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Joy of the Family Monthly Reflections



“The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” N. 1

The spousal covenant, originating in creation and revealed in the history of salvation, takes on its full meaning in Christ and his Church.  Through his Church, Christ bestows on marriage and the family the grace necessary to bear witness to the love of God and to live the life of communion.  The Gospel of the family spans the history of the world, from the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God to the fulfilment of the mystery of the covenant in Christ at the end of time with the marriage of the Lamb.  (n.64)

Within the family ‘which could be called a domestic church’ (Lumen Gentium 11), individuals enter upon an ecclesial experience of communion among persons, which reflects through grace, the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  (n. 86)

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“Large families are a joy for the Church. They are an expression of the fruitfulness of love.” N. 167

In addition to the small circle of the couple and their children, there is the larger family, which cannot be overlooked,  Indeed, ‘the love between husband and wife and, in a derivative and broader way, the love between members of the same family – between parents and children, brothers and sisters and relatives and members of the household – is given life and substance by an unceasing inner dynamism leading the family to ever deeper and more intense communion, which is the foundation and soul of the community of marriage and the family.  Friends and other families are part of this larger family, as well as communities of families who support one another in their difficulties, their social commitments and their faith. (n. 196)

This larger family should provide love and support to teenage mothers, children without parents, single mothers (or fathers), left to raise children, persons with disabilities needing particular affection and closeness, young people struggling with addiction, the unmarried, separated or widowed who are alone, and the elderly and infirm who lack the support of their children.  (n. 197)

Finally, we cannot forget that this larger family includes fathers-in-law, mothers-in-law and all the relatives of the couple. … The conjugal union demands respect for their traditions and customs, an effort to understand their language and to refrain from criticism, caring for them and cherishing them while maintaining the legitimate privacy and independence of the couple.  Being willing to do so is also an exquisite expression of generous love for one’s spouse.  (n. 198)

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“Family prayer is a special way of expressing and strengthening the paschal faith." n. 318

It is essential that children actually see that, for their parents, prayer is something truly important.  Hence moments of family prayer and acts of devotion can be more powerful for evangelization than any catechism class or sermon.  (n. 288)

Family prayer is a special way of expressing and strengthening this paschal faith.  A few moments can be found each day to come together before the living God, to tell him our worries, to ask for the needs of our family, to pray for someone experiencing difficulty, to ask for help in showing love, to give thanks for life and for its blessings, and to ask Our Lady to protect us beneath her maternal mantel.  With a few simple words, this moment of prayer can do immense good for our families.  The various expressions of popular piety are a treasure of spirituality for many families.  The family’s communal journey of prayer culminates by sharing together in the Eucharist, especially in the context of the Sunday rest. (n. 318)

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“All family life is a 'shepherding' in mercy." n. 322

We also do well to remember that procreation and adoption are not the only ways of experiencing the fruitfulness of love.  Even large families are called to make their mark on society, finding other expressions of fruitfulness that in some way prolong the love that sustains them.  Christian families should never forget that ‘faith does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it … Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world.’  Families should not see themselves as a refuge from society but, instead, go forth from their homes in a spirt of solidarity with others.  In this way, they become a hub for integrating persons into society and a point of contact between the public and private sphere.  Married couples should have a clear awareness of their social obligations. (n. 181)

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“Labor...makes possible the development of society and provides for sustenance, stability, and fruitfulness of one's family." n. 28

At the beginning of Psalm 128, the father appears as a laborer who by the work of his hands sustains the physical well-being and tranquility of his family … It is clear from the very first pages of the Bible that work is an essential part of human dignity … The Book of Proverbs also presents the labor of mothers within the family; their daily work is described in detail as winning the praise of their husbands and children (n. 24)

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“Communication is an art learned in moments of peace in order to be practiced in moments of difficulty.” (n. 234)

The love of friendship unifies all aspects of marital life and helps family members to grow constantly.  This love must be freely and generously expressed in words and acts.  In family, “three words need to be used.  I want to repeat this! Three words: ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Sorry’. Three essential words!”. (n. 133)

