Synod14: Full Text of 8th General Congregation, Cardinal Vingt-Trois and Testimony of French Spouses

“The love of Christ urges us on the path of an inventive charity”

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Introduction of the President Delegate, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois

Testimony of Spouses Olivier and Xristilla Roussy, of the International Emmanuel Community, Directors of Love and Truth, France

The 8th General Congregation of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family was held at 4:30 pm today in the Synod Hall, in the presence of the Holy Father, to conclude the general debate, carried out these days according to the thematic order, in correspondence with the Parts and chapters of the Instrumentum laboris.

Chapter 2 of the 3rd and last Part: This afternoon’s topic is The Church and the Family in Face of the Educational Challenge. It covers points: a) The educational challenge in general and b) Christian education in difficult family situations.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France, and rotating President  Delegate, introduced the testimony of spouses Mr. Olivier and Mrs. Xristilla Roussy, of the Emmanuel Community, Directors of the apostolic branch of Love and Truth, France, present at the Synod as Auditors.

Following is a translation of the texts.

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Introduction of the President Delegate, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois

The Eighth General Congregation will be dedicated this afternoon to another topic presented in Part III of the Instrumentum laboris, which addresses openness to life and the educational responsibility. Therefore, we will concentrate our attention and our debates on chapter 2, which addresses more particularly The Church and the Family in Face of the Educational Challenge.

The challenges that the family must face in the educational area are many (132) and often parents feel ill prepared in face of this task. The recent Magisterium insists on the importance of education, for which spouses receive a singular grace in marriage. Pope Francis has also underlined the importance of education in the transmission of the faith. The Church is called to help families in their educational task, beginning with Christian initiation. Christian education is realized in the family first of all through the parents’ witness of life vis-à-vis the children (133-134).

Today, in numerous countries, the challenge of Christian education and the transmission of the faith is often characterized by the profound change of relation between generations, which conditions the communication of values in the heart of the family reality (135-137). If the transmission of the faith and Christian education seem inseparable from the witness of an authentic life, one understands that difficult situations within the family cell accentuate the complexity of the educational process (138-139). There are globally three elements in regard to irregular situations and their incidence on education:  unions of persons of the same sex; the existence and increase of mono-parental cells; finally the phenomenon of “street children,” very present in the South of the world (140).

In their requests, parents in irregular situations address themselves to the Church (141) with very different attitudes, according to the feelings and motivations that animate them. The main request and the most frequent is that of the administration of the Sacraments to their children (142-143). A difficulty appears when divorced parents are in disagreement on the subject of the child’s itinerary of Christian initiation; in this case, the Church is called to play an important role of mediation (144). Sometimes there is also the malaise of parents who cannot accede to the Sacrament of Penance and of the Eucharist, while their children are invited to take part in them (153). A sensible pastoral is ever more necessary, a pastoral guided by respect of those irregular situations, capable of offering concrete support to the children’s education, including through Catholic schools (154-157).

Conscious of the importance of this challenge of the transmission of the faith within the family, let us listen now to the testimony of spouses Olivier and Xristilla Roussy, international directors of the apostolic branch of Love and Truth of the Emmanuel Community, who will speak to us about their family experience in regard to the responsibility of the transmission of life and of the faith.

[Original text: French] [Translation by ZENIT]

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Testimony of Spouses Olivier and Xristilla Roussy of the Emmanuel Community, international Directors of Love and Truth, France

Very Holy Father,

Dear Synodal Fathers,

We are going to celebrate 20 years of marriage and the 19 years of the eldest of our 7 children.

Xristilla grew up in a family of divorced parents, and Olivier in a numerous family.

We always had the desire to have a large family. Our first children were born and our family took shape, little by little, with vitality. The arrival of our children took our focus off ourselves. It helped us go beyond our human limitations with things such as noise, exhaustion, discomfort. One doesn’t know all these difficulties before living them. One wonders if one will be able to endure it as they arrive. However, with time and prayer it is renunciations that give us profound joy.

