All of us remember the experiences of so many of our national soldiers who went through arduous, exhausting and seemingly interminable combats. How many of them saw numerous companions fall, and they themselves were uncertain of their own survival…but the desire to defeat the enemy, to save their country, and to fight on like heroes encouraged them to continue without desisting, and even to give their lives if necessary. How many nations have the glory of numbering among their sons men of this valor; men who are more concerned with fulfilling their duty than enjoying a life of betrayal and egoism.
But now, let’s imagine a hypothetical situation: a general, who in the midst of one of the worst conflicts that his country ever faced, has under his command a certain number of soldiers who start to drag their feet, and instead of promptly obeying orders, react with an attitude of relativism towards the commands received, start leaking information to the enemy and go so far as to persecute the few soldiers who remained faithful to their military ideal and discipline. Would there be any possibility that such an army could defeat the invaders, obtaining peace for their country?
Would there be some way that the general could rectify this situation? The remaining true soldiers would certainly hope so! And they would justly hope that for their efforts and courage, in face of the enemy and their slovenly and disparaging comrades in arms, they would receive military honors and that the others would be duly punished.
However, observing the pathetic state of his army, let’s suppose that the general summons his soldiers and delivers a speech to encourage …the dissenters! ‘No army drops down from heaven perfectly formed…we cannot harshly judge those who have tired of the fight. It is time to put the demands of military discipline and honesty in proper perspective…’ And in ending his dissertation, he rewards some of the soldiers…the most insubordinate ones.
Do we need to finish the story? Would the few good soldiers want to keep fighting?
Failure to encourage the good is the same as promoting vice. In any life circumstance, the human being has the innate necessity to aim toward elevated goals, but requires incentive and challenge. We don’t need to give examples; everyone has already experienced the daily situations where the expectation of a reward or the fear of scrutiny by a supervisor makes everyone give much more of themselves… If we need a little ‘push’ even in undertaking ordinary things, why would it not be so in the spiritual life?
“Seeing things in a proper perspective”… a relativistic expression that we would never have wished to encounter in an encyclical, much less so in one on marriage. If there is something in which absolutely no form of relativism should exist, it’s in conjugal union, which is the basis of society.
What intention does he who fails to demand – and even dispenses from – perfection, purity of intention and consistency in family life have? If these virtues are not required, he will be classifying the faulty, false and inconsistent fulfillment of matrimonial duties as something good….
What kind of instruction for spouses is this? It is absolutely discouraging for those who fight to remain faithful. And what kind of formation can parents give to the poor children who are born in such an atmosphere where heavenly blessings are not felt?
What does the Church say about the virtues essential for Christian marriage? Does it permit relativism?
Teachings of the Magisterium
I – The Holy Family continues being a model for Christian families; an example of the practice of the exalted virtues that should reign in homes
The Holy Family is an incomparable model of every Christian family
And to you newlyweds, my affectionate congratulations. You have become united within the sacrament of matrimony during this Christmas season in which the Church celebrates and honors with particular devotion the ‘Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph’. To this Holy Family, incomparable model of every human and Christian familial community, I confide the sacred commitment that you have assumed before God, the Church and society, as well as your resolutions, ideals and plans. May the Apostolic blessing which I impart to you with sincere cordiality, be a demonstration of my love. (John Paul II. General audience, January 7, 1981)
The family is a communion of love based on truth: The Holy Family is the first model for families
Being together and exchanging gifts emphasizes the strong desire for reciprocal communion and sheds light on the highest values of the family institution. This is shown by the communion of love between persons based on truth, on love, on the indissoluble fidelity of husband and wife and on openness to the gift of life. In the light of Christmas, the family sees its vocation as a community of shared plans, solidarity, forgiveness and faith, where individuals do not lose their identity, but contribute with their own specific gifts to the growth of all. This is what occurred in the Holy Family, presented by faith as the first model for families enlightened by Christ. (John Paul II. General audience, no. 1, December 29, 1999)
Every home should be a school of virtues in imitation of Nazareth
Consequently, in earnest we desire that every home become, in imitation of that of Nazareth, a sanctuary of religiosity and a school of virtues. (John XXIII. Message to the National Congress of the family in Spain, February 10, 1959)
The Holy Family invites us to consider the greatness of the task that the Church expects of families
