the root problem is that married couples and families are not living according to their created purpose and are not embracing the fulfilling but challenging truths revealed to us by Christ through his Church.
When a husband and wife give of themselves and share love and truth with each other, they are able to reflect the image of the Holy Trinity. This sharing in life and love is in turn echoed in the hearts of their children and helps bring the Kingdom of God to earth.
God created the world and the human race through the gift of his Word and the breath of the Spirit. In a similar way, men and women are able to participate in creation by bringing children into the world through their mutual consent and one flesh union.
Sadly, our society has lost this understanding of marriage. Instead, the culture has dramatically shifted to promoting the individual and his or her supposed rights, often at the expense of the family. The idea of a “sincere gift of self” – even in the context of marriage – seems irrelevant and a distant reality.
In contemporary Western culture, marriage and the family have suffered the consequences of this shift, and no one has been hurt more by it than children, who deserve the committed, selfless love of their mother and father.
See Part II Thursday morning.