Not just speaking about joy, but witnessing joy is possible!
In this interview at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Salvatore Martinez, president of The Vatican Foundation “International Center Family of Nazareth,” stressed that families’ living and spreading joy is possible and necessary.
The foundation was created on October 15, 2012 thanks to the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in order to fulfil the dream of Pope Saint John Paul II: to build, in Nazareth, “The Home of the Pope,” for all the world’s families. Later Pope Francis approved the new statutes, on January 29, 2016. The ‘home’ then took the name “the Nazareth Family Center,” whose hospitality and spiritual and pastoral animation will be entrusted to the Ecclesial Movement Rinnovamento nello Spirito Santo (Renewal in the Holy Spirit).
But the Foundation has a much wider mandate: to promote the spiritual and social formation of families, and to support family ministry throughout the world, especially in the Holy Land and the Middle East. Although it has its own autonomy, the foundation works in full cooperation with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life and with the Vatican Secretariat of State.
Here is the full interview:
The World Meeting of Families 2018 in Dublin announces to everyone that, as its title says, ‘the Gospel of the family is joy for the world.’ It is a message that goes against the cultural mainstream which we all are surrounded by, which often suggests family as being some sort of limit, an obstacle to personal or career aspirations… How can one be credible when speaking of the Gospel of the family as “joy”?
A definition of [Blessed] Paul VI comes to me, which said that joy is the gigantic secret of Christian life. And for a believer, joy is actually the effect of love. The first effect of love is joy. For many people, joy is the effect of well-being, power, pleasure… But that joy lasts very little! Jesus speaks of a joy that is not consumed, that remains forever.
All the encyclical letters and the exhortations of Pope Francis refer to the joy. And it is meaningful too that joy has laid the foundation for this theme of the ninth World Meeting of Families. Speaking of joy is possible! But above all, witnessing joy is possible. The Christian family, despite the difficulties you mention, is capable of a reserve of joy that does not end, precisely because it comes from the encounter with a person, Jesus, which manifests itself in relationships of love.
In the experience of the children, the grandparents, the ordinery experience of daily family life, joy is the reserve that astonishes those who think it is exhausted. It is a miracle that is permanently renewed because it is a gift, joy.
How should we speak of joy, for example, to boys and girls of today, the children of divorced couples… ?
It is possible as long as you give credit to the word of God. Saint Paul praises the community that was able to preserve joy even in the midst of great tribulation. If joy is a gift you can only receive, then it must be invoked, sought, defended. The new generations should link the effect of joy to prayer. Prayer is not just dialogue with God but it is an opportunity to be regenerated in love. Joy can be received! We see witnesses everyday in those who suffer, those who are persecuted because of justice, many migrants. I have the fortune to travel, to meet many people who should scold the world, even loudly, because they easily could lose their joy, the joy of Christ, the joy of believing!
It is interesting to see instead how this joy regenerates precisely starting from suffering, it is like purified gold to the crucible. It is something that you have inside and that cannot be suppressed. Jesus says: nobody can take away your joy. Joy comes from an encounter, as I said earlier, and this encounter when it happens, cannot in any way be undermined, oppressed, debased by the trials of life. They can certainly give joy a bitter taste; but it is a joy that does not end, indeed, that lasts, endures, and becomes a sign of very strong ‘contradiction,’ if you will, for the world.
In many countries family is still a strong value, but the social context, social and family policies certainly do not help young people to start a family. Therefore, can (or perhaps must) these meetings become even a message for politicians?
Absolutely yes. We get married less and less, there are fewer and fewer children, and the young people who realize this project of family life now do so at an age that is no longer young. In this context, it seems helpful to me the message that Pope Francis gave at the recent meeting with Italian young people, at Circus Maximus in Rome, on August 11. A girl asked him what should they do if there is love, but it must be postponed for for lack of work, home… Then the Pope said: when love is true, it is urgent, it cannot wait, it is necessary to risk it. So we too, as former young people, say: it is worth risking for love, experiencing the joy that comes from love.
Then of course, we must invoke what are called advantageous policies in favor of young people, but let us not forget that families have a capacity to support themselves, a dimension of ‘self-help’ more marked than it may seem. So from below, it is possible to support the new generations, it is possible to nourish this strong ideal of marriage and therefore encourage our young people, through and with concrete testimonies, that it is possible to build a family and it is so necessary, above all, not to postpone the marriage date.