Thursday, February 29 2024

Does the family still have a role in the Church? Last spring, a particular study day with an interdisciplinary approach, took place at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

A closer look at the event

Now in its fifth year, the study day, again, had an interdisciplinary approach. The focus was on the role of the family in the Church’s mission “not so much as the recipient of pastoral action but as the subject of the mission itself,” as Professor Michelangelo Ortiz explained, introducing the proceedings.

“We cannot deny that it is primarily lay people who live out their faith in their daily life, which is their apostolate,” emphasized Professor Gabriella Gambino, Undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, in her speech on the apostolic dimension of the domestic church, highlighting the “ecclesial co-responsibility of the lay faithful together with that of the Church.”

The crisis that the family is experiencing is essentially a crisis of relationships, which are becoming increasingly fragile and are struggling to survive the individualism that seems to characterize the society in which we live. During her talk, Professor Stefania Garassini, Professor of Content Management and Digital Journalism at the Catholic University of Milan, noted the pros and cons of the family storylines in some of the most internationally successful TV series. “When evaluating the portrayal of families in TV series, we should keep certain characteristics of series narration in mind,” Garassini explained, “like the ability to portray the characters’ psychology, carrying out a deep ‘psychological excavation’ into their motivations and the tendency to represent situations and protagonists in which the negative aspects and the dark side prevail. […] This segues into the portrayal of couples and families that favors individualism over a close bond between two people. The depiction of a ‘normal’ modern family is a rarity.”

The full day of reflections resumed in the afternoon with a talk by Professor Hector Franceschi, Professor of Canon Matrimonial Law at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross on ‘Rights and Duties of the Family in the Evangelizing Mission: In the Church and in Civil Society.’ Franceschi holds that certain rights and duties are fundamental in the family’s evangelization mission, stating:

“The duty to pray together and to participate in the liturgical life of the Church, nourishing themselves with the Word of God and the sacraments. The right and duty to educate their children according to Christian principles, helping them to grow in faith and knowledge of God. As Christian parents, spouses also have a duty to civil society, because they are the first to shape the next generation. If the family is struggling, the consequence – as we can see in Western society – is rebellious kids who become adults who don’t care about the common good, about the laws for a just and peaceful coexistence, about respecting our neighbor.”

Full of insights into the daily life a family’s experience of growth in the church, the study day was a new step along the road that Pope Francis has paved from the start of his pontificate. Just a few months ago, in June 2022, he addressed families on the World Day dedicated to them, recalling: “Each family ‘has a mission to carry out in our world, a testimony to give,’ and he continued, ‘let yourselves be changed by him, so that you too can change the world and make it ‘home’ for all those who need to feel welcomed and accepted, for those who need to encounter Christ and to know that they are loved.”

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