Pope Benedict XVI told the 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan that the family based upon marriage can revolutionize modern society for the better.
“Your vocation is not easy to live, especially today, but the vocation to love is a wonderful thing, it is the only force that can truly transform the world,” he said during his homily to almost 1 million pilgrims gathered in Milan’s Bresso Park on June 3. Pope Benedict was concluding a three-day visit to the event in northern Italy. Over the past week it has brought together families from more than 150 countries to pray, celebrate and study marriage and family life. The theme for this year was “The Family: Work and Celebration.”
The Pope used his homily to provide some advice on the “elements that build up family life.” He recommended: “maintaining a constant relationship with God and participating in the life of the Church,” “cultivating dialogue, respecting the other’s point of view, being ready for service and patient with the failings of others,” agreeing on “principles of upbringing,” “being open to other families, attentive towards the poor, and responsible within civil society.”
The Pope also stressed the importance of family life built upon a man and woman who are married to each other. This is because God “created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community of love and life.”
He told the married couples present in the large outdoor congregation that they were “not giving each other any particular thing or activity” in marriage, “but your whole lives.” This love becomes most fruitful in its desire to “accomplish one another’s good” as well as in the “generous and responsible procreation of children,” followed by their “vigilant and wise education.”
The Pope also explained that the benefits of married families go beyond the spouses and children to include society at large, since “family life is the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues, such as respect for persons, gratuitousness, trust, responsibility, solidarity, cooperation.” He then urged parents to transmit to their children “with serenity and trust, reasons for living, the strength of faith, pointing them towards high goals and supporting them in their fragility.”
Pope Benedict next turned his attention to the children present and encouraged them to “always maintain a relationship of deep affection and attentive care for your parents, and see that your relationships with your brothers and sisters are opportunities to grow in love.”
Towards the conclusion of his homily, the Pope addressed the damaging impact that modern economic theories based upon “a utilitarian concept of work, production and the market” can have upon the family. Both God’s plan and experience, he said, show that this “one-sided logic of sheer utility and maximum profit” is not conducive to the good of the person, family or society.
“Indeed, the utilitarian mentality tends to take its toll on personal and family relationships, reducing them to a fragile convergence of individual interests and undermining the solidity of the social fabric.”
One of the ways in which Christian families can combat this trend is by making sure they keep Sunday as a special day for the family each week. It should be a day “of man and his values,” set aside for “conviviality, friendship, solidarity, culture, closeness to nature, play, sport,” said the Pope.
“Dear families, despite the relentless rhythms of the modern world, do not lose a sense of the Lord’s Day! It is like an oasis in which to pause, so as to taste the joy of encounter and to quench our thirst for God.”
At the conclusion of the Mass, Pope Benedict announced that the next World Meeting of Families will take place in 2015 in Philadelphia. “I send my warm greetings to Archbishop Charles Chaput and to the Catholics of that great city, and look forward to meeting them there, along with numerous families from all around the world. May God bless you all!”