Pope: ‘The Masterpiece of Society Is the Family’

“The most persuasive witness of the blessing of Christian marriage is the good life of Christian spouses and the family,” Francis said on April 29.

(photo: Shutterstock)

VATICAN CITY — With the number of children raised in brokenness on the rise, many young people view marriage as a path to failure, so Pope Francis says it’s time for Christians to restore faith in the family.

“The most persuasive witness of the blessing of Christian marriage is the good life of Christian spouses and the family,” the Pope said to some 60,000 people in St. Peter's Square on April 29. “There is no better way of expressing the beauty of the sacrament.”

Since the end of last fall, Pope Francis has been centering his catechesis for the weekly general audience on the family ahead of the World Meeting of Families in September as well as October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family.

In his address, the Pope observed how fewer people today are getting married. In many countries, separations are on the rise, while the number of children born is declining, he noted, saying that it’s the children who suffer the consequences.

“The first victims, the most important victims, the victims who suffer the most, in a separation, are children,” he said.

Francis turned to the question of why young people are often no longer eager to get married, suggesting that they have come to view marriage as something temporary.

He asked if young people prefer to live together with “limited responsibility” or whether they have lost faith in marriage and the family, saying that if this is the case, then “why don't they have faith in the family?”

Nearly all men and women desire a stable marriage and a happy family, Pope Francis said, but fear of failure prevents them from “trusting in Christ's promise of grace in marriage and in the family.”

He noted how many marriages are marked by poverty, degradation and domestic violence and said that the seed of “radical equality” between spouses must bear new fruits in society.

“As Christians we must become more demanding in this respect. For example: decisively backing the right to equal pay for equal work; the disparity is a pure scandal!” the Pope said.

Francis pointed to the biblical passage in Genesis when Adam blames Eve for giving him the apple, saying that it’s an example of “maschilismo,” chauvinism, which always seeks to dominate women.

“(What) a bad impression Adam made, when God said: ‘Why have you eaten the fruit’ [and Adam said]: ‘She gave it to me: It is the woman's fault!’” he said, adding, “Poor woman! We must defend women, no?”

The Pope also stressed the importance of recognizing the “the motherhood of women and the fatherhood of men” as a wealth of richness, especially for children.

He then turned to the Gospel account of the wedding feast at Cana, reflecting on how Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine, at the request of Mary.

This scene is reminiscent of the Book of Genesis, Francis said, in which God creates his “masterpiece”: man and woman.

For Jesus to begin his public performance of miracles in the context of a wedding feast is significant, the Pope noted, saying that, by doing so, “Jesus teaches us that the masterpiece of society is the family; the man and woman who love each other.”

Consecrated by God, marriage “protects the bond between man and woman,” he said, and is “the source of peace and goodness for all of marriage and family life.”

Horace Vernet, “The Angel of Death,” 1851

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“Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately — or immediate and everlasting damnation.” (CCC 1022)

Francisco de Zurbarán, “The Family of the Virgin,” ca. 1650

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“After her Son’s Ascension, Mary ‘aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers.’ In her association with the apostles and several women, ‘we also see Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation.’” (CCC 965)