Gaudium et Spes 52

Gaudium et Spes concludes its look at marriage and family with this section, beginning with a portrait of domestic tranquility:

The family is a kind of school of deeper humanity. But if it is to achieve the full flowering of its life and mission, it needs the kindly communion of minds and the joint deliberation of spouses, as well as the painstaking cooperation of parents in the education of their children. The active presence of the father is highly beneficial to their formation. The children, especially the younger among them, need the care of their mother at home. This domestic role of hers must be safely preserved, though the legitimate social progress of women should not be underrated on that account.

In other words, both parents parent and parent actively.

Children should be so educated that as adults they can follow their vocation, including a religious one, with a mature sense of responsibility and can choose their state of life; if they marry, they can thereby establish their family in favorable moral, social and economic conditions. Parents or guardians should by prudent advice provide guidance to their young with respect to founding a family, and the young ought to listen gladly. At the same time no pressure, direct or indirect, should be put on the young to make them enter marriage or choose a specific partner.

Extended families are lauded:

Thus the family, in which the various generations come together and help one another grow wiser and harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life, is the foundation of society.

Working for the welfare of the family is not just imagined defense against perceived adversaries. Work implies real effort to institute support for single-parent families–a “modern” development ignored in GS. Even “public authority” has a role to play (libertarians, take note).

All those, therefore, who exercise influence over communities and social groups should work efficiently for the welfare of marriage and the family. Public authority should regard it as a sacred duty to recognize, protect and promote their authentic nature, to shield public morality and to favor the prosperity of home life. The right of parents to beget and educate their children in the bosom of the family must be safeguarded.

A vastly inadequate notion:

Children too who unhappily lack the blessing of a family should be protected by prudent legislation and various undertakings and assisted by the help they need.

Two interesting notions ahead, namely the witness of the Christian family by the simple life example of its members. “Cooperation” with others, often referred to as “dialogue” is also praised here.

Christians, redeeming the present time(Cf. Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5) and distinguishing eternal realities from their changing expressions, should actively promote the values of marriage and the family, both by the examples of their own lives and by cooperation with other men of good will. Thus when difficulties arise, Christians will provide, on behalf of family life, those necessities and helps which are suitably modern. To this end, the Christian instincts of the faithful, the upright moral consciences of (human beings), and the wisdom and experience of persons versed in the sacred sciences will have much to contribute.

The sciences are still in the good graces of the writers of GS:

Those too who are skilled in other sciences, notably the medical, biological, social and psychological, can considerably advance the welfare of marriage and the family along with peace of conscience if by pooling their efforts they labor to explain more thoroughly the various conditions favoring a proper regulation of births.

The clergy have a role to play, but only those trained in “family matters”:

It devolves on priests duly trained about family matters to nurture the vocation of spouses by a variety of pastoral means, by preaching God’s word, by liturgical worship, and by other spiritual aids to conjugal and family life; to sustain them sympathetically and patiently in difficulties, and to make them courageous through love, so that families which are truly illustrious can be formed.

Lay organizations, too, have a vital role to play. Note the “particular” ahead: those recently wed. Training for the family apostolate belongs properly to lay people.

Various organizations, especially family associations, should try by their programs of instruction and action to strengthen young people and spouses themselves, particularly those recently wed, and to train them for family, social and apostolic life.

Wrapping it up, GS returns to the sacramental heart of the family:

Finally, let the spouses themselves, made to the image of the living God and enjoying the authentic dignity of persons, be joined to one another(Cf. Sacramentarium Gregorianum: PL 78, 262) in equal affection, harmony of mind and the work of mutual sanctification. Thus, following Christ who is the principle of life,(Cf. Rom. 5:15 and 18; 6:5-11; Gal. 2:20) by the sacrifices and joys of their vocation and through their faithful love, married people can become witnesses of the mystery of love which the Lord revealed to the world by His dying and His rising up to life again.(Cf. Eph. 5:25-27)

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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