Family life – the mission of the family

Benjamin The Loving Life

Blessed John Paul II spoke to families in his exhortation Familiaris Consortio. Beginning with the truth that God is love, and that we are created in God’s image, we realize that to become fully human we must learn to love. Parents have the special mission of sharing life and love with their children, as co-operators with God. Here are a few quotes collected from different parts of the letter to families.

The mission of the family

– The future of humanity passes by way of the family.

– The Christian family, in fact, is the first community called to announce the Gospel to the human person during growth and to bring him or her, through a progressive education and catechesis, to full human and Christian maturity….[Hence a] task for the family is to form persons in love and also to practice love in all its relationships.

– The family has the mission to become more and more what it is, that is to say, a community of life and 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 fundamental task of the family is to serve life, to actualize in history the original blessing of the Creator – that of transmitting by procreation the divine image from person to person. However, the fruitfulness of conjugal love is not restricted solely to the procreation of children…it is enlarged and enriched by all those fruits of moral, spiritual and supernatural life which the father and mother are called to hand on to their children, and through the children to the Church and to the world.

– Inspired and sustained by the new commandment of love, the Christian family welcomes, respects and serves every human being, considering each one in his or her dignity as a person and as a child of God…The Church firmly believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a splendid gift of God’s goodness. Against the pessimism and selfishness which cast a shadow over the world, the Church stands for life: in each human life she sees the splendor of that ‘Yes,’ that ‘Amen,’ who is Christ Himself.

– Even amid the difficulties of the work of education, difficulties which are often greater today, parents must trustingly and courageously train their children in the essential values of human life. Children must grow up with a correct attitude of freedom with regard to material goods, by adopting a simple and austere life style and being fully convinced that “man is more precious for what he is than for what he has.”

– The Holy Spirit, who is poured forth in the celebration of the sacraments, is the living source and inexhaustible sustenance of the supernatural communion that gathers believers and links them with Christ and with each other in the unity of the Church of God. The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason too it can and should be called ‘the domestic Church.’ 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; when there is a sharing of goods, of joys and of sorrows.

– Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation. There is no family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally wound its own communion: hence there arise the many and varied forms of division in family life. But, at the same time, every family is called by the God of peace to have the joyous and renewing experience of ‘reconciliation,’ that is, communion reestablished, unity restored. In particular, participation in the sacrament of Reconciliation and in the banquet of the one Body of Christ offers to the Christian family the grace and the responsibility of overcoming every division and of moving towards the fullness of communion willed by God, responding in this way to the ardent desire of the Lord: ‘that they may be one’.”

– By virtue of their ministry of educating, parents are, through the witness of their lives, the first heralds of the Gospel for their children. Furthermore, by praying with their children, by reading the word of God with them and by introducing them deeply through Christian initiation into the Body of Christ-both the Eucharistic and the ecclesial Body-they become fully parents, in that they are begetters not only of bodily life but also of the life that through the Spirit’s renewal flows from the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.

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God did not create all human beings at once, but created one man and one woman, and gave them a share in His creative work, so that they could cooperate in the creation of new human lives and form these new lives in love. In this way, the love between a husband and wife is a sharing in God’s own creative life, such that it miraculously expands to include new souls. The souls need to be received into a loving environment, because that is how the human person flourishes. Not only do parents cooperate in sharing life with their children, but they cooperate in helping their children to receive God’s supernatural life. Christian parents, then, are like the pastors of their little ‘church’, the teachers of their little ‘school’, and the formators of their little ‘monastery’, and the king and queen of a tiny city. In this task they are given a share in power of Christ, and specifically in His anointing as “priest, prophet, and king.” If our world lacks peace, justice, self-discipline, patience, hope, joy, and most of all love, it is because our families lack these same virtues. The more parents help their little domestic world to be filled peace, justice, forgiveness, hope, joy, and love, the more the larger world will shine with these gifts of God’s own life. +

(next week: family struggles)