Dialogue is essential for experiencing, expressing and fostering love in marriage and family life.  Yet it can only be the fruit of a long and demanding apprenticeship.  (n. 136)

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'The family itself introduces fraternity into the world.' N. 194

Relationships between brothers and sisters deepen with the passing of time, and ‘the bond of fraternity that forms in the family between children, if consolidated by an educational atmosphere of openness to others, is a great school of freedom and peace.  In the family, we learn how to live as one.’  (n. 194)

Growing up with brothers and sisters makes for a beautiful experience of caring for and helping one another.  For ‘fraternity in families is especially radiant when we see the care, the patience, the affection that surround the little brother or sister who is frail, sick, or disabled.’  It must be acknowledged that ‘having a brother or a sister who loves you is a profound, precious and unique experience.’  (n. 195)

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"It is not good for children to lack a father and to grow up before they are ready.” N. 177

God sets the father in the family so that by the gifts of his masculinity he can be ‘close to his wife and share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship.  And to be close to his children as they grow – when they play and when they work when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they stray and when they get back on the right path.  To be a father who is always present.  (N. 177)

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A mother who watches over her child with tenderness and compassion helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience that the world is a good and welcoming place.” N. 175

‘Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism…It is they who testify to the beauty of life.’  Certainly, ‘a society without mothers would be dehumanized, for mothers are always, even in the worst of times, witnesses to tenderness, dedication and moral strength.  Mothers often communicate the deepest meaning of religious practice in the first prayers and acts of devotion that their children learn…Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth…Dear mothers: Thank you!  Thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world.’  (N. 174)

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"Desires, feelings, emotions, what the ancients called ‘the passions,’ all have an important place in married life." N. 143

The Second Vatican Council Teaches that this conjugal love ‘embraces the good of the whole person; it can enrich the sentiments of the spirit and their physical expression with a unique dignity and ennoble then as the special features and manifestation of the friendship proper to marriage.’  For this reason, love lacking either pleasure or passion is insufficient to symbolize the union of the human heart with God: ‘All the mystics have affirmed that supernatural love, and heavenly love find the symbols which they seek in marital love, rather than in friendship, filial devotion or devotion to a cause.  And the reason is to be found preciously in its totality.  (n. 142)

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"Faith assures us that the risen Lord will never abandon us." N.256

On the other hand, joy also grows through pain and sorrow.  In the words of Saint Augustine, ‘the greater the danger in battle, the greater is the joy of victory.’  After suffering and struggling together, spouses are able to experience that it was worth it, because they achieved some good, learned something as a couple, or came to appreciate what they have.  Few human joys are as deep and thrilling as those experienced by two people who love one another and have achieved something as the result of a great shared effort.  (n. 130)

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"Love is always a gift of God.” (n. 228)

Young married couples should be encouraged to develop a routine that gives a healthy sense of closeness and stability through shared daily rituals.  These could include a morning kiss, an evening blessing, waiting at the door to welcome each other home, taking trips together and sharing household chores.  Yet, it also helps to break the routine with a party and to enjoy family celebrations of anniversaries and special events.  We need these moments of cherishing God’s gifts and renewing our zest for life.  As long as we can celebrate, we are able to rekindle our love, to free it from monotony and color our daily routine with hope. (n. 226)

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"Media cannot replace the need for more personal and direct dialogue, which requires physical presence or at least hearing the voice of the other person.” (n. 278)

In marriage, the joy of love needs to be cultivated.  (n. 126)

Another great challenge of marriage preparation is to help couples realize that marriage is not something that happens once for all.  Their union is real and irrevocable, confirmed and consecrated by the sacrament of matrimony.  Yet, in joining their lives, the spouses assume an active and creative role in a lifelong project.  Their gaze now has to be directed to the future that, with the help of God’s grace, they are daily called to build.  (n. 218)

