Because Francis says very little, if anything, to report from the Synod, I thought it might be helpful to hear what he does have to say in other venues. Below is my translation of his “Catechesis” at the General Audience on Wednesday, October 7. I was at that audience, had white roses to give him, was in a good spot to get them to him. He came right up to the corner where I was standing. When a good chance came to give them to him, I got upstaged by a baby across the way from me!! He will always kiss a baby handed to him!
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
The Synod of Bishops started a few days ago on the theme of “The Vocations and Mission of the Family In the Church and in the Contemporary World”. The family that journeys in the way of the Lord is fundamental in the witness of the love of God and therefore merits all the dedication of which the Church is able. The Synod is called to interpret, for today, the solicitude and the care of the Church. We accompany all the synodal journey foremost with our prayer and our attention. And in this period of catechesis, reflections will be inspired by some aspects of this relationship—that we can call indissoluble!!—between the Church and the family, with the horizon open to the well-being of the entire human community.
An attentive look at the daily life of the men and women of today immediately shows the need that there is need everywhere for a robust injection of family spirit. In fact, the style of relationships—civil, economic, juridical, professional, of citizenship—appears very rational, formal, organized, but also “dehydrated”, arid, anonymous. Becoming at times insupportable. While wanting to be inclusive in its forms, in reality they are abandoned to solitude and to the discard of increasing numbers of people.
Here’s how the family opens a prospective far more human for the entire society: it opens they eyes of the children on life—and not only the gaze, but also all the other senses—representing a vision of human relationship built on the free alliance of love. The family introduces the need for bonds of faithfulness, sincerity, trust, cooperation, respect; it encourages designing a habitable world and believing in relationships of trust, even in difficult conditions; it teaches honoring the word given, the respect of individuals, the sharing of personal limitations and others. And, we all are aware of the irreplaceability of family attention for the smallest members, the more vulnerable, the more wounded, and even more devastated in the conduct of their life. In society, those who practice these attributes have assimilated them from the family spirit, certainly not form competition and the desire for self-fulfillment.
Well, knowing all this it does not give the family due weight and recognition and support—in the political and economic organizations of contemporary society. I would like to say more: the family not only does not have adequate recognition, but does not generate more learning about it. At times you could come to say, with all its science, its technology, modern society is not yet able to translate this knowledge into better forms of civil coexistence. Not only the organization of common life gets stuck more and more in a bureaucracy totally foreign to fundamental human bonds, but, even, social and political customs often show signs of degradation—aggression, vulgarity, contempt—…, that are well below the threshold of even minimal family education. In such, the opposite extremes of this brutalization of relationships—that is, the technocratic obtuseness and amoral familism—come together and feed each other. This is a paradise.
The Church today identifies, on this exact point, the historical sense of her mission in regard to family and the authentic family spirit: beginning from a careful revision of life, that regards itself. You could say that the “family spirit” is a map built by the Church: so Christianity must appear and so it must be. It is clearly written: “You who were once far away—says St Paul—…are no longer strangers or guests, but fellow citizens with the saints and family of God” (Eph 2:10). The Church is and must be the family of God.
Jesus, when he called Peter to follow him, said that he would become “fisher of men” and for this reason, we want a new type of net. We could say that today families are one of the most important nets for the mission of Peter and the Church. It is not a net that makes prisoners! To the contrary, it frees you from the evil waters of abandonments and indifferences that drown many human beings in the sea of loneliness and indifference. Families know well that what the dignity is of feeling themselves children and not slaves, or strangers, or only a number on an identity card.
From here, from the family, Jesus resumes his journey among human beings to persuade them that God has not forgotten them. From here, Peter takes vision for his ministry. From here, the Church, obeying the word of the Master, leaves to fish at the lake, certain that, if this happens, the fish will be miraculous. May the enthusiasm of the Synod Fathers, animated by the Holy Spirit, foster the upsurge of a Church that abandons the old nets and goes back to fishing confidently in the word of her Lord. We pray intensely for this. Christ, after all, promised and heartened us: if even bad fathers do not refuse bread to (their) hungry children, much less if God will not give the Spirit to those who—while imperfect as they are—ask for it with passionate intensity (cfr LK 1:9-13).