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Powerful Words from Our Holy Father
By Fr. Joseph Roesch, MIC (Jan 3, 2007)
I had the opportunity to go to the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in Rome once again this past year. This was the second Christmas Midnight Mass in Rome for Pope Benedict XVI and for myself. He became Pope in April of 2005, and I arrived in Rome to serve a six-year term on the General Council of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception a few weeks later. The parallels between the Pope and myself end there!
That night our Holy Father spoke about the Christ Child and the importance of not overlooking children who suffer in various ways throughout our world. He had spoken about the importance of children a few days before in his Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia. He recounted his visit to Spain in July, a visit whose theme dealt with matrimony and family. He said, "It was beautiful to listen, before the people assembled from all continents, to the testimonies of couples — blessed by a numerous throng of children — who introduced themselves to us and spoke of their respective journeys in the Sacrament of Marriage and in their large families. They did not hide the fact that they have also had difficult days, that they have had to pass through periods of crisis. Yet, precisely through the effort of supporting one another day by day, precisely through accepting one another ever anew in the crucible of daily trials, living and suffering to the full their initial 'yes', precisely on this Gospel path of 'losing oneself', they had matured, rediscovered themselves and become happy."
Pope Benedict spoke of the profound joy experienced by the listeners of these testimonies. But he then contrasted that positive experience with the larger picture of what is going on in Europe right now.
"Before these families with their children, before these families in which the generations hold hands and the future is present, the problem of Europe, which it seems no longer wants to have children, penetrated my soul," he said. "To foreigners this Europe seems to be tired, indeed, it seems to be wishing to take its leave of history. Why are things like this? This is the great question. The answers are undoubtedly very complex."
He went on to thank couples whom, even in the face of many difficulties, have had children.
"In mentioning these difficulties, perhaps the reasons also become clearer why for many, the risk of having children appears too great," the Holy Father said. "A child needs loving attention. This means that we must give children some of our time, the time of our life. But precisely this 'raw material' of life — time — seems to be ever scarcer. The time we have available barely suffices for our own lives; how could we surrender it, give it to someone else?"
He continued: "To have time and to give time — this is for us a very concrete way to learn to give oneself, to lose oneself in order to find oneself. In addition to this problem, comes the difficult calculation: what rules should we apply to ensure that the child follows the right path, and in so doing, how should we respect his or her freedom? The problem has also become very difficult because we are no longer sure of the norms to transmit; because we no longer know what the correct use of freedom is, what is the correct way to live, what is morally correct and what instead is inadmissible."
He stated that we are not only unsure of what to pass on to the next generation, we are also uncertain about our future and, therefore, are fearful of bringing new life into this world.
"This deep lack of self assurance — plus the wish to have one's whole life for oneself — is perhaps the deepest reason why the risk of having children appears to many to be almost unsustainable. In fact, we can transmit life in a responsible way, only if we are able to pass on something more than mere biological life, and that is, a meaning that prevails, even in the crises of history to come, and a certainty in the hope, that is stronger than the clouds that obscure the future."
He said we need to discover in a new way, the "certainty of faith" to face an unknown future.
He also noted how so many couples today are reluctant to make definitive decisions like getting married, but rather, choose to live together and see how things turn out. "Can man bind himself for ever? Can he say a 'yes' for his whole life? Yes, he can. He was created for this. In this very way, human freedom is brought about, and thus the sacred context of marriage is also created and enlarged, becoming a family and building the future."
Pope Benedict also tackled the issue of same-sex couples. "The union of a man and a woman is being put on a par with the pairing of two people of the same sex, and tacitly confirms those fallacious theories that remove from the human person all the importance of masculinity and femininity, as though it were a question of the purely biological factor. Such theories hold that man — that is, his intellect and his desire — would decide autonomously what he is or what he is not. In this, corporeity is scorned, with the consequence that the human being, in seeking to be emancipated from his body — from the 'biological sphere' — ends by destroying himself."
He continued: "If we tell ourselves that the Church ought not to interfere in such matters, we cannot but answer: Are we not concerned with the human being? Do not believers, by virtue of the great culture of their faith, have the right to make a pronouncement on all this? Is it not their — our — duty to raise our voices to defend the human being, that creature who, precisely in the inseparable unity of body and spirit, is the image of God? The visit to Valencia (in Spain) became for me a quest for the meaning of the human being."
Powerful words! I hope in the future to have a chance to reflect on what our Holy Father said regarding his other trips. His words always seem to pack a punch!