This is the first teaching of Nazareth: holy families, blessed love, domestic virtues which overflow from the warmth of ardent hearts, and generous and good wills. The family is the first exercise of Christian life, the first school of fortitude and of sacrifice, of morality and of abnegation. It is the greenhouse of priestly and religious vocations, and also of apostolic undertakings for the Christian laity; the parish acquires a new dignity and an unmistakable physiognomy, and is enriched with new vital sap of regenerated souls who live in the grace of the Lord. The Ecumenical Council will also be a solemn convocation to the grandeur of the family and to the duties inherent to them. Receive, dear sons and daughters, as the first fruits of Our words which invite you to consider ever more deeply, in the light of the Holy Family, the greatness of the task that the Church expects of you. (John XXIII. Address October 4, 1962)
The Mother of Jesus, a most perfect model of the domestic virtues
The Mother of Jesus is, in effect, a most perfect model of the domestic virtues, of those virtues that should beautify the state of the Christian couples. In Mary we find the most pure, holy and faithful affection, made of sacrifice and of delicate attentions, toward her most holy spouse: in Her the complete and continuous giving over to the cares of the family and the house: in Her the perfect faith and love toward her Divine Son: in Her the humility that was manifested in submission to Joseph, in the inalterable patience and serenity in face of the discomforts of poverty and work, in the full conformity to the dispositions, frequently arduous and difficult, of Divine Providence, in the sweetness of conduct and in the charity toward all those who lived close to the holy walls of the little house of Nazareth. (Pius XII. Address to newlyweds, May 31, 1939)
Perfection shone in the Holy Family, which was destined to be a model for all others
Such was the Holy Family of Nazareth, in which was hidden –before he should shine out in the sight of all nations in full splendour – the Sun of Righteousness, Christ, our God and Saviour, with his Virgin Mother, and with Saint Joseph, her most holy spouse, who held to him the place of father. No one can doubt the perfection which, for society and domestic life, was born of the reciprocal fidelity to the duties of charity, the sanctity of customs, and the practice of the virtues, shone with brighter splendor in this Holy Family which was destined to be a model for all others. For that very reason was it established by the merciful designs of Providence, this Family was constituted in such a way so that every Christian, in every walk of life and in any country, might easily, if he would but give heed to it, have before him a motive and an invitation to practice the virtues. In effect, the fathers of families have in Joseph a perfect model of paternal vigilance and care. In the most holy Virgin Mother of God, mothers may find an admirable example of love, modesty, spirit of submission, and perfect faith. In the person of Jesus, who ‘was obedient to them’ (Lk 2:51), the children of the family can admire, venerate and imitate a divine model of obedience. obedience which they can admire, reverence, and imitate. (Leo XIII. Brief Neminem fugit, June 14, 1892)
II – The holiness of the matrimonial vocation may not be taken with relativism: the family is called to perfection
Spreading of anti-family initiatives that exalt divorce and conjugal infidelity – Who benefits from this propaganda? From what source do they come?
Unfortunately, precisely in this Year of the Family, one observes the initiatives spread by a notable part of the media, which, in their substance, are anti-family. They are initiatives that give priority to that which determines the decomposition of families and the defeat of the human being, men, women, and children. In effect, what is really evil is called good: separations, decided upon superficially; conjugal infidelity, is not only tolerated but even exalted; divorces; and free love, are proposed at times as models to be imitated. Who benefits from this propaganda? From what source do they come? (John Paul II. Angelus, February 20, 1994)
Families should satisfactorily carry out the role inherent in their most eminent dignity
The main question, however, is precisely this: can we still speak of a family model today? The Church is convinced that in the context of our time it is more necessary than ever to reassert the institutions of marriage and the family as realities that derive from the wisdom of God’s will and reveal their full significance and value in his creative and saving plan (cf. ibid.; cf. Gaudium et Spes, no. 48; Familiaris Consortio, no. 11-16). […] In dealing with the European context, it is this method that is inspiring you in the course of this current Symposium. I hope that your timely initiative will contribute to ensuring that in Europe, today and tomorrow, families can carry out satisfactorily the role inherent in their most eminent dignity. To this end, I assure you of my special remembrance in prayer and I invoke the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the model for every family. (John Paul II. Address to the participants in the European symposium for university teachers, June 25, 2004)
It is a fundamental duty of the Church to strongly reaffirm the truth about marriage
