The Witness of Family, Card. Antonelli, part 3

Witness of Family: Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin
The Christian family is the subject of evangelization in
its own irreplaceable way, through its being and acting, as an “intimate
community of life and love.”  
Blessed John Paul II.

Cardinal Antonelli concluded his remarks about Blessed John Paul II and the family with a discussion of the role of the family in the new evangelization. The text follows (Thanks again to Joe Trabbic)

If every authentic marriage is a primordial sacrament of creation, Christian marriage is still more perfect insofar as it is lifted up to a “real representation of the relationship itself of Christ and the Church.” Familiaris Consortio §13. The Lord Jesus, bridegroom of the Church, communicates to Christian couples his spousal love, which ripened to the point of the supreme sacrifice of the cross. With a special gift of the Holy Spirit he support their communion of life and love so that it might become, if they freely cooperate, the ever more brilliant image of the divine Trinity. “[The Christian couple] not only receive the love of Christ and become a saved community, but they are also called upon to communicate Christ’s love to their brethren, thus becoming a saving community.” Familiaris Consortio §49  Like the Church it is a saved and saving community, an evangelized and evangelizing. The Christian family is the domestic Church, a real and specific actualization of the Church, mystery, communion, and mission. The spouses are called to re-live the love of Christ in their mutual love and to manifest it to their children and to the world.


The Christian family is the subject of evangelization in its own irreplaceable way, through its being and acting, as an “intimate community of life and love.” Familiaris Consortio §50 Evangelizing means transmitting, with our life and our words, the Gospel, the glad tidings that Christ has died and risen to save us, is living, loves us, accompanies us, leads us to eternal life with the Father. So “the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride. Every particular task of the family is an expressive and concrete actuation of that fundamental mission.” Familiaris Consortio §17.
The fundamental mission, then, is to live, the radiate and manifest love and the presence of Christ and the Trinity within and beyond the family. The tasks that stem from this are: mutual service, generous and responsible procreation, care and education of children, commitment to work, attention to the poor and needy, participation in ecclesial activities, social relations, and civil engagement. The Christian family has always been the first resource for evangelization. Today above all it is the sign of the Gospel’s credibility, more eloquent and persuasive than volunteer work and charitable organizations.
We are not talking about a beautiful but impractical ideal here. We are talking about a vocation, that is, a gift, a real possibility that has been given. If it is welcomed with faith and commitment, it will become reality. This is witnessed to, in every part of the world to some extent, by the minorities of exemplary Christian families, who are assiduous in prayer, united and generously open, courageous and joyful.
Unfortunately the voice of God in the intimacy of many hearts remains stifled by instinctive pressures and by the weight of the dominant culture’s conditioning with its media, financial and political power. It proposes an exercise of sex without rules, without self-control, without limits, apart from the prohibition of violence and precautions against disease and pregnancy; it degrades the sexual relationship to a way of relieving pressure, using the other person solely as an instrument for one’s own pleasure. This logic is opposed to true love, which is a synthesis of eros and agape, desire and gift, commitment to the true good of the other. It tends to make the sexual relationship and the couple’s life together into a mere coincidence, more or less precarious, of two egoisms; it ends up multiplying human solitude and human poverty.
The Church is very prudent and comprehensive in discerning the subjective responsibility, which is proper to each individual person; she helps persons to climb the mountain themselves, inviting all to humility, to prayer, to seeking the truth, to confidence in God’s mercy, to doing the good that they are able to do. Nevertheless, she cannot neglect to point out the mountain, which is beautiful and a proposal everyone. On the contrary, she feels the duty to emphasize that the ideal can become reality through divine grace, which must be assiduously asked for in prayer and which must be accepted with commitment and personal cooperation.
 In view of the Great Jubilee of 2000, John Paul II, in the apostolic letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, underscored the importance of the official recognition of Christian saints, especially married saints. “The greatest homage which all the Churches can give to Christ on the threshold of the third millennium will be to manifest the Redeemer’s all-powerful presence through the fruits of faith, hope and charity present in men and women of many different tongues and races who have followed Christ in the various forms of the Christian vocation. It will be the task of the Apostolic See, in preparation for the Year 2000, to update the martyrologies for the universal Church, paying careful attention to the holiness of those who in our own time lived fully by the truth of Christ. In particular, there is a need to foster the recognition of the heroic virtues of men and women who have lived their Christian vocation in marriage. Precisely because we are convinced of the abundant fruits of holiness in the married state, we need to find the most appropriate means for discerning them and proposing them to the whole Church as a model and encouragement for other Christian spouses.” §37
 Priority attention must be paid to married saints, not just as individuals but also as couples, to highlight that holiness is achievable precisely through marriage, living according to the Gospel. In this regard we must remember that the holiness of two married couples (Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi; Louis and Zélie Martin) has already been recognized through beatification and other causes for beatification of married couples are well underway.
To evangelize it is not enough to proclaim the Gospel [with words]; the lived and witnessed Gospel are also and above all imperative. The organic pastoral care of families proposed by John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio (cf. §§65-69) can be realized at the diocesan and parish level only as pastoral care for families by families, obviously under the guidance of the bishop and priests. The first objective of every bishop and priest must be that of forming in a parish a nucleus of exemplary families as a hub of ecclesial life and among these to choose certain couples as suitable to be hubs of concrete parish activities.
 The spiritual cultivation of exemplary families and the pastoral stress on families who take leadership roles is a service and a gift for all families and for the entire population. It is not a self-referential elite but a few who are for all, so that through the Christ the Savior might encounter all, drawing them to him or at least bringing them closer and orienting them to eternal life. “The messianic people,” Vatican II teaches, “although it does not effectively include all men, and at times appearing as a small flock, nonetheless constitutes the most powerful seed of unity, hope, and salvation.” Lumen Gentium, 9. The Church, even when it contains only a small number of believers, continues to carry out her universal mission and to cooperate with Christ for human growth and the eternal salvation of all men, Christians and non-Christians, Christians in full spiritual and visible communion and Christians in partial communion. Authenticity counts more than numbers.

THIS CONCLUDES THE ADDRESS OF CARDINAL ANTONELLI TO THE PONTIFICAL ACADMY OF ST THOMAS ON JUNE 30 2012, VATICAN CITY

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