MEXICO CITY, JAN. 14, 2009 ( Christians should not focus all their energies on combating a secular concept of marriage. Rather they should rediscover its beauty for themselves and propose this ideal to the world, says the preacher of the Pontifical Household.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa affirmed this today at the 6th World Meeting of Families, inaugurated today in Mexico City by Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Christians "need to rediscover the biblical ideal of marriage and family" so they can promote this ideal to the world, the preacher exhorted in his address titled "Family Relationships and Values in the Bible."

The Christian idea of matrimony and family does not just need "defending," he affirmed. The most important thing is the "task of Christians rediscovering it and living it in plenitude, such that they again propose it to the world with their actions, more than with their words."

The address was divided into three sections. First, the preacher considered God's original project for marriage and family, and how this was lived out in the history of the Chosen People. Then, he spoke of the renewal wrought by Christ, and how this was lived by the first communities of Christians. Finally, Father Cantalamessa had a look at what Revelation has to offer to the problems faced by marriages and the family today.

The preacher explained that for centuries, the spousal meaning of marriage, strongly present in the Bible, has been left to one side, in favor of a more institutional understanding.

Primary goals

But behind the current "unacceptable" proposals of the "relativistic deconstruction" of the traditional family, he contended, there is a "positive resource" that should be welcomed, and it is the vision of matrimony as union and gift between the spouses.

Father Cantalamessa suggested that ideas from this critique coincide with the biblical understanding, and he noted that the Second Vatican Council highlighted this when it recognized mutual love and donation between spouses as an equally primary good of marriage.

"Even believing couples fail to rediscover [...] this treasure of the initial significance of the sexual union, due to the concepts of concupiscence and original sin associated with this act over centuries," he said. And he affirmed that sexual union must be rediscovered as an image of the love of God.

"Two people who love each other -- and the case of the man and the woman in marriage is the strongest -- reproduce something of what happened in the Trinity," he explained. "In this light one discovers the deep sense of the prophets' messages regarding human marriage, which is therefore a symbol and reflection of another love, that of God for his people."

This implies "revealing the true face and the final objective of the creation of man as male and female: that of going out of individual isolation and 'egotism,' opening oneself to the other and, through the temporal ecstasy of the carnal union, elevating oneself to the desire of love and joy without end," the Capuchin added.

The preacher of the Pontifical Household suggested that "Deus Caritas Est" received such an ""uncommonly positive" welcome around the world, precisely because it is an encyclical that insists on this vision of human love as a reflection of the love of God.


Another issue, Father Cantalamessa went on, "is the equal dignity of the woman in matrimony. As we have seen, this is at the very heart of the original project of God and the thinking of Christ, but it has almost always been disregarded."

Faced with the current situation of an "apparently global rejection of the biblical project regarding sexuality, matrimony and family," the Capuchin suggested that it is necessary to "avoid the error of spending all our time rebutting contrary theories."

The strategy, he said, is not "to combat the world" but to "dialogue with it, drawing out the good even from criticisms."

Another error that should be avoided, he proposed, is "directing everything toward national laws to defend Christian values."

"The first Christians changed the laws of the state with their customs; we cannot expect today to change the customs with the laws of the state," the preacher reflected.

Regarding the current "deconstruction of the family" or "gender revolution," the priest explained that it is something analogous to Marxism, and recalled that faced with this ideology, the Church's reaction was "to apply the ancient Pauline method of examining everything and remaining with what is good," developing "its own social doctrine."

"Precisely the choice for dialogue and self-critique gives us the right to denounce the deranged projects of the gender revolution as inhuman, that is, contrary not only to the will of God but also to the good of humanity," he added. "Our only hope is that people's common sense, united to this 'desire' for the other sex, to the necessity of maternity and paternity that God has inscribed in human nature, resists these attempts to substitute God, dictated more by man's belated sentiments of guilt than by genuine respect and love for the woman."