It is a fundamental duty of the Church to reaffirm strongly, as the Synod Fathers did the doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage. To all those who, in our times, consider it too difficult, or indeed impossible, to be bound to one person for the whole of life, and to those caught up in a culture that rejects the indissolubility of marriage and openly mocks the commitment of spouses to fidelity, it is necessary to reconfirm the good news of the definitive nature of that conjugal love that has in Christ its foundation and strength. Being rooted in the personal and total self-giving of the couple, and being required by the good of the children, the indissolubility of marriage finds its ultimate truth in the plan that God has manifested in His revelation: He wills and He communicates the indissolubility of marriage as a fruit, a sign and a requirement of the absolutely faithful love that God has for man and that the Lord Jesus has for the Church. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Familiaris consortio, no. 20, November 22, 1981)
There is a temptation to adopt models contrary to the Gospel, under the influence of contemporary culture that has spread throughout the world
The family, a divine institution founded on marriage as willed by the Creator himself (cf. Gen 2:18-24; Mt 19:5), is nowadays exposed to a number of threats. The Christian family in particular is faced more than ever before with the issue of its deepest identity. The essential properties of sacramental marriage – unity and indissolubility (cf. Mt 19:6) – and the Christian model of family, sexuality and love, are in our day, if not called into question, at least misunderstood by some of the faithful. There is a temptation to adopt models contrary to the Gospel, under the influence of a certain contemporary culture that has spread throughout the world. Conjugal love is part of the definitive covenant between God and his people, fully sealed in the sacrifice of the cross. Its character as mutual self-giving, even to the point of martyrdom, is clearly expressed in some of the Eastern Churches, where each spouse receives the other as a ‘crown’ during the marriage ceremony, which is rightly called a ‘liturgy of coronation’. Conjugal love is not a fleeting event, but the patient project of a lifetime. Called to live a Christ-like love each day, the Christian family is a privileged expression of the Church’s presence and mission in the world. (Benedict XVI. Apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, no 58, September 14, 2012)
Matrimony is different from the union of animals entered into by the blind instinct of nature, in which neither reason nor free will plays a part
By matrimony, therefore, the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies, and that not by any passing affection of sense of spirit, but by a deliberate and firm act of the will; and from this union of souls by God’s decree, a sacred and inviolable bond arises. Hence the nature of this contract, which is proper and peculiar to it alone, makes it entirely different both from the union of animals entered into by the blind instinct of nature alone in which neither reason nor free will plays a part, and also from the haphazard unions of men, which are far removed from all true and honorable unions of will and enjoy none of the rights of family life. (Pius XI. Encyclical Casti connubii, no. 7, December 31, 1930)
The family may not only be constituted in a holy manner, but also be governed by holy laws
No one fails to see that the prosperity of private and public good principally depends upon the constitution of the family. In effect, the more deeply virtue is rooted in the bosom of the home, the greater the solicitude of the parents to inculcate in their children — through doctrine and example — the precepts of religion, so greater will be the fruits born for common good. Wherefore it is of extreme importance that domestic society is not only constituted in a holy manner, but also that it be governed by holy laws; and that the spirit of religion and principles of Christian life develop in it with the same effort and constancy. Evidently, with this intent, merciful God, when he wished to accomplish the work of human reparation, awaited for centuries, disposed his elements in such a way, that from the beginning, the reason and order of this same work, from the beginning, this work presented to the world the august form of a divinely constituted family, in which men could all contemplate a perfect example of domestic society and a model of all virtue and sanctity. (Leo XIII. Brief Neminem fugit, June 14, 1892)
No one should ever do anything to detract from the dignity of the sacrament or the perpetuity of the matrimonial bond
We also want you to imbue your flock with reverence for the sanctity of marriage so that they may never do anything to detract from the dignity of this sacrament. They should do nothing that might be unbecoming to this spotless union nor anything that might cause doubt about the perpetuity of the bond of matrimony. This goal will be accomplished if the Christian people are accurately taught that the sacrament of matrimony ought to be governed not so much by human law as by divine law and that it ought to be counted among sacred, not earthly, concerns. Thus, it is wholly subject to the Church […] Therefore, teach the people what is sanctioned and what is condemned by the rules of the Church and the decrees of the Councils. Also explain those things which pertain to the essence of the sacrament. Then they will be able to accomplish those things and will not dare to attempt what the Church detests. We ask this earnestly of you because of your love of religion. (Pius VIII. Encyclical Traditi humilitati, no. 10, May 24, 1829)
Help married couples to be aware of the path of their holiness and to carry out their mission
