Blessed Pope John Paul II and the Catholic FamilyPosted by in Husbands & Fathers
One of the wonderful things I sincerely appreciated about Blessed Pope John Paul II was his love for and commitment to the Catholic family. His love for the family was present in his writings, in his speeches, and in his personal interactions and relationships with the People of God.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) Blessed Pope John Paul II called out to the family:
Family, become what you are.
Of course, this statement begs the question: What is the Catholic family?
Blessed Pope John Paul II goes on explain:
… the family has the mission to become more and more what it is, that is to say, a community of life and love, in an effort that will find fulfillment, as will everything created and redeemed, in the Kingdom of God. Looking at it in such a way as to reach its very roots, we must say that the essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride.
The Catholic family is called to “guard, reveal and communicate love.” That’s it in a nutshell. So how do we do that?
Blessed Pope John Paul II answers this question thoroughly in this Apostolic Exhortation; however, I’d like to focus on a few points that really struck me and that my family has made a sincere effort to live.
LOVE LEADS TO SERVICE
One of the key elements to living out our vocation to married life is the notion of developing a “communion of persons” in the family. This is created in two ways: by love and service. Most of us are aware that we must love our spouse and our children. Yet genuine love always leads to service. Blessed Pope John Paul II has this to say about the relationship between love and service:
All members of the family, each according to his or her own gift, have the grace and responsibility of building, day by day, the communion of persons, making the family “a school of deeper humanity”: this happens where there is care and love for the little ones, the sick, the aged; where there is mutual service every day; where there is a sharing of goods, of joys, and of sorrows.
It’s in getting out of myself, focused on “building, day by day, the communion of persons,” that I manifest love. I have to serve those around me selflessly and teach my children through the undeniable power of my own example. While I have a moral obligation to educate my children, it is vital that I’m walking like I’m talking. By thinking of my family first, by striving to serve them in little things, I make my family “a school of deeper humanity”, a communion of love and life.
MARRIAGE AND THE EUCHARIST
The Christian family’s sanctifying role is grounded in Baptism and has its highest expression in the Eucharist, to which Christian marriage is intimately connected. The Second Vatican Council drew attention to the unique relationship between the Eucharist and marriage by requesting that “marriage normally be celebrated within the Mass.”(144) To understand better and live more intensely the graces and responsibilities of Christian marriage and family life, it is altogether necessary to rediscover and strengthen this relationship.
The Eucharist is the very source of Christian marriage. The Eucharistic Sacrifice, in fact, represents Christ’s covenant of love with the Church, sealed with His blood on the Cross. In this sacrifice of the New and Eternal Covenant, Christian spouses encounter the source from which their own marriage covenant flows, is interiorly structured and continuously renewed.
What an amazing reality! Within the sacrament of matrimony, in fact, at the moment when the husband and wife come together to make their covenant vows, the Church calls us to union not just with one another but also with our Lord in the Eucharist. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “it takes three to get married.” It is for this reason that the pinnacle of the Catholic family’s week must be Sunday Mass. As spouses, my wife and I need to be reunited to the “source” of our marital covenant, as do our children who are the fruits of that covenantal love.
MARRIAGE AND THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION
An essential and permanent part of the Christian family’s sanctifying role consists in accepting the call to conversion that the Gospel addresses to all Christians, who do not always remain faithful to the “newness” of the Baptism that constitutes them “saints.” The Christian family too is sometimes unfaithful to the law of baptismal grace and holiness proclaimed anew in the sacrament of marriage.
Repentance and mutual pardon within the bosom of the Christian family, so much a part of daily life, receive their specific sacramental expression in Christian Penance. In the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, Paul VI wrote of married couples: “And if sin should still keep its hold over them, let them not be discouraged, but rather have recourse with humble perseverance to the mercy of God, which is abundantly poured forth in the sacrament of Penance.”
Here we are reminded of another reality – we are sinners. Family life can be quite challenging. My virtue gets tested, and my sins become blatantly obvious. I have a real need for conversion and repentance. I find great consolation in the above words of Pope Paul VI. I am not to become discouraged by my sin. I have to continue to get back up and carry my cross. In order for me to carry my cross, I need God’s grace. How wonderful to have this great sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation; my sins are washed away and I receive God’s power to fight once more.
Blessed Pope John Paul II, the champion of the Catholic family, always called the family back to reality. Through our union with Christ in the Eucharist, the habit of frequent Confession, and by loving and serving one another, our family strives to live the reality of our Catholic faith. Through the intercession of Blessed Pope John Paul II, we try to answer the call to “become what we are.”
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 Both comments and pings are currently closed.