A Timely Encyclical to Every Christian Family Vol. 1, No. 22

Familiaris Consortio is an Apostolic Exhortation of St. Pope John Paul II, it was written in 1981 to address the question of the human family and marriage. It could be observed that cultural factors have systematically undermined families during the past few decades – so dramatic and widespread were the effects of the family’s sudden decline — that in 1980 the Catholic Church convened a world Synod on the Family.

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THE PLACE OF FAMILY IN ECCLESIAL SERVICE

The document maintains that family is the bedrock for ecclesial service and as well as the seed bed of vocations especially vocations to the life of consecration. It aligns the import of family in Evangelization to that of Apostles with regard to fruitful evangelization of the church. On the sacramental nature of Christian Marriage; the Holy Father observes that Marriage is a sacrament which brings mutual sanctification between the couples. Most essentially, sacrament of Matrimony like all other Sacraments sanctifies the Recipients and help in building up the body of Christ.

The document goes on to emphasis on the intimate connection between marriage and Eucharist. Making agreement with the call of Second Vatican council, it states that “marriage should be celebrated within Holy Mass” (cf Lumen Gentium 11). This brings to mind the intrinsic relationship between Marriage and sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

            However, understanding that Christian family is not totally immune from imperfection; the document described the sacrament of conversion and Reconciliation as constitutive elements of Christian Family. Thus, the celebration of this sacrament acquires special significance for family life. While they discover in faith that sin contradicts not only the covenant with God, but also the covenant between husband and wife and the communion of the family, the married couple and the other members of the family are led to an encounter with God, who is “rich in mercy” (no 58), through the sacrament of reconciliation.

FAMILY AS AN INSTITUTION OF PRAYER LIFE

On the values and inevitability of family prayer; the documents observes that “transformation is achieved not only by celebrating the Eucharist and the other sacraments and through offering themselves to the glory of God, but also through a life of prayer” also family prayer brings “the husband, wife and children together” (no 59).

            There is also a deep connection and vital bond between the prayers of the Church and that of individual faithful. Christian life should have its anchorage on prayer. However, the habit of prayer is noted to begin from the family background. Therefore, the document states that “The fruitfulness of the Christian family in its specific service to human advancement, which of itself cannot but lead to the transformation of the world, derives from its living union with Christ, nourished by Liturgy, by self-oblation and by prayer” (no 62).

PASTORAL CARE OF THE FAMILY: STAGES, STRUCTURES, AGENTS AND SITUATIONS

While observing the needs of pastoral care of the family, the Holy Father says Every effort should be made to strengthen and develop pastoral care for the family, which should be treated as a real matter of priority, because the certainty of future evangelization depends largely on the domestic Church” (no 65). Family is one of the areas that demands urgent pastoral care especially on marriage preparation. This preparation has three stages namely. Remote preparation begins in early childhood, in that sense; it is the family training which leads children to discover themselves as being endowed with a rich and complex psychology and with a particular personality with its own strengths and weaknesses. Proximate preparation, forms the suitable age and with adequate catechesis, as in a catechumenal process-involves a more specific preparation for the sacraments, as it were, it helps to rediscover the sacramental values of the church. The immediate preparation for the celebration of the sacrament of Matrimony should take place in the months and weeks immediately preceding the wedding (no 66). This gives the couples adequate opportunity to come together and listen to pastoral teachings of the church, possibly to be handled by the Pastor in charge of the place. Regular and adequate pastoral care after marriage was also recommended.

Conclusion

Christian families are tasked also to manifest and put into practice and personal actions the law of the Holy Spirit which is God’s love. This law is described as the “New Commandment of Love”. Directly, this shows that “Jesus poured into the hearts of the couples (this new commandment of love) in the celebration of the sacrament of Matrimony”. Again, Christian couples should know that “Their love, purified and saved, is a fruit of the Spirit acting in the hearts of believers and constituting, at the same time, the fundamental commandment of their moral life to be lived in responsible freedom” (no 63). The resultant effect of this New Commandment of love is that “the Christian family welcomes respects and serves every human being, considering each one in his or her dignity as a person and as a child of God”. (no 64).

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