To help married couples be aware of the path of their holiness and to carry out their mission, it is fundamental that their conscience be formed, and that God’s will be fulfilled in the specific area of married life, that is, in their conjugal communion and service for life. The light of the Gospel and the grace of the sacrament represent the indispensable elements for the elevation and the fullness of conjugal love that has its source in God the Creator. In fact, ‘the Lord, wishing to bestow special gifts of grace and divine love on it, has restored, perfected and elevated it’ (Gaudium et Spes, no. 49). (Pontifical Council for the Family. Vademecum for confessors concerning some aspects of the morality of conjugal life, February 12, 1997)
May the faithful be not deceived by a false appearance of marriage, and thus stain their souls with turpitude and wicked lusts
The nature and meaning of marriage are, therefore, to be first explained. Vice not infrequently assumes the semblance of virtue, and hence care must be taken that the faithful be not deceived by a false appearance of marriage, and thus stain their souls with turpitude and wicked lusts. To explain this subject, let us begin with the meaning of the word itself. The word matrimony is derived from the fact that the principal object which a female should propose to herself in marriage is to become a mother; or from the fact that to a mother it belongs to conceive, bring forth and train her offspring. (Catechism of Trent, 2700)
In the proportion that the married persons fear God, so much better is the marriage
Therefore marriage is a good, wherein married persons are so much the better, in proportion as they fear God with greater chastity and faithfulness, especially if the sons, whom they desire after the flesh, they also bring up after the spirit. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. The Good of Marriage, no. 22)
For no reason is it ever permitted to put away a wife – whosoever does this is held to be guilty of adultery by the law of the gospel
For this is preserved in the case of Christ and the Church; so that, as a living one with a living one, there is no divorce, no separation forever. And so complete is the observance of this bond in the city of our God, in His holy mountain — that is to say, in the Church of Christ— by all married believers, who are undoubtedly members of Christ, that, although women marry, and men take wives, for the purpose of procreating children, it is never permitted one to put away even an unfruitful wife for the sake of having another to bear children. And whosoever does this is held to be guilty of adultery by the law of the gospel; though not by this world’s rule, which allows a divorce between the parties, without even the allegation of guilt, and the contraction of other nuptial engagements — a concession which, the Lord tells us, even the holy Moses extended to the people of Israel, because of the hardness of their hearts (Mt 19:8). The same condemnation applies to the woman, if she is married to another man. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. On Marriage and Concupiscence, I, Ch. 11[X])
Second unions constitute adultery
Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and the one who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. (Lk 16:18)
The laws on matrimony are from God
Thus a married woman is bound by law to her living husband; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law in respect to her husband. Consequently, while her husband is alive she will be called an adulteress if she consorts with another man. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and she is not an adulteress if she consorts with another man. (Rom 7:2-3)
III – It is possible to experience truly celestial realities in a family life lead with sanctity
The Doctor of the Church considered her parents more worthy of heaven than of earth
God gave me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth. (Saint Therese of Lisieux. Letter to Father Maurice Beliere, July 26, 1897)
Louis Martin seemed no longer of this earth
I really did listen attentively, but I must own I looked at Papa more than at the preacher, for I read many things in his face. Sometimes his eyes were filled with tears which he strove in vain to keep back; and as he listened to the eternal truths he seemed no longer of this earth, his soul was absorbed in the thought of another world. Alas! Many long and sorrowful years had to pass before Heaven was to be opened to him, and Our Lord with His Own Divine Hand was to wipe away the bitter tears of His faithful servant. (Saint Therese of Lisieux. Story of a Soul, Ch. II)
‘I had only to look at him to know how the saints pray’
Later on we went upstairs for night prayers, and there again my place was beside my beloved Father, and I had only to look at him to know how the Saints pray. (Saint Therese of Lisieux. Story of a Soul, Ch. II)
A home filled with the ‘odor of purity’
He allowed her (Saint Therese of Lisieux) to grow in holy soil enriched with the odour of purity. (Saint Therese of Lisieux. Story of a Soul, Ch. I)
They sanctified themselves through, in, and by marriage
Among the vocations to which people are called by Providence, marriage is one of the most noble and elevated. Louis and Zélie understood that they could sanctify themselves not despite marriage but through, in, and by marriage, and that their nuptials would be considered as the starting point for a rising together. Today the Church does not only admire the holiness of these children of Normandy, a gift for all, but She is reflected in this Blessed couple who contribute to make more splendid and beautiful the gown of a bride married in the Church. She doesn’t only admire the holiness of their life; she recognizes in this couple the eminent holiness of the institution of conjugal love as conceived by the Creator himself. (Congregation for the Cause of Saints. Homily for the Beatification Mass of Louis and Celia Martin, October 19, 2008)
