Consistory for the Family: Facing the Realities of “Family”

Coming from the Vatican today, we have an overview of the opening moments of this week’s extraordinary consistory for the family. The day began with an opening address from Pope Francis:

Dear brothers,

I extend a warm greeting to you all and, with you, I thank the Lord who has given us these days of meeting and working together. We welcome especially our brothers who will be created Cardinals on Saturday and we accompany them with our prayers and fraternal affection.

During these days, we will reflect in particular on the family, which is the fundamental cell of society. From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman so that they might be fruitful and multiply, and so the family then is an image of the Triune God in the world.

Our reflections must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality which is so simple and yet so rich, consisting of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings, as is the whole of life. We will seek to deepen the theology of the family and discern the pastoral practices which our present situation requires. May we do so thoughtfully and without falling into “casuistry”, because this would inevitably diminish the quality of our work. Today, the family is looked down upon and mistreated. We are called to acknowledge how beautiful, true and good it is to start a family, to be a family today; and how indispensable the family is for the life of the world and for the future of humanity. We are called to make known God’s magnificent plan for the family and to help spouses joyfully experience this plan in their lives, as we accompany them amidst so many difficulties.

We thank Cardinal Walter Kasper for his valuable contribution which he will offer us with his introduction.

Thank you all, and have a good day!

This was followed by an address by Cardinal Kasper, which is not being published in full. It would seem that his address hit upon a few key points (again, pulled from the items shared by Vatican news sources):

  • The focus was very coherent with that of the Holy Father: facing, with realism and in depth, all that is beautiful about the family without eluding its problems. However, the issue is approached from an extremely positive point of view: rediscovering and proclaiming the Gospel of the family according to God’s plan, with all its beauty, as truth also convinces through beauty.
  • Another central point of Kasper’s address was the concept of the family as a small domestic church, and the idea according to which in the family the Church encounters reality and thus constitutes a path towards the future; the family can be a privileged route to evangelization.

Having read about the issues that are of interest to Cardinal Kasper, including the issue of those who have been remarried following divorce, I found the following comment in the Vatican’s article to be of interest:

Cardinal Kasper spoke about this “domestic church” in a broad sense, referring not only to the nuclear family, but also by extension to communities, parish groups etc. From a formal point of view, Fr. Lombardi mentioned that Cardinal Kasper’s document does not claim to address all themes related to the family, nor does it attempt to anticipate the next Synod, but is rather a form of “opening”. 

The word “family” is being redefined and nuanced in so many ways in today’s society. An ongoing challenge for our Church — as well as our unique parishes — is the need to keep up with the ways in which Domestic Churches are being stretched and challenged. There will not be an easy “one size fits all” solution for today’s families. But now, more than ever, families need the guidance and leadership of a Church who will help shepherd us as we endeavor to pass the faith along to our children. I also pray that single Catholics will be firmly connected to these conversations. We are all one family in Christ, so this conversation matters for every one of us. Let’s pray together that our Cardinals’ work this week and into next October’s Synod will be blessed and guided by the Holy Spirit.

A question for you: What do you hope to hear from these meetings on the family?

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