Family and Laity
As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live. - Pope John Paul II
The Catholic Church itself is like one very large family, one who gathers on Sundays in order to meet at the Lord’s Table. But this overall family structure would not be possible without the individual families that it is comprised of, and at the heart of these families is a married couple. Presently, the Church is focused on ensuring that the true purpose of the sacrament of marriage is maintained, which, according to Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, is “a commission from Christ to enrich the Church in a singularly important way” (The Sacrament of Matrimony, 1982).
In his apostolic exhortation entitled Familiaris Consortio, the Holy Father John Paul II addresses the need for the Church to rededicate itself to proclaiming the value of the sacrament of matrimony. He states, “At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the People of God” (no 3).
Pope John Paul II reiterates the importance of families in his 1994 Letter to Families. He states, “Among these many paths, the family is the first and the most important. It is a path common to all, yet one which is particular, unique and unrepeatable just as every individual is unrepeatable; it is a path from which man cannot withdraw….Furthermore, she [the Church] knows that a person goes forth from the family in order to realize in a new family unit his particular vocation in life. Even if someone chooses to remain single, the family continues to be, as it were, his existential horizon, that fundamental community in which the whole network of social relations is grounded, from the closest and most immediate to the most distant” (no. 2).
As Catholics, we must ensure that the purpose of family life is maintained, and that if we are called to the vocation of married life, we use our gifts to continue doing God’s work. The laity plays a significant role in the development of the Catholic Church. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “A common thread in the laity’s accounts of their spiritual lives is the primacy of their relationships. The bonds of family and friendship, of neighborhood and parish are vital to lay men and women. These relationships help them form ever deeper bonds of unity with Jesus Christ” (Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium).
Diocese of Manchester
The Catholic Church in New Hampshire
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