Program #0264 for Friday, March 23, 2012: Pope Benedict on Marriage and Family to the US

March 25, 2012

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Summary of today’s show: As Pope Benedict addresses each group of US bishops making their way to Rome this year in their ad limina visits, he is really sending a message to all Americans with his pastoral eye on what we need most. Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell take up one of the most recent addresses in which the Holy Father discusses the importance of marriage and family to society, the causes for its weakening today, and the prescription for its renewal among the generation of the young today.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell

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Today’s topics: Pope Benedict on Marriage and Family to the US

1st segment: Scot welcomed Fr. Mark back to the show. He said this has been a weather week for the ages. Fr. Mark said he has spring fever.

Scot said he was outside at midday today at the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally at the State House in Boston today. It was put together in less than 48 hours and about 400 people showed. There were many good speakers. Scot spoke and reflected on Pope John Paul II’s first visit to Boston and how he spoke about religious freedom and the need for us in the West to defend that religious freedom and now we’re fighting for our own religious freedom here. Pope John Paul II could be our patron saint for religious freedom.

Fr. Mark has been planning a meeting of the Catholic Lawyers Guild tomorrow. They’re having a Day of Recollection, an annual event during Lent. It will have the theme of the Book of Genesis. All Catholic lawyers and judges are welcome to come to the Pastoral Center, 66 Brooks Drive, Braintree, tomorrow morning.

2nd segment: SCot and Fr. Mark said they will be discussing an address by Pope Benedict to the US bishops who were visiting Rome as part of their ad limina visits.

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. As you know, this year I wish to reflect with you on certain aspects of the evangelization of American culture in the light of the intellectual and ethical challenges of the present moment.

In our previous meetings I acknowledged our concern about threats to freedom of conscience, religion and worship which need to be addressed urgently, so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions. In this talk I would like to discuss another serious issue which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit to America, namely, the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality. It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, andthe widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.

Scot said of all the issues the Pope could talk about, he chooses this topic because the breakdown of the marriage covenant affects all of society. The rejection of the sexual ethic has led to immense societal problems. The fact that so many kids are being raised without both mom and dad has huge consequences for society.

Fr. Mark said these ad limina addresses are not just for the bishops in the meeting but for all Americans and these are his first ad limina addresses to the US. SO this is what he’s holding up as the fundamental issue and the fundamental building block.

Yet, as Blessed John Paul II observed, the future of humanity passes by way of the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). Indeed, “the good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded on marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 29).

He’s calling us to be fully invested in this defense of marriage and family. Fr. Mark said the answer to the question of how to build the kingdom of God on earth is found in Familiaris Consortio and Sacramentum Caritatis and it is family. The family is the salvation of society. Scot said it’s not just doing things for kids, but the formation of the kids. It’s the parents’ responsibility, not schools or other societal issues. Sometimes parents have to heroically raise their kids as single parents, but the holy Father is saying we have to provide support for families stay together, not pull it apart. Society must help strengthen the family. Fr. Mark said the family is the natural institution created by God.

In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.

The Holy Father calls for a reasoned defense, not just a faith-based defense, of marriage. Fr. Mark noted that he’s not talking about the Catholic definition of marriage, but marriage itself. Marriage predates Christ’s raising it to the dignity of a sacrament. the Holy Father lists four basic things about the natural institution of marriage. The first is unity, meaning that marriage is exclusive between one man and one woman. The second is indissolubility, until death do we part. The third is procreation and education of children. Procreation is essential to marriage and education is formation. The fourth is the good of the spouses. The good of the spouse is not love per se, but for the other person’s good and vice versa. It’s selfless and other-directed, not selfish and me-directed.

Fr. Mark said love is not an essential element of marriage. Arranged marriages are still marriages. Hopefully, they grow to include love.

In our conversations, some of you have pointed with concern to the growing difficulties encountered in communicating the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family in its integrity, and to a decrease in the number of young people who approach the sacrament of matrimony. Certainly we must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity. This teaching, stated with increasing clarity by the post-conciliar magisterium and comprehensively presented in both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, needs to be restored to its proper place in preaching and catechetical instruction.

In response to the bishops saying that it’s difficult to communicate the Church’s teaching now and we aren’t getting the job done in making young people understand marriage. One of the reasons it’s not being received by young people is they aren’t coming to church for the sacrament. Fr. Mark confirms here are far fewer marriages in the archdiocese over the past 10 years. While that’s bad, it also means that people who are coming to the Church really do mean it.

Fr. Mark said we have to teach about the sacrament of marriage in many ways. Children should be hearing them from families, religious education, homilies, and the like. Pre-cana programs are more proximate preparation. In these programs the priest takes the couple from where they are and launches them on a higher road. The actual marriage ceremony itself must be an act imbued with God. After the marriage we also need to provide better assistance after the wedding ceremony, sometimes called enrichment programs. Scot said one of the reasons we don’t see this very often is there is often a dearth of well-formed couples who’ve been married for a long to help newly marred couples through the struggles and challenges they will face.

Fr. Mark said people shouldn’t wait to be asked to help in their parish. Pastors need people to come forward and volunteer to assist. God will use your strengths and weakness in his service. Your weaknesses will often make what you do more accessible. Never feel your not good enough or holy enough.

On the practical level, marriage preparation programs must be carefully reviewed to ensure that there is greater concentration on their catechetical component and their presentation of the social and ecclesial responsibilities entailed by Christian marriage. In this context we cannot overlook the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation, often by couples who seem unaware that it is gravely sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society. I encourage your efforts to develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples.

