By FEDERICO A. ESPIRITU
The following is the continuation of Couples for Christ Brother Arnel Santos guest column ran in Dual Voice last week:
I was hearing all these messages in my mind, once again, while attending “Marriage is Beautiful!” For I looked at the participants and I saw in their faces an assertion that what Cardinal Maung Bo has been speaking about at the IEC, can actually be done. “Marriage is Beautiful!” is a testament that there are many victorious and triumphant marriages. There are many families which are intact. There are many families who have gone through storms, but have overcome them through mercy and love.
At the same time, however, I could not help but be reminded of those who could not be present at any “Marriage is Beautiful!” activity. For undoubtedly, there are in all parts of the world many wounded families too.
Some three years ago, Pope Francis convoked the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Families from all over the world were asked to reflect on the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. The result of the consultations was presented in a document known as the Instrumentum Laboris. And this document spoke of realities in the families with “Difficult Pastoral Situations.”
These are the families marked by cohabitation, de facto unions, persons separated, divorced, and those who divorced and remarried; the realities of children of broken families and those who are alone; the teen mothers, situations of canonical irregularity, illegitimate children and the request for marriage by non-practicing Catholics and unbelievers. These pastoral situations also include unions of persons of the same Sex, and the transmission of the faith to children in same sex unions.
Not to be forgotten are the families breaking down due to extreme poverty, violence and abuse; those with family members victimized by trafficking, exploitation, sexual tourism, prostitution, incest and pedophilia; and those being forced to abandon family by migration—the migrants and the refugees.
We also have in our midst the situations of the elderly and that of widowhood; loss in the family; persons with special needs or the entrance of person with disability in the family.
Marriage is beautiful indeed. But the truth is – all marriages are in need of mercy. There are those who, by grace, are strong and intact, even victorious. And there are those who are broken, wounded and weak. As explained in the result of the XIV ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY contained in the Final Report of the Synod of Bishops to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, entitled THE VOCATION AND MISSION OF THE FAMILY IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD (24 October 2015): “The Church starts from the real-life situations of today’s families, all in need of mercy, beginning with those who suffer most. With the Merciful Heart of Jesus, the Church must draw near and guide the weakest of her members, who are experiencing a wounded or lost love, by restoring confidence and hope, as the beacon light of a port or a torch carried in the crowd, to illuminate those who have lost their way or find themselves in the midst of a storm…”
We pray for our marriages. We surrender them to God for His blessing, guidance, protection and provision. As we pray too for all marriages, and support them, especially at their weakest. The Synod Fathers refer to this as the “art of pastoral accompaniment.” They exhort the Church that “what is urgently needed today is a ministry to care for those whose marital relationship has broken down….Failure in a marriage is a painful experience for everyone. On the other hand, this marriage failure can become an opportunity for reflection, conversion and trust in God.”Hence, “When a husband and wife are having trouble in their relationship, they must be able to count on the help and guidance of the Church. Experience shows that with proper help and reconciliation through the grace of the Holy Spirit, a large percentage of marriage crises are satisfactorily overcome.”
Marriage is Beautiful! Thanks be to God. We also thank God for community. For as Bishop Ambo David explained during Mass at “Marriage is Beautiful!”– “It takes a community to raise a family.” This is reminiscent of the words of the Synod Fathers that “The Church must instill in families a sense of belonging to the Church, a sense of ‘we’ in which no member is forgotten.” Truly, “every family, incorporated in the Church, [must] rediscover the joy of communion with other families so as to serve the common good of society.” And, “families need to be prepared, trained and empowered to guide others in living in a Christian manner.”
No doubt that it was also what I witnessed at “Marriage is Beautiful!” A community trying to heed the reminder of Pope Francis that “the mission of the family always extends outside itself in service to our brothers and sisters. Each family is asked to participate in the Church’s mission in a unique and privileged manner… We want our attitude to be one of humility and understanding. Our desire is to accompany each and every family so that each family might discover the best way to overcome the obstacles it encounters.”
In other words, at “Marriage is Beautiful!” We have all been assured that we have with us— families helping families, a community raising families, Couples for Christ raising couples for Christ.
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