Conjugal union has been raised to the dignity of a sacrament and enriched with heavenly gifts
Formerly marriage had no other purpose than that of bringing children into the world. But now it has been raised to the dignity of a sacrament by Christ the Lord and enriched with heavenly gifts. Now its purpose is not so much to generate offspring as to educate children for God and for religion. This increases the number of worshippers of the true divinity. It is agreed that the union of marriage signifies the perpetual and sublime union of Christ with His Church; as a result, the close union of husband and wife is a sacrament, that is, a sacred sign of the immortal love of Christ for His spouse. (Pius VIII. Encyclical Traditi humilitati, no. 10, May 24, 1829)
The difficulties of family life do not humiliate, but rather exalt
Before you, newlyweds, who succeed other similar groups who have come before Us and have been blessed by Us, our thought brings to mind the great saying of Ecclesiastes: ‘One generation passes and another comes, but the world forever stays’ (Eccles 1:4). In this way, new centuries unfold, but God does not change; the Gospel does not change nor the destiny of man for eternity; the law of the family does not change; the ineffable example of the family of Nazareth does not change, great sun of three suns, one of the most divine brilliance and more ardent than the other two that surround it. Observe that modest and humble mansion, oh fathers and mothers; contemplate He who was ‘the carpenter’s son’ (Mt 13:55), born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin slave of the Lord; and comforted in the sacrifices and in the works of life. Kneeling before them as children; invoking them, supplicating them; and learning from them that the difficulties of family life do not humiliate, but rather exalt; how they do not make the man nor the woman less great or dear to heaven, but a rather worth a happiness, that in vain are sought within the commodities of this world where all is fleeting and transient. (Pius XII. Allocution to newlyweds, March 11, 942)
Blessed are those that walk undefiled in the law of the Lord
‘Blessed are those that are undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord’ (Ps 118:1). As much as to say, I know what you wish, you are seeking bliss: if then you would be blessed, be undefiled. For the former all desire, the latter fear: yet without it what all wish cannot be attained. But where will any one be undefiled, save in the way? In what way, save in the Law of the Lord? That is why we are exhorted, and not in vain is it said to us: Blessed are those that are undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord’ (Saint Augustine of Hippo, Commentary on Psalm 118/1 (119))
Amid trials, God consoles holy parents with heavenly joys
And You sent Your hand from above, and drew my soul out of that profound darkness, when my mother, Your faithful one, wept to you on my behalf more than mothers are wont to weep the bodily death of their children. For she saw that I was dead by that faith and spirit which she had from You, and You heard her, O Lord. You heard her, and despised not her tears, when, pouring down, they watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed; yea, You heard her. For whence was that dream with which You consoled her, so that she permitted me to live with her, and to have my meals at the same table in the house, which she had begun to avoid, hating and detesting the blasphemies of my error? […] And when she looked she saw me standing near her on the same rule. […] Your answer through my watchful mother – that she was not disquieted by the speciousness of my false interpretation, and saw in a moment what was to be seen, and which I myself had not in truth perceived before she spoke – even then moved me more than the dream itself, by which the happiness to that pious woman, to be realized so long after, was, for the alleviation of her present anxiety, so long before predicted. (Saint Augustine of Hippo. Confessions, Book III, Ch. XI)
IV – The families of today, as those of all times, should aim at high sanctity
Saint Bridget’s life must still inspire holiness in Christian spouses today
This first period of Bridget’s life helps us to appreciate what today we could describe as an authentic ‘conjugal spirituality’: together, Christian spouses can make a journey of holiness sustained by the grace of the sacrament of Marriage. It is often the woman, as happened in the life of St Bridget and Ulf, who with her religious sensitivity, delicacy and gentleness succeeds in persuading her husband to follow a path of faith. I am thinking with gratitude of the many women who, day after day, illuminate their families with their witness of Christian life, in our time too. May the Lord’s Spirit still inspire holiness in Christian spouses today, to show the world the beauty of marriage lived in accordance with the Gospel values: love, tenderness, reciprocal help, fruitfulness in begetting and in raising children, openness and solidarity to the world and participation in the life of the Church. (Benedict XVI. General audience, October 27, 2010)
The innumerable examples of holy parents and authentic Christian families in the history of Christianity urge commitment to the path of sanctity
