VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2012 ( Benedict XVI says the learning that goes on in the family is fundamental for a Christian's later interaction with society.

He said this Saturday in an address to some 8,000 representatives of three organizations active in Italy: the Federation of Christian Organizations for International Volunteer Service (FOCSIV); the Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Commitment; and the Christian Workers Movement.

"Culture, volunteering and work constitute a indissoluble trinomial of the daily commitment of the Catholic laity, which intends to give incisive witness to Christ and the Church both in the private sphere and the public sphere of society. The faithful layman takes up a challenge when he involves himself in one or more of these areas and – in cultural service, in acts of solidarity with those in need or in work – promotes human dignity. These three spheres are linked by a common denominator: the gift of self," the Holy Father affirmed.

He noted that cultural engagement, above all in schools and universities, "does not limit itself to the transmission of technical and theoretical concepts, but requires the gift of self by word and example." 

"Volunteering," the Pontiff continued, "[...] does not so much involve giving things but in giving oneself in concrete assistance to the neediest. Finally, work is not only and instrument for individual prophet but a movement in which we express our abilities by spending ourselves, in a spirit of service, in professional activity."

"But for you," Benedict reflected, "all of this has a Christian connotation. Your activity must be animated by charity; this means learning to see with the eyes of Christ and giving to the other more than external necessities; it means looking and acting with love in your relationships with those in need."

Learning at home

The Pontiff noted that the family is the first place in which we experience "gratuitous love."

"And when that does not happen," he cautioned, "the family is denatured, it enters into crisis. What happens in the family, giving oneself without reserve for the good of the other is a fundamental educational moment for learning how to live as a Christian even in relationship to culture, volunteering and work."

Referring to his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” the Pope recalled that "gratuitousness is not acquired on the market, nor can it be prescribed by law. And yet both the economy and politics need gratuitousness and persons capable of mutual self-giving."

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