Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience this Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square. In his remarks to the faithful gathered in the Square, Pope Francis returned to the theme of the family, and specifically to the promises a man and a woman make to each other when they form a family in marriage.
The Holy Father began his main catechesis with a reflection on the family as founded on a promise. “The family,” said Pope Francis, “lives of the promise of love and fidelity that a man and woman have made to each other,” a promise that unites families through and across generations, and extends to the whole human family. “[The marriage promise] involves a commitment [on the part of the couple] to welcome and educate their children; but it is fulfilled also in taking care of elderly parents, in protecting and caring for the weaker members of the family, in helping one another to achieve the full potential and accept the limits of each.”
Recalling, then, that the family is the natural social institution and the foundation of all human society, based on liberty and fidelity, Pope Francis He said that our ability to give our word and to keep it is one of the great and distinguishing capacities of human being. “Fidelity to promises is a masterpiece of humanity,” he said. “If we look at its daring beauty, we are afraid, but if we despise its courageous tenacity, we are lost.” This was an aspect of the nature and scope of the family in human life that was a focal point of the English-language summary read out following the main catechesis in Italian:
The promise of love and fidelity made between husbands and wives, which is the basis of all family life. This promise is called into question nowadays, and seen as somehow opposed to personal freedom. Yet the truth is that our freedom is shaped and sustained by our fidelity to the choices and commitments we make throughout life. Fidelity grows through our daily efforts to keep our word; indeed, fidelity to our promises is a supreme expression of our dignity as human beings.
The Holy Father also discussed the family as the “school” of virtue, par excellence, saying that there is truly no greater “school” to teach us such fidelity than marriage and the family, which are, in God’s plan, a blessing for our world – for, as Saint Paul tells us, the love on which the family is based, points to the bond of love between Christ and His Church.
The Holy Father concluded with an appeal for continued prayerful support of the work of the XIV Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is currently in the last of three weeks of sessions here in Rome, exploring the challenges and vocation of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.