The history of Christianity is spangled with innumerable examples of holy parents and authentic Christian families who accompanied the life of generous priests and pastors of the Church. Only think of Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, both of whom belonged to families of saints. Let us think of Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini, a husband and wife, very close to us, who lived at the end of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th and whose beatification by my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II in October 2001 coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. In addition to illustrating the value of marriage and the tasks of the family, this Document urged spouses to be especially committed to the path of sanctity which, drawing grace and strength from the Sacrament of Marriage, accompanies them throughout their life (cf. no. 56). (Benedict XVI. Angelus, August 30, 2009)
The Church has inscribed worthy spouses and matrimonial models in the catalogue of the blessed
At the beginning of this millennium, Holy Mother Church has inscribed in the catalogue of the blessed, María Teresa Ferragud Roig, who in Spain together with her four virgin daughters consecrated to Christ, obtained the palm of martyrdom and celestial glory; the spouses Luis Beltrame Quattrocchi and María Corsini, in Italy; Luis Martin and Zélie Marie Guérin, in France, parents of Saint Theresa of Lisieux, patroness of missions and flower of Carmel. I am convinced that this happening may be very beneficial for all of society and for each person. (Benedict XVI. Letter for the VI Meeting of Families, December 21, 2008)
The Hungarian people are called to follow the example of the first saintly Hungarian family in forming holy families
This history begins with a holy king, rather, with a ‘holy family’: Stephen, with his wife, Blessed Gisela, and their son, Saint Emeric, are the first saintly Hungarian family. This seed would sprout and bring forth a host of noble figures who would distinguish Pannonia Sacra: one need only think of Saint Ladislaus, Saint Elizabeth and Saint Margaret! (John Paul II. Message to the Hungarian nation for the millennium of Saint Stephen’s coronation, August 21, 2000)
The vocation to marriage results in a specific journey of holiness
I learned with joy that the Pontifical Institute of which you are President and the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart have opportunely organized an International Congress on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, an important Document that treats one of the essential aspects of the vocation to marriage and the specific journey of holiness that results from it. Indeed, having received the gift of love, husband and wife are called in turn to give themselves to each other without reserve. Only in this way are the acts proper and exclusive to spouses truly acts of love which, while they unite them in one flesh, build a genuine personal communion. Therefore, the logic of the totality of the gift intrinsically configures conjugal love and, thanks to the sacramental outpouring of the Holy Spirit, becomes the means to achieve authentic conjugal charity in their own life. (Benedict XVI. Message on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Humane vitae, October 2, 2008)
Strengthened by grace couples can strive for holiness of life
The constant fulfillment of the duties of this Christian vocation demands notable virtue. For this reason, strengthened by grace for holiness of life, the couple will painstakingly cultivate and pray for steadiness of love, large heartedness and the spirit of sacrifice. (Vatican Council II. Pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes, no. 49, December 7, 1965)
V – The goal of family life cannot be fulfilled with mediocre aspirations
Did Our Lord give too demanding a goal?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:48)
Alonso Rodriguez, SJ
To attain even mediocrity in virtue, it is necessary to fix the eyes on lofty ideals of great perfection
Our advancement in perfection will be greatly helped on by our fixing our eyes on lofty ideals that require great perfection to realize. So Saint Paul advises, writing to the Corinthians: Be ye emulous of the better gifts (1Cor 12:31). Get yourselves ready for great things: meet and undertake things great and excellent. This is a determination of much importance: for our designs and desires must needs reach our very far, if our performance are at least to come up to what is our strict duty. Where a bow or catapult is slack, the to hit the mar kit is necessary to aim from three to six inches higher: otherwise, the string being loose, the missile will not go where you want, but by aiming higher it comes to hit the mark. We are like a slack blow or catapult. We are so poorly strung that, to hit the mark, it is necessary to aim very high. Man was left by sin so miserable that, to come to attain mediocrity in virtue, it is necessary for his purposes and desires to travel far beyond. (Alonso Rodriguez, SJ. Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues. Part 1, ch. 8)
It is a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity with shallow religiosity
In fact, to place pastoral planning under the heading of holiness is a choice filled with consequences. It implies the conviction that, since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity. To ask catechumens: ‘Do you wish to receive Baptism?’ means at the same time to ask them: ‘Do you wish to become holy?’ It means to set before them the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48). […] The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: the whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction. (John Paul II. Apostolic exhortation Novo millennio inuente, no. 31, January 6, 2001)
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