ROME, SEPT. 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Church is emphasizing the Christian family’s role as the subject, not just the object, of evangelization, with a unique mission to reach out to people in their own circles.
This was one of the conclusions of a two-day international conference that ended Friday, and was organized in Rome by the Pontifical Council for the Family.
It focused on the family as a “subject of evangelization,” and gathered married couples from around the world as well as priests involved in family pastoral care.
Monsignor Carlos Simon Vazquez, an under-secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family, explained to ZENIT that the seminar concentrated in particular on the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the constitution “Gaudium et Spes,” and the apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio,” signed by John Paul II after the 1980 Synod on the Family.
This document, he said, “presents us with a theology, a pastoral program on the family, which is rooted in the mystery of God and is called to be the presence of that love of God, of that God who wants to communicate his good news to the whole world.”
The priest stated that the family “is called to make that God present in history,” as “Gadium et Spes” explains, presenting it as a “subject that must make a reality the assumptions it poses in the first part of the document: for example, it must be present in the international service, in the service to society, to culture, and in the other services in which the Church has a word to express.”
Monsignor Vazquez said that the family is reduced to an evangelizing “object” and is not seen as an evangelizing subject “when we see in it an object that does things, that resolves problems.”
He added: “The family does all that but above all it is a being loved by God; therefore, its action is its being. It isn’t a sort of solution of problems but fulfills this mission because it lives a vocation that God has given it in love.”
The family “is the place of gratitude, of generosity, where all find a reason to hope and to be secure, not because of what they have but because of what they are and this is the translation of the dynamics of love,” noted the priest.
Society and family
Father Leopold Vives, former secretary of the Family and Life Commission of the Lay Apostolate of the Spanish episcopal conference, pointed out the leading role of the family in the light of Benedict XVI’s new encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”
In an interview with ZENIT, he said, “Society’s progress passes through the family’s progress.”
The priest explained two aspects of this progress: “The first is the relationship of truth and love: human progress must be integral and this can only happen in interpersonal relationship — hence, a relationship of love.
“If this relationship of love is not lived according to the true person, development is fictitious; there can be great economic development, with the means at our disposal, but not in the person.”
The second aspect, he said, “is openness to man’s transcendence which goes beyond an earthly horizon.”
“Without the latter,” Father Vives said, “we are outside of the integral truth of man and, therefore, outside of his true good and we are then again in a fictitious development.”
The priest stressed in particular the passage of the Pope’s encyclical in which he shows the relationship between the family and the Trinity. It describes how the family lives from its communion of love with the Triune God.
He affirmed, “Surely man’s fullness is there not only on earth but in the full communion with God in heaven.”
Father Vives pointed out that one example that shows how the family becomes an object and not a subject is the “gender ideology.”
He explained: “The institution of the family is rooted in the person’s very nature. In the case of the gender ideology we have a denial of the truth of man, because we have fragmented him, regarding our body as something material, independent of the person which I, from my liberty, can mold to my taste, completely separated from what the person is, who expresses himself from his freedom, also understood badly, that is: ‘I am a person because I am free and as I am free I can choose.’ This is not so.”
The priest continued: “A person is one in his unity of body and soul and, therefore, my own identity cannot be true if it does not take into account the original and essential acts of who I am. In the first place, I am man or woman.
“The family based on marriage, the union between one man and one woman, is the truth of man. Without it, we are destroying the most fundamental relationship of the person, which is the conjugal relationship, and in this way the relationship between parents and children is destroyed.
“Here one’s own identity is wounded, knowing who I am in a personal relationship: ‘I am me because you are; you are, and I am different from you.’ However, if we cancel that difference, which is what the gender ideology intends, we take away the foundation of personal identity. If I try to construct my personal identity apart from my masculine being, I am in constant contradiction of my own being.”
Father Vives stated that one of the great challenges for young couples who want to get married in the Church is “liquid love,” namely, “something that isn’t consistent, that has no foundation, something on which one cannot build because it is reduced to various feelings.”
“Of course there are feelings in love and this forms an important and very striking part for young people, but it cannot be reduced to a feeling,” he stressed.
The priest stated: “Love is a communion that springs from the gift of oneself. And that gift is a total self-giving. This is what gives the foundation to a relationship.
“It’s what does not happen in a relationship of ‘liquid love,’ of individuals who don’t have the capacity for sacrifice, self-giving and fidelity, who are not capable of promising because they regard the future as something uncertain.”
To overcome “liquid love,” Father Vives suggested deepening in the understanding what it means to be Christian.
He said: “When one understands that one has a vocation, that this vocation is a gift of God which is sanctified by a sacrament, then individuals are that much more disposed to be able to keep the promise to live love, to build strong and stable relationships.
“To do so, the bond with the Church is fundamental. To be married in the Lord is at the same time an adherence to the Church because it is the body of Christ. In God they can find that love that spouses dream about and that makes them able to stay united.”
The priest concluded: “Nor is it possible to live love without forgiveness and all this is nourished by the cooperation of the spouses with the sacramental grace.”