This process takes time.  Love needs time and space; everything else is secondary.  Time is needed to talk things over, to embrace leisurely, to share plans, to listen to one another and gaze in each other’s eye, to appreciate one another and to build a stronger relationship.  Sometimes the frenetic pace of our society and the pressures of the workplace create problems.  At other times, the problem is the lack of quality time together, sharing the same room without one even noticing the other.  Pastoral workers and groups of married people should think of ways to help young or vulnerable couples to make the most of those moments, to be present to one another, even by sharing moments of meaningful silence. (n 224)

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“If a family is “centered on Christ, he will unify and illumine its entire life" (n. 317) 

We pastors have to encourage families to grow in faith.  This means encouraging frequent confession, spiritual direction and occasional retreats.  It also means encouraging family prayer during the week, since ‘the family that prays together stays together.’ When visiting our people’s homes, we should gather all the members of the family and briefly pray for one another, placing the family in the Lord’s hands.  It is also helpful to encourage each of the spouses to find time for prayer alone with God, since each has his or her secret crosses to bear.  Why shouldn’t we tell God our troubles and ask him to grant us the healing and help we need to remain faithful?  The Synod Fathers noted that ‘the word of God is the source of life and spirituality of the family.  All pastoral work on behalf of the family must allow people to be interiorly fashioned and formed as members of the domestic church through the Church’s prayerful reading of sacred Scripture.  The word of God is not only good news in a person’s private life but also a criterion of judgement and a light in discerning the various challenges that married couples and families encounter.”  (n. 227)

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“To turn our backs on a grieving family would show a lack of mercy."  (n. 253)

Respect needs to be shown especially for the sufferings of those who have unjustly endured separation, divorce or abandonment, or those who have been forced by maltreatment from a husband or a wife to interrupt their life together. …  Family breakdown becomes even more traumatic and painful in the case of the poor, since they have far fewer resources at hand for starting a new life. (n. 242.)

At times, family life is challenged by the death of a loved one.  (n. 253)

It consoles us to know that those who die do not completely pass away, and faith assures us that the risen Lord will never abandon us. (n. 256)

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“Parents have a serious responsibility for the work of education.” (n. 17)

Raising children calls for an orderly process of handing on the faith. … The home must continue to be the place where we learn to appreciate the meaning and beauty of the faith, to pray and to serve our neighbors.  This begins with baptism … Faith is God’s gift, received in baptism, and not our own work, yet parents are the means that God uses for it to grow and develop. … Handing on the faith presumes that parents themselves genuinely trust God, seek him and sense their need for him, for only in this way does ‘one generation laud your works to another, and declare your mighty acts’ (Ps 144:4) and ‘fathers make known to children your faithfulness’ (Is 38:29).  This means we need to ask God to act in their hearts, in places where we ourselves cannot reach. … ‘Couples and parents should be properly appreciated as active agents in catechesis …Family catechesis is of great assistance as an effective method in training young parents to be aware of their mission as the evangelizers of their own family.’ (n. 287)

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“A family that fails to respect and cherish its grandparents, who are its living memory, is already in decline, whereas a family that remembers has a future.” (n. 193)

We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elderly feel like a living part of the community.  Our elderly are men and women, fathers and mothers, who came before us on our own road, in our own house, in our daily battle for a worthy life. (n. 191)

Saint John Paul II asked us to be attentive to the role of the elderly in our families … The elderly help us to appreciate ‘the continuity of the generations,’ by their ‘charism of bridging the gap.’  Very often, it is grandparents who ensure that the most important values are passed down to their grandchildren, and ‘many people can testify that they owe their initiation into the Christian life to their grandparents.’  Their words, their affection or simply their presence help children to realize that history did not begin with them, that they are now a part of an age-old pilgrimage and that they need to respect all that came before them.  (n. 193)\

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“Begetting and raising children, for its part, mirrors God's creative work." (n. 29)

Love always gives life.  (n. 165)

