Reading “Pope Benedict XVI on Marriage:  A Compendium,” (referred below as Compendium) a collection of some of the Pope’s speeches on marriage and peace I am afraid that this discussion will be restricted – again – on the issues of abortion, euthanasia and same-sex partnerships[1]. Although these areas indeed represent important moral issues, the meaning and importance of marriage in itself and as a “the primary agency of peace” is significantly deeper. Our investigations should bring us to a deeper reflection on marriage as the primordial or most basic human relation, as the model of all other relationships. We need to reflect on how marriage is a revelation of who God is and to explore how the Creator and Savior enters in alliance with humanity just like the marital alliance.

In this context I would like to quote from another recent speech of Benedict XVI: “The Second Vatican Council dedicated much attention to the family. Married partners, it said, must be witnesses of faith to each other and to their children (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 35). The Christian family thus shares in the Church’s prophetic vocation: with its way of living it “proclaims aloud both the present power of the Kingdom of God and the hope of the blessed life” (ibid.). Then, as my venerable Predecessor John Paul II tirelessly repeated, the good of the person and of society is closely connected to the “healthy state” of the family (cf. Gaudium et Spes, n. 47). The Church, therefore, is committed to defending and to fostering “the dignity and supremely sacred value of the married state” (ibid.). [2]

A further observation is that in these explorations we need to distinguish between family issues and marriage in itself. Of course family and marriage are closely related – since the couple’s love usually brings forth family – yet the fecundity of the marital relationship is not exhausted only in creating family and rearing children but bears “fruits” in other ways, creating a place to experience God’s love. In the constant and mutual dedication of the couple not only themselves experience God but also they give the world opportunity to witness God present in their love and fidelity. Besides rearing a family the married couple becomes fecund in pursuing and working together in an intimate climate on common causes, famous examples like the Maritains or the Curies show. The marriage, the communion between man and woman is a distinct topic to contemplate and value. However - and this shows the road yet ahead of us in the ecclesial appreciation of marriage as Christian vocation and way to sanctity -, the only couple that arrived to beatification up today specifically as a married couple are the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux. I think there will be a great step ahead when on Vocation Sundays and other occasions there will be prayers in our parishes besides for priestly and religious vocations for vocations for Christian marriage – for this most ecclesial of all vocations, since marriage is the expression and realization of the covenant of love between Christ and his Church by excellence!

In his “Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace” of 2008, entitled “The human Family, a Community of Peace” the Pope said that The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman), constitutes “the primary place of ‘humanization’ for the person and society”, and a “cradle of life and love”. The family is therefore rightly defined as the first natural society, “a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order””[3] . Based on this role of marriage we can call it a primary agent of peace, since it is the place and source of the “humanization” of mankind, from where other relationships and social order stem. Then he describes this role more in detail: “Indeed, in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace.”[4] Marriage, in which a man and a woman live in communion of mutual love complementing each other and serve each other with fidelity, in itself is the primary place to experience that we are created for mutual love, respect and communion and so is really a primary agent and model of peaceful relations between two human beings.

Then, in number 5. Benedict XVI asserts the conclusion that Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace”. He than elaborates the issues in which marriage and family needs to be supported. Besides mentioning the openness to responsible acceptance of life and freedom to educate children the Pope stresses that “The family needs to have a home, employment and a just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children, and basic health care for all” [5] . We know very well how these areas are in crisis just now; think only of the painful situation of health care in our country, or of the lack of basic necessities, clean water, food, shelter, basic medicines and security in large areas of our world! It is hard to summaries briefly how this situation of poverty, epidemics that could be prevented, and in general the injustice in sharing the resources affects and hinders the entire humanity, creating endless suffering of broken families, widows of wars, abandoned and orphaned children. As the Pope said: “Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whose human dignity is violated with impunity, become easy prey to the call to violence, and they can then become violators of peace”. [6]

I would like to point out here that the relation between marriage and peace is also reciprocal. Not only that everything that hurts marriages and families undermines peace in the world but also – and maybe this is very clear for anybody – lack of peace, armed conflicts and the waste of resources (including the environment and the climate) on stockpiles of weapons directly hurts families, tears apart or renders impossible that mysterious and profound communion that exist between man and woman in marriage.

We are all connected part of the same human family, so that the suffering of any part will endanger the entire humanity. On the other side, advance in peace and well being socially and spiritually anywhere presupposes the protection of all as members of the same common family. Consequently, it is essential that we should all be committed to living our lives in an attitude of responsibility before God, acknowledging him as the deepest source of our own existence and that of others. By going back to this supreme principle we are able to perceive the unconditional worth of each human being, and thus to lay the premises for building a humanity at peace. Without this transcendent foundation society is a mere aggregation of neighbours, not a community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family”. [7]

As Pope Benedict pointed out in his address to the United Nations unfortunately this great family of humanity still suffers from grave injustice: "…we experience the obvious paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world’s problems call for interventions in the form of collective action by the international community." [8]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] We might see this danger in an allusion in the introduction to “our battles” (without specifying who is the “we”): “The short pontificate of Benedict XVI is thus already a standing rebuke to those voices of our time who attempt to make us embarrassed about our concern for, and battles over, marriage, family and sexual issues—to those who see in the contemporary marriage debate merely a distraction from more important issues”.

[2] From the Angelus, Saint Peter’s Square, December 30, 2007, Feast of the Holy Family, Compendium, page 7. (emphasis mine)

[3] See n. 2., Compendium, page 5

[4] Ibid., n. 3.

[5] Ibid., n. 5.

[6] Benedict XVI's Address to United Nations - dedicated mostly to the human rights celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of issuance the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2008/april/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080418_un-visit_en.html

[7] See n. 6., Compendium page 5.

[8] See Benedict XVI's Address to United Nations