One, he wants to make sure marriage prep programs are up with the times. Scot said the Archdiocese of Boston has renewed its program called Transformed in Love. Fr. Mark was on the steering committee for this program. He said this program fulfills what the Pope is calling for. The bad news is that the program is not being used widely enough. It does have the emphasis on why Catholic marriage? But there are still a lot of poor programs in our archdiocese and other dioceses.

If listeners know of a need for renewal of a particular program, Fr. Mark urges them to contact Kari Colella at the Archdiocese of Boston:

Scot said one of the reasons people cohabit is they haven’t heard enough from Catholics around them that it is wrong. We’re not living our faith if we don’t help these couples. Sometimes they wouldn’t cohabit if someone offered assistance, perhaps helping them with money issues that they think they living together for.

Fr. Mark said the biggest difference between marriage and cohabitation is that the latter has a big exit sign. It is not a covenant, not until death. Marriage is a full commitment to the other person until death do you part.

Scot said there are studies that show that couples who cohabit before marriage are less likely to stay married successfully. Fr. Mark said people think that if they live together they have a better chance, but that’s not proven by the facts.

Here too I would express my appreciation of the pastoral programs which you are promoting in your Dioceses and, in particular, the clear and authoritative presentation of the Church’s teaching found in your 2009 Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. I also appreciate all that your parishes, schools and charitable agencies do daily to support families and to reach out to those in difficult marital situations, especially the divorced and separated, single parents, teenage mothers and women considering abortion, as well as children suffering the tragic effects of family breakdown.

In this great pastoral effort there is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity. The integrating and liberating function of this virtue (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2338-2343) should be emphasized by a formation of the heart, which presents the Christian understanding of sexuality as a source of genuine freedom, happiness and the fulfilment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love. It is not merely a question of presenting arguments, but of appealing to an integrated, consistent and uplifting vision of human sexuality. The richness of this vision is more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters; these in fact constitute a powerful and destructive form of counter-catechesis for the young.

the Holy Father’s central point is the need to recover a sense of charity. Scot said it means using the gift of sexuality in the way that God intended for your state of life: single, married, or ordained. Chastity in marriage is to be faithful to those four elements of marriage that Fr. Mark outlined earlier. Scot said it’s often mistaken for continence, which is refraining from sexual activity.

Young people need to encounter the Church’s teaching in its integrity, challenging and countercultural as that teaching may be; more importantly, they need to see it embodied by faithful married couples who bear convincing witness to its truth. They also need to be supported as they struggle to make wise choices at a difficult and confusing time in their lives. Chastity, as the Catechism reminds us, involves an ongoing “apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom” (2339). In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that “if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful and great” (Homily, Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate, 24 April 2005).

Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment. It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educating the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole.

I now commend you and your brother Bishops, with the flock entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. To all of you I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.

The Holy Father speaks of marriage as fundamental in the way we form and prepare our young to lead our society. Fr. Mark said our voices are drowned out by the counter-arguments in every venue. The Pope is calling us to not be afraid of the truth. We need to be saying this or the truth will be silenced. Scot said the key message is to trust the Church’s teaching. Rejecting all authority makes you miserable. Jesus knew we need to be connected to God and let’s give thanks to the teaching magisterium which guides us in wisdom.

Fr. Mark urged married couples to remember the grace of the sacrament which can be called upon in hard times. Marriage is two people gazing together at God who helps and leads. Marriage is not easy. This teaching is not easy, but the rewards are well worth it.

3rd segment: Now as we do every week at this time, we will consider the Mass readings for this Sunday, specifically the Gospel reading.

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
the day I took them by the hand
to lead them forth from the land of Egypt;
for they broke my covenant,
and I had to show myself their master, says the LORD.
But this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD.
I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts;
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to teach their friends and relatives
how to know the LORD.
All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD,
for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

  • Second Reading for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 25, 2012 (Hebrews 5:7-9)

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

  • Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 25, 2012 (John 12:20-33)

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast
came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee,
and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”
Philip went and told Andrew;
then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
Jesus answered them,
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.

“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
‘Father, save me from this hour?’
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name.”
Then a voice came from heaven,
“I have glorified it and will glorify it again.”
The crowd there heard it and said it was thunder;
but others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
Jesus answered and said,
“This voice did not come for my sake but for yours.
Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself.”
He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Scot said Jesus is trying to prepare his disciples for His death and resurrection. He’s trying to tell them that His death will produce the fruit that we hear at the end of today’s reading from Hebrews: He would become the source of eternal salvation.

Fr. Mark said it will come through sacrifice. The first reading has more curses than blessings, but it is a blessing. Jesus prepares everyone for spiritual battle. The battle for religious liberty is a battle. The fight to defend marriage is a battle in service of God.

Scot said little did the disciples know that Jesus was going to be glorified by becoming sin. He would take on all the sins ever committed and all those still to be committed. One of Scot’s favorite verses is “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” It’s very personal. That’s the love that God has for us.

Fr. Mark said the covenant is key. Jeremiah speaks of the Mosaic covenant and Christ sealed the covenant for us so that we are forever redeemed.

Scot said Jesus uses dramatic language: speaking of “hating” life. Our lives are a blessing from God. What Jesus is saying is that we need to love the promises that Jesus made for us in the next life over what we have now. Fr. Mark said lifers walking with God. That’s what real life is.

Scout encouraged listeners to renew our Lenten promises and renew our efforts in our fasting.

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