The Family, Cardinal Antonelli, part 2

Ennio Cardinal Antonelli
President Pontifical Council of the Family 2008-2012
The presentation by Cardinal Antonelli on Blessed John Paul II given at the Papal Academy of St Thomas (June 30, 2012) continued as follows:
From the vast teaching of John Paul II on the family I have chosen and briefly present a single theme, which is nevertheless important from a theological, anthropological, spiritual, and consequently, also a pastoral perspective: “the human family as the image of the divine Trinity.” Here are some relevant quotes:
  • “God created man in His own image and likeness: calling him to existence through love, He called him at the same time for love. God is love and in Himself He lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in His own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion.” (Familiaris Consortio, §11)
  • “The divine image develops not only in the individual but also in that unique communion of persons formed by a man and a woman so united in love that they become “one flesh” (Gen 2:24). It is written: ‘in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’ (Gen 1:27).” (John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace, 1994; cf. Mulieris Dignitatem, §7; Gravissimam Sane, §6)
  • [With the creation of man and woman] a primordial sacrament is constituted, understood as a sign that transmits effectively in the visible world the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial. This is the mystery of truth and love, the mystery of divine life, in which man really participates. John Paul II, Wednesday Audience, February 20, 1980 (Catechesis on the Book of Genesis).
According to the teaching of John Paul II, every marriage, even before and outside of Christianity, has a certain sacred quality; it is a primordial sacrament, and participates in the story of the communion of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is true to the measure in which the spouses live authentic love together.

Authentic conjugal love, as Benedict XVI later specified, is a synthesis of eros and agape, of desire, directed toward one’s own happiness, and of gift of self, directed toward the happiness of the other. (cf. Deus Caritas est, 7, 8) It is precisely this love, in which desire for happiness, sexual attraction, and the gift of self to the other are integrated and harmonized, thereby constituting a participation in God one and three, even if the spouses do not know it and do not realize it.

Although it is true that every form of communion among persons is in some way a reflection of God to the extent that love is lived in it, nevertheless marriage is the most complete image of God insofar as the mutual gift of self on the part of the spouses is total. They do not give some thing or some activity, but their entire life, including their body and soul, thought, will, affectivity, sexuality. They give themselves to each other and together they give themselves to their children through procreation, care, and education. Thus they become one flesh in common life, in the sexual relationship, and in the person of their children, who constitute their permanent unity, which no divorce can separate. “[T]he couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother.” Familiaris Consortio, §14
Marriage draws them into the powerful relationships between persons. Every person is an individual subject, self-conscious and free, but also constitutionally oriented to develop his own humanity; the person becomes happy only in building good relationships with others and with God. Relational goods are more necessary than material goods. Poverty of relationships is more damaging and more painful than poverty of things; without relationships a person’s life is deprived of meaning and progressively falls into solitude and desperation. The normal family founded on marriage is a stable community of life and reciprocal belonging; the other forms of cohabitation that some now live draw us into the logic of the individual who belongs only to himself and only has contractual relationships of exchange with others.

A significant confirmation has come from the sociological research newly published in the book La famiglia risorsa della società [The Family: A Resource for Society],P. Donati, ed. (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2012). which was recently presented at the 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan. The situation of families that are poorest in interpersonal relationships (single adult, single parent, couple without children, couple with one child) is less satisfying in terms of the happiness of those involved and less advantageous for society (social virtues, etc.). But the situation represented by the couple united in marriage with two or more children, is richer in respect to relationships even if it is on average poorer economically, and this is why it is more satisfying for persons and more advantageous for society.

 It is not only seeking my own good that brings joy but working for the good of the other, even when it requires sacrifice, according to Jesus’ words: “It is better to given than to receive” (Acts 20:35). The right balance of eros and agape causes the truest and greatest joy, “not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns,” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas est, §4) that is, for the union with God in eternity. The Church is not the enemy of the joy of life; she does not disdain sexuality but, integrating it in the gift of love, exalts it, to the point of making it an anticipation of the eternal wedding. Her fundamental attitude is that of John Paul II, who, referring to the beginning of the his priestly ministry among young people, spoke of the importance of learning to love human love. (Crossing the Threshold of Hope (New York: Knopf, 1994), p. 123)

Translated from the Italian by Dr Joe Trabbic, Ave Maria University

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