Forming New Generations

Pope FrancisThe Holy Father had some footnotes for his synod-concluding speech. The last one was an acrostic reflection on “FAMIGLIA,” or Italian for family, as you know. One a day for the coming eight days, leading off with F for “Forming new generations.”

The Holy Father combines the modern aspiration for “true love” with traditional language eschewing individualism and affirming defense of life and the permanence of marriage.

Forming new generations to experience love seriously, not as an individualistic search for a pleasure then to be discarded, and to believe once again in true, fruitful and lasting love as the sole way of emerging from ourselves and being open to others, leaving loneliness behind, living according to God’s will, finding fulfilment, realizing that marriage is “an experience which reveals God’s love, defending the sacredness of life, every life, defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously” (Homily for the Opening Mass of the Synod, 4 October 2015: L’Osservatore Romano, 5-6 October 2015, p. 7) and, furthermore, enhancing marriage preparation as a means of providing a deeper understanding of the Christian meaning of the sacrament of Matrimony;

I’d like to tease out Pope Francis’s list of benefits from “true, fruitful, and lasting love.”

  • emerging from ourselves and being open to others,
  • leaving loneliness behind,
  • living according to God’s will,
  • finding fulfillment

This strikes me as Ignatian thinking, especially that first one, being a person for others, as the Jesuits say. Notice the general term “others,” which I think many people would interpret widely here, meaning one’s spouse, one’s children, as well as the widening interpersonal generosity inspired by the imitation of Christ in the context of the sacrament. Also, I’d say, a general approach to generativity–not confined to biological production.

Are such impulses or explorations part of marriage preparation? Certainly, yes. But I would say it should be part of the initial discernment before a couple gets engaged. Engagement is really the beginning in the eyes of many. The cultural expectation attached to this (and not just because of cohabitation) puts many couples on a vector not only to the wedding day, but beyond it. How to engage, so to speak, couples before the engagement? I suspect that might be a key to a better approach. That, and formation about the sacrament from high school years and college. Unfortunately, many believers have already drifted from the Church even before middle school years. The audience is small for anything we would want or need to offer.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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