Crisis of the Family As the Crisis of Society

A Leading Couple at World Meeting Explains What’s at Stake

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ROME, JAN. 22, 2003 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- To present the family as the «Good News» in the new millennium is the objective of the 4th World Meeting of Families, convoked by John Paul II in Manila.

Two million people are expected to attend the closing of the event on Sunday.

Here, Jean-Marie and Anouk Meyer, members of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and one of the leading couples of the event, spoke about the mission of the Christian family.

Jean-Marie Meyer, professor of philosophy in Paris, has been concerned with the family for a long time, especially topics related to identity and education. His wife, Anouk, is a professor of languages and daughter of the late geneticist Jérôme Lejeune, first president of the Pontifical Academy for Life. The couple have seven children, ages 13 to 26.

Q: For years we have heard that the family is in crisis because in all countries, especially in the West, divorces and separations are increasing. What can be done to resist the wave of secularism?

The Meyers: The crisis of the family is the crisis of society, because without the family there is no social life. Today, in the West, politicians are at times disoriented because they are unable to understand this simple truth. Only by giving new strength to the family is it possible to emerge from the crisis.

What makes society live is the family, while secularism does not respect man’s original dimension. Secularism, in fact, neglects something essential: The family has its own richness. In the family, each one has value in and of himself. The existence of each person in the family is understood in a logic of love and loyalty, while secularism has no sense of loyalty.

Q: Christian families, however, live the same dramas and the same difficulties as the rest of families. How much does the difficulty of translating the genuine meaning of the sacrament of marriage weigh on all this?

The Meyers: In the Letter to Families, John Paul II says that Christ — the Bridegroom — is with you. It means that families have a particular resource that characterizes them: Everything in family life is transfigured, because Christ is in the midst of the family.

In the family, moreover, there is an absolute need for education. It’s not optional. Every man is educable. Unfortunately, we Westerners are a bit tired of educating and, therefore, there are too many adults who do not assume their educational responsibilities.

It is Christ himself who reminds us of the meaning of our duty. We must educate the children who have been entrusted to us; if not, we move toward barbarism. And the adults will bear the historical responsibility.

Q: What attitudes should Christian families have to be credible witnesses of the message they have received?

The Meyers: There are no Christian families if there is no personal encounter with Christ. The Christian family is a personal, existential reality, not sociological.

For us, the models can be none other than the early Christians, therefore, simple, spontaneous, optimistic, free of complexes. Like them, we, Christian families of the third millennium, must be able to say: come and see. The family, therefore, should be a visible place of charity, which is able to place itself on a natural and supernatural plane.

Q: In the important educational front, to support our children in the understanding of their sexual identity is one of the most delicate tasks, especially in a society in which sex is often interpreted as a «free» and at times «disordered» choice. Can the Christian view of sexuality be an effective remedy for this sickness of our society?

The Meyers: In our society, sexual options are often only the fruit of conformism. At times they also become a categorical imperative, but fortunately many young people are more prudent and reflective than their parents were in the ’60s.

At present we adults must be happy to transmit genuine values. And strong values are transmitted, for example, by reading John Paul II’s texts on the body, by praying, watching less television, reading less of a certain kind of press. But especially, talking peacefully with our children.

Q: Often education in the faith is also one of the most difficult objectives. What attitude should parents have?

The Meyers: Above all, adults must be educated. No one can educate if, in turn, he or she has not been educated. Moreover, we must not tire of emphasizing and witnessing the values in which we believe. Nor must we tire of talking with our children, of making them feel important, of sharing in their activities.

The adults must take the first step. For parents, to really love one’s children means to witness before them a faithful and joyful love.

Q: Assisted fertilization, abortion, euthanasia are behaviors that the doctrine of the Church condemns, but that the greater part of secular culture seems ready to tolerate. How can we make it understood that ours are not rearguard battles, but reflect the good of man himself?

The Meyers: Our society defines itself as tolerant, although tolerance often runs the risk of becoming indifference. As Catholics, we are interested in the future of humanity. We are responsible for this future. Today, however, the risk exists that a desperate and despairing cultural stance will prevail.

The doctrine of the Church is simple: to choose life is possible. The future of humanity lies in the way we face our responsibility. And to us Christian families is given the task to write that future.

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