John Paul II on the Family

John Paul II on the Family
Charles Umlauf, , Austin TX

Blessed would often remark about the aspect of personal existence as something “unrepeatable.” This is the core of the Church’s defense of the transcendence of the human person. The person is not primarily an instantiation of a species or an individual specimen, an example of an essence — but a concrete being bearing a significance in its very concrete reality.

Thus in Redeemer of Man John Paul II said that in his discussion of “man” he is not speaking of : “the ‘abstract’ man, but the real, ‘concrete’, ‘historical’ man. We are dealing with ‘each’ man, for each one is included in the mystery of the Redemption and with each one Christ has united himself for ever through this mystery. Every man comes into the world through being conceived in his mother’s womb and being born of his mother, and precisely on account of the mystery of the Redemption is entrusted to the solicitude of the Church. Her solicitude is about the whole man and is focused on him in an altogether special manner. The object of her care is man in his unique unrepeatable human reality, which keeps intact the image and likeness of God himself.”

Referring to Gaudium et spes, John Paul II recalls, with the Council, “man is the only creature on earth that God willed for itself.” Thus “Man as ‘willed’ by God, as ‘chosen’ by him from eternity and called, destined for grace and glory-this is ‘each’ man, ‘the most concrete’ man, ‘the most real’;  this is man in all the fullness of the mystery in which he has become a sharer in Jesus Christ, the mystery in which each one of the four thousand million human beings living on our planet has become a sharer from the moment he is conceived beneath the heart of his mother.” §13

Christ as the Redeemer of Man relates to “Each man in all the unrepeatable reality of what he is and what he does, of his intellect and will, of his conscience and heart. Man who in his reality has, because he is a ‘person’, a history of his life that is his own and, most important, a history of his soul that is his own.” §14

John Paul II explains that the Church reaches out with the good news to the concrete person. He says the way of the Church is the way of man.  “this man is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission: he is the primary and fundamental way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption.”

The root of this unrepeatability is the fact that God has willed the person for itself. John Paul II uses this idea and text from Gaudium et spes to explain the importance of the family. For it in the family that this truth is realized:

The contrast between the ordinariness of all the facts of the birth of human beings in human families and the extraordinariness and unrepeatability of each of those facts leads to another contrast, one that highlights the meaning of each concrete family as a communion of persons. It is precisely for such a community that the fact of the birth of a human being is extraordinary and in each instance unique, as well as both personal and communal. Beyond this dimension, beyond the boundaries of the family, it loses this character and becomes a statistical fact, something to be subjected to various sorts of objectifications, up to the point of becoming merely a statistical entry. The family is the place in which each human being appears in his or her own uniqueness and unrepeatability. It is — and should be — the kind of special system of forces in which each person is important and needed because that person exists and because of who that person is. It is a profoundly human system, constructed upon the value of the person and concentrated entirely around this value.

From “The Family as a Community of Persons,” (written in 1974) found in  in Persons and Community: Selected Essays (New York: Peter Lang, 1993).

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