November 16, 2012

Editorial

Families and evangelization

“Ever since the first evangelization, the transmission of the faith from one generation to the next found a natural home in the family.”

That’s a quotation from the statement directed to “the People of God” from the bishops who attended the Synod of Bishops’ meeting on the “new evangelization.”

The importance of families in the new evangelization was stressed repeatedly during the synod’s meeting.

Carl A. Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, who was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to be an observer at the synod, told the bishops that the sacrament of matrimony makes Catholic spouses and their families public signs of God’s love and thus missionaries.

It should hardly be a surprise that the importance of Catholic families was recognized. It is within families that children are, or aren’t, introduced to the truths of the Catholic faith and are, or aren’t, taught to pray. The family is absolutely essential in the transmission of the faith.

That’s why the bishops wrote, “A new evangelization is unthinkable without acknowledging a specific responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to families and to sustain them in their task of education.”

It is also within families that we have witnessed members falling away from the practice of their Catholic faith. Few families have not been touched by this. So few families can assert that they don’t need help in bringing members back to the Church.

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict has said that the new evangelization is directed “principally at those who, though baptized, have drifted away from the Church and live without reference to the Christian life.” Those people come from Catholic families.

The bishops took note of the fact that the family is being assaulted by crises everywhere in our modern secular society.

“It is precisely this, however, that impels us to say that we must particularly take care of the family and its mission in society and in the Church, developing specific paths of accompaniment before and after matrimony,” they said.

Couples who are living together, and families that are established after the failure of previous marriages, got the bishops’ attention.

They told them “that the Church loves them, too, that the Church is a house that welcomes all, that they remain members of the Church even if they cannot receive sacramental absolution and the Eucharist. May our Catholic communities welcome all who live in such situations.”

Perhaps the parents of those who live in such situations can emphasize that point to their sons or daughters—that they are still members of the Church and should continue to practice their faith within those limitations. They should also rear their children in the Catholic faith.

Our young people are a particularly essential part of families so the synod’s bishops also had a word about them. They admitted being concerned about them, but not pessimistic.

“We are concerned because the most aggressive attacks of our times happen to converge precisely on them. We are not, however, pessimistic because we sense in our youth deep aspirations for authenticity, truth, freedom, generosity, to which we are convinced that the adequate response is Christ.”

Teenage and young adult years are a time for searching when each young man or woman discovers who he or she is and either takes possession of the Catholic faith or doesn’t. Our parishes must support them in their search by listening to them and dialoguing with them.

We need our Catholic youths and young adults to be evangelizers in their world, and that can be done by capturing their enthusiasm, and directing it toward various experiences of spirituality, service and mission to others as is already being done in many places.

Families come together in our parishes, of course, and the bishops said in their statement that the work of evangelization “is the work of ecclesial communities as such, where one has access to all the means for encountering Jesus—the word, the sacraments, fraternal communion, charitable service, mission.”

The bishops’ statement noted that Blessed John XXIII liked to call the parish “the village fountain” from which all can drink. Our parishes must be able and eager to help families in their important role in the new evangelization—leading us to Jesus.

—John F. Fink

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