The family is the setting in which a new life is not only born but also welcomed as a gift of God.  Each new life ‘allows us to appreciate the utterly gratuitous dimension of love, which never ceases to amaze us’…The gift of a new child, entrusted by the Lord to a father and a mother, begins with acceptance, continues with lifelong protection, and has as its final goal the joy of eternal life.  By serenely contemplating the ultimate fulfilment of each human person, parents will be even more aware of the precious gift entrusted to them.  For God allows parents to choose the name by which he himself will call their child for all eternity.  (n.166)

Adoption is a very generous way to become parents.  I encourage those who cannot have children to expand their marital love to embrace those who lack a proper family situation.  They will never regret having been generous.  Adopting a child is an act of love, offering the gift of a family to someone who has none.  (n. 179)

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“In the family, we learn how to live as one." N.194

 Life as a couple is a daily sharing in God’s creative work, and each person is for the other a constant challenge from the Holy Spirit.  God’s love is proclaimed ‘through the living and concrete word whereby a man and the woman express their conjugal love.’  (n. 321)

Sexual union, lovingly experienced and sanctified by the sacrament, is in turn a path of growth in the life of grace for the couple.  It is the ‘nuptial mystery.’ The meaning and value of their physical union is expressed in the words of consent, in which they accepted and offered themselves each to the other, in order to share their lives completely.  Those words give meaning to the sexual relationship and free it from ambiguity.  More generally, the common life of husband and wife, the entire network of relations that they build with their children and the world around them, will be steeped in and strengthened by the grace of the sacrament.  For the sacrament of marriage flows from the incarnation and the paschal mystery, whereby God showed the fullness of his love for humanity by becoming one with us.  (n. 74)

Marriage is firstly an ‘intimate partnership of life and love’ which is a good for the spouses themselves, while sexuality is ‘ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman.’ (n. 80)

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"Young love needs to keep dancing towards the future with immense hope." (n 219)

The Synod Fathers stated in a number of ways that we need to help young people discover the dignity and beauty of marriage.  They should be helped to perceive the attraction of a complete union that elevates and perfects the social dimension of existence, gives sexuality its deepest meaning, and benefits children by offering them the best context for their growth and development.  (n. 205)

Marriage preparation should be a kind of ‘initiation’ to the sacrament of matrimony, providing couples with the help they need to receive the sacrament worthily and to make a solid beginning of life as a family.  (n. 207)

Both short-term and long-term marriage preparation should ensure that the couple do not view the wedding ceremony as the end of the road, but instead embark upon marriage as a lifelong calling based on a firm and realistic decision to face all trials and difficult moments together.  (n. 211)

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“The Church looks to married couples as the heart of the entire family, which, in turn looks to Jesus.” (n. 73) 

The sacrament of marriage is not a social convention, an empty ritual or merely the outward sign of a commitment.  The sacrament is a gift of a commitment.  The sacrament is a gift given for the sanctification and salvation of the spouses, since ‘their mutual belonging is a real representation, through the sacramental sign, of the same relationship between Christ and the Church.  The married couple are therefore a permanent reminder for the Church of what took place on the cross; they are for one another and for their children witnesses of the salvation in which they share through the sacrament.’ Marriage is a vocation, inasmuch as it is a response to a specific call to experience conjugal love as an imperfect sign of the love between Christ and the Church.  Consequently, the decision to marry and to have a family ought to be the fruit of a process of vocational discernment.  (n. 72)

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“The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church” (n. 1)

“I thank God that many families, which are far from considering themselves perfect, live in love, fulfill their calling and keep moving forward, even if they fall many times along the way.  The Synod’s reflections show us that there is no stereotype of the ideal family but, rather, a challenging mosaic made up of many different realities, with all the joys, hopes and problems.  The situation that concerns us are challenges.  We should not be trapped into wasting our energy in doleful laments but, rather, seek new forms of missionary creativity.  In every situation that presents itself, ‘the Church is conscious of the need to offer a word of truth and hope…  the great value of marriage and the Christian family correspond to a yearning that is part and parcel of human existence.’ If we see any number of problems, these should be, as the Bishops of Colombia have said, a summons to ‘revive our hope and to make it the source of prophetic visions, transformative actions and creative forms of charity.’”  (n. 57)

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