On Sunday, the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela presided over a solemn Mass in Plaza de Colón in Madrid, Spain, on the feast of the Holy Family.

The Mass, which began after Benedict XVI's message to the families, was concelebrated by several Spanish prelates including Cardinal Luis Maria Sistach of Barcelona, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and, Cardinal Vicenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

In his homily, Cardinal Rouco recalled that "the Feast of the Holy Family brings us together today, again, in this year that is ending, 2012, a critical and painful year for so many reasons, to give thanks to God for our families rooted in faith in Jesus Christ, in the Redeemer of man, and to beseech Him for the good of the Christian family, the true hope for today". Because "only the family conceived and lived in the fullness of its truth, as the unambiguous and indestructible language of human nature teaches, clears the horizon of hope for man and for the society of our time." A truth that is known, understood and fully realized "when sought with humble sincerity in listening to the Word of God and by fervent participation in the celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist." In the Holy Family of Nazareth "there was opened and began the true and definitive story of the world's salvation; a story that no crisis, even if it involves and includes the greatest and most horrendous sins of man, can ever stop, and much less, annul".

"We meet on this bright Sunday morning of the Holy Family in Madrid's Plaza de Colón, reminiscent of many memorable ecclesial gatherings, to form the great Family of the Children of God, to profess before the world, in the light of the divine Word and realizing 'eucharistically' the Mystery of our Redemption, our faith in the Truth of the Christian Family reflected, made possible and fully and definitively founded in the Holy Family of Nazareth: in the Family of Jesus, Joseph and Mary".

The Truth of the Christian family

Under the Year of Faith, the Cardinal affirmed that it is "urgent to make present the doctrine of faith concerning the eternal truth of marriage and of the family. Today, perhaps, much more so!" "This Truth about Christian matrimony is the truth of your lives," he said, addressing the families present at the Mass. "It is the truth about the foundation of every society that wants and tries to build itself up in a just, caring, deeply human and fruitful way. It is your future! To ignore it and, moreover, despise it is to jeopardize its very historical viability. Without the truth of marriage, the living organism that is society would disintegrate. It would threaten man himself."

"But, what is more, the Christian family is the first cell of the supernatural organism that is the Church", he stated. "The Church begets, raises and educates its children by the Word of Faith and through Baptism, with the invaluable and indispensable assistance of the believing family". Moreover, "the Christian family is the first - and, in principle, irreplaceable - place where children are born and grow in Faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind. The 'family community', born of flesh and blood, sanctified by the grace of the Sacrament, founded, experienced and lived as the fruit of the unconditional donation of love in Christ, is the fundamental framework for man - the human person - to be born, to mature and to be formed, in all his dignity as a 'son of God'".

"At the basis of those positions that deny the truth of the Christian family, there is operative the social fact of not wanting to know Him". For this reason, "professing faith in the Truth of the Christian Family - the truth of God that you, dear Christian families, wish to make a faithful reality in your lives, following the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth! - is not only vital to your future and to that of your children, but also for the future of society and of the Church, indeed, for the future of humanity. There is no doubt: you are the hope for today!".

In this sense, he urged families to be strong. "Be courageous in fidelity and in the constant renewal of your love - fruitful love! - as spouses and parents. Be strong and courageous, all of you, in the Communion of the Church: the Pastors - bishops and priests -, the religious and all the lay faithful. It would be a grave pastoral and apostolic responsibility to leave you alone in such a dramatic situation, caused by a crisis that affects you very directly in the economic sense, but above all, in the social, cultural and legal recognition that is yours by right. A moral and spiritual crisis that is arising and that emerges originally as a 'crisis of faith', with few precedents in the history of Europe and of Spain.

Support for the family

The faith, Cardinal Rouco continued, clarifies and dignifies human relations, converting them into a channel of authentic love. "Love that unites men as children of God in the family, in society and, of course, in the Church. The love that will make it possible to end these dramatic situations arising from the extreme ease with which a couple arrives at divorce, breaking up families and subjecting its weakest members, the children, to a very painful tension that often destroys them inside and out. The love disposed to give assistance, and to the sacrificial and generous help of the families, one for another and among their members, in the often frequent and painful circumstances of unemployment, of the economic, moral and spiritual difficulties. A love that, perseveringly lived in the warmth and with the strength of the Christian faith, will make it possible to end the extreme tragedy of abortion practiced en masse since the 1970s in almost every European country, including Spain, protected by legislation, which first decriminalized it and then legitimized it".

Concluding his homily, the Archbishop of Madrid assured families that there is hope "to face victoriously these tremendous challenges for the man and society of our time" in "the Christian family that perseveres in prayer within the home, united to the liturgical prayer of the Church, that knows how to entrust itself to the love of Mary, the Mother of Jesus."

"Love always disposed to welcome and listen to the pleas of her children!"

"Welcomed by the maternal love of the Virgin Mary, invoked in Madrid as the Virgin of Almudena and in Spain under very rich and popular invocations, the Christian families will be and are the hope of today," he concluded.