“The values and virtues of the family – its essential truths – are the family unit’s strengths and are not open to challenge. Rather, it is our own way of life that we must re-examine. It runs a continual risk of being ‘infected’ by worldly attitudes – individualist, consumption-driven, sensual – but our people’s task is to keep to the high road, where they live out, and are examples of, the beauty of Holy Matrimony and of the joy of being and forming a family”.
These words appear in a translation of a letter Pope Francis wrote on December 9th to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family and since made public. How fitting it is to ponder them now as the world draws its attention to the Holy Family in Nazareth.
But, consider that compelling phrase: beauty of Holy Matrimony. Any one of these three words, ‘beauty’, ‘holy’, and ‘matrimony’ is in its own right oddly outlandish to many of us, we who have ears but do not hear and eyes but do not see. Sure, we bandy about the adjective ‘beautiful’, but do we ever speak of Beauty? The only employment we have for the word ‘holy’ is usually when we utter an expletive. And as for ‘matrimony’ the word is too quaint for those of us who regard marital commitment itself as a social option.
So, what will be our nation’s response to the Pope’s use of all three words in one phrase?! I predict the phrase’s very strangeness will jolt us into a deep reflection on its significance, a reflection which will resurrect in our national memory a distant recollection of less secular times when we as a nation respected if not revered its meaning. As we begin to hear more and more about the Pope’s “Gospel of Holy Matrimony and the Family” our understanding will be revived. We will ‘re-examine our way of life’ and we as a society will start putting into practice the message of this Gospel.
When this happens we will be amazed at how rapidly the ‘news of this Gospel’ will spread. Matrimony is holy . Anything holy reflects beauty. And beauty is irresistible.
Beauty cannot be contained. Just as the grace of the Eucharist enshrined in a tabernacle infuses an entire cathedral, the power of Beauty radiates beyond barriers. Beauty does not withdraw. She is not defensive. She is an indefatigable force that shines, reaches out, invites and engages. A family committed to the ‘virtues and values’ of which the Pope speaks is something beautiful, and its beauty inspires and engages all who witness it.
I am pleased to report that there is now a fund at the National Catholic Community Foundation established to promote the Gospel of the Family and its name is ‘The Nazareth Initiatives Fund’. Please pray that the fund will grow and fulfill its purpose.
On behalf of all of us at NCCF I wish you a joyous Christmas and a new year flowing with abundant grace.