When we were engaged, we chose to conform to the natural regulation of births. After the arrival of our third child, Xristilla was exhausted. We could no longer live peacefully our conjugal unions. So we decided that Xristilla should take a contraceptive pill for some months. The choice of contraception was supposed to calm us down; it had the opposite effect. We lived that period very badly. Xristilla was often in a bad mood, desire was absent and joy disappeared. In truth, we had the impression of no longer being ourselves. We were not united. We understood that we had closed a door to the Lord in our conjugal life. So we decided to take up again a natural regulation of births. It was seemingly a more difficult way that invited us to be continent during fertile periods at the same time that we desired more strongly to unite ourselves. It is often hard to accept and to choose it each time. However, we live it together. It is a joint adventure that pushes us to want the happiness of the other. Much more than a method, this way of life enables us to receive one another each day, to communicate, to know one another, to await one another, to have confidence, to be delicate. We chose this way, we do not suffer it, and we are profoundly happy despite the efforts it requires.

We have experienced that these methods are reliable, even if we must confess that at times we did not contain our desire and that a child saw the day nine months later. The acceptance of this new life would have been impossible with contraception. However, this new child is a true happiness.

We are very happy that God is at the heart of our life, including our conjugal intimacy. We decided to live it under His gaze. This radiates our life as a couple in rendering us more confident in the future, freer and more attentive to others. This availability opens us to the will of God in all the dimensions of our life. We feel that this way of life leads us also in our educational responsibility and is reflected in the family atmosphere.

In our mission as parents, we want first of all to awaken our children to holiness. Like all of us, they are faced with the many temptations of the world and, humbly, we try to make them grow up in liberty and generosity, to have them learn a sense of discernment, of decision and of effort. We help them to build their plan of life under God’s gaze. In the difficult pace of modern life, we seek to be attentive to each one and to give them sufficient time, together and personally.

Our life as a couple and our life as a family ha
s been marked by our journey in the Community. We have benefitted from the formation it gives its married members; it has helped us to become ourselves. In so far as directors of Love and Truth, the apostolic branch of Emmanuel Community, whose mission is to support couples and families, we have experienced that it is possible to live and to propose the teaching of the Church, to combine love and truth without giving up one or the other. We seek to welcome all persons, regardless of their history or culture (Christian families but also couples far from the Church, often not married, single parents, divorced and remarried persons …). The Holy Spirit places them on our path so that we love them and give them a hand. However, they will not be able to receive the teaching of the Church, unless they first feel heard and met in their daily life. Only then will we be able to offer them concrete means to journey.

Disoriented by the anguishing messages generated by the world, all these persons, lacking hope, fear that they will not be able to last in their love and be able to receive life. By simple and direct testimonies, and concrete teachings, we propose an art of Christian living, showing that sexuality and fecundity can be lived in God’s plan and not in the consumerist and egoistic logic of the world. With audacity and charity, accepting the pastoral law of gradualness, we propose to each one to walk towards Christ, according to the step they can take each day.

Weakened in their educational responsibility by the lack of reference points or the fear of not being legitimate in their role, parents have the temptation to give up. By formations proposing simple tools, we encourage them to give an integral education, oriented to sanctity and the development of the intelligence, of liberty, of the will, in the light of the faith. This passes in particular through an education to affective and sexual life for which it is indispensable to make the parents responsible.

We are always upset by the questions and doubts of our contemporaries, but it is exactly there where the encounter can take place to then advance toward the Truth that makes one free. An individual support, a delicate welcome, a fraternal communion between all the states of life, are so many ways that make possible the personal encounter with Jesus.

The love of Christ urges us on the path of an inventive charity. Thus, at Paray le Monial, at the time of its large gatherings, the Emmanuel Community proposes to families to consecrate themselves to Jesus’ Heart, to dwell with Him and shine with His love.

We are called to love persons and to make them walk, more than to judge their acts, to be witnesses of mercy, not ignoring at all the realities with which they are confronted. Only this attitude of heart can avoid our becoming small, narrow, controlled and finally dying communities. Hospitality, accompaniment and fraternal life: are these not today the essential keys for the evangelization of families?

[Original text: French] [Translation by ZENIT]
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