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Married life is a true way of holiness

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 3 August 1994 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. We have stressed woman's role in the Church. Obviously, the task of man is no less important. The Church needs the collaboration of both to carry out her mission. The basic context where this cooperation is shown is married life, the family, which is "the first, primordial expression of the social dimension of the person" (CL 40).

The Second Vatican Council acknowledged: "The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one," and expressly cited married life as a way of holiness: "Married couples and Christian parents should follow their own proper path (to holiness) by faithful love. They should sustain one another in grace throughout the entire length of their lives. They should imbue their offspring, lovingly welcomed as God's gift, with Christian doctrine and the evangelical virtues. In this manner, they offer all men the example of unwearying and generous love; in this way they build up the brotherhood of charity; in so doing, they stand as the witnesses and cooperators in the fruitfulness of Holy Mother Church; by such lives, they are a sign and a participation in that very love, with which Christ loved his bride and for which he delivered himself up for her" (LG 41).

Thus the path of the married couple and the family has two essential aspects: sanctification in a union of faithful love, and sanctification in fruitfulness, by fulfilling the task of raising their children as Christians.

Today we wish to reflect on the way of holiness proper to Christian married people, and therefore, to most of the faithful. It is an important way, but one badly shaken today by certain intellectual trends fueled by the rampant hedonism in society as a whole.

2. We go back to the Council's beautiful statement that the way of marriage is a way of holiness, because it is meant to be a "sign and a participation in that very love with which Christ loved his bride and for which he delivered himself up for her."

In this ecclesiological view, Christ's love is the source and foundation of the love uniting the spouses. It should be stressed that true conjugal love is meant, and not a mere spontaneous impulse. Today sexuality is often exalted to the point of obscuring the profound nature of love. Certainly, sexual life too has its own genuine value, which can never be underestimated. But it is a limited value that is an insufficient basis for the marriage union, which by its nature depends on total personal commitment. Every sound psychology and philosophy of love agrees on this point. Christian teaching also emphasizes the qualities of the individuals' unitive love and casts a higher light on it, raising it--by virtue of a sacrament--to the level of grace and of sharing in the divine love of Christ. Along these lines St. Paul says of marriage: "This is a great mystery" (Eph 5:32), in reference to Christ and the Church. For the Christian, this theological mystery is at the root of the ethics of marriage, conjugal love and sexual life itself: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (Eph 5:25).

Grace and the sacramental bond enable conjugal life, as a sign of and share in the love of Christ the bridegroom, to be a way of holiness for Christian spouses. At the same time, it is an effective incentive for the Church to invigorate the communion of love that distinguishes her. The Council stated that married couples "build up the brotherhood of charity" (LG 41).

3. The Council states and explains the demands of this noble love of Christian couples. In asserting that they must support each other, it underscores the altruistic nature of their love, a love which finds concrete expression in mutual support and generous devotion. By speaking of a faithful love all through life, the Council calls attention to fidelity as an obligation based on the absolute fidelity of Christ the bridegroom. The appeal to this duty is more necessary than ever, especially with regard to one of the great evils of contemporary society, the widespread plague of divorce. This has serious consequences for married couples themselves and their children. With divorce, husband and wife inflict a deep wound on each other, fail to keep their own word and break a vital bond. At the same time they harm their children. How many children suffer over the departure of one or the other parent! It must be said over and over again to everyone that, with his absolutely faithful love, Jesus Christ gives Christian spouses the strength of fidelity and enables them to resist the temptation to separate, which today is so widespread and seductive.

4. We must remember that, since the love of Christ the bridegroom for the Church is a redemptive love, the love of Christian spouses becomes an active participation in redemption.

Redemption is tied to the cross. This helps us understand and appreciate the meaning of the trials that the couple's life is certainly not spared, but which in God's plan are meant to reinforce their love and bring greater fruitfulness to their married life. Far from promising his married followers an earthly paradise, Jesus Christ offers them the opportunity and the vocation to make a journey with him which, through difficulties and suffering, will strengthen their union and lead them to a greater joy, as proven by the experience of so many Christian couples, in our day as well.

5. Fulfilling the task of procreation contributes to the sanctification of married life, as we noted in regard to motherhood. The love of husband and wife, which is not turned in on itself, but according to the impulse and law of nature is open to new life, becomes with the help of God's grace an exercise of holy and sanctifying charity, in which the spouses contribute to the Church's growth.

The same thing occurs in carrying out the task of education, which is a duty connected with procreation. As the Second Vatican Council said, Christian married couples "should imbue their offspring, lovingly welcomed as God's gift, with Christian doctrine and the evangelical virtues" (LG 41). It is the most essential apostolate of family life. This work of giving their children moral and spiritual formation also sanctifies the parents, who are themselves blessed with a deeper, renewed faith, as the experience of Christian families often shows.

Once again we can conclude that married life is a way of holiness and apostolate. This catechesis thus serves to deepen our view of the family, which is so important for the Church and the world.

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli francesi

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je vous salue cordialement, chers pèlerins de langue française. Je salue en particulier le groupe des Guides de Saint-Guénolé et celui de Clairac, ainsi que tous les foyers ici présents: qu’ils soient remerciés pour l’exemple qu’ils donnent; qu’ils mettent toujours leur confiance dans la grâce du sacrement reçu! Je salue les jeunes et je les confie au Seigneur ressuscité qui nous accompagne chaque jour. Que Dieu vous bénisse et vous garde!

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s Audience, especially those from Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Zambia and the United States. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the grace and peace of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Ai pellegrini giapponesi

Rendiamo grazie a Dio! Mi auguro che il vostro pellegrinaggio romano sia un momento di crescita della vostra fede e della grazia del Signore. E spero che vogliate contribuire sempre più all’evangelizzazione del vostro paese. Rendiamo grazie a Dio!

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit diesen kurzen Gedanken grüsse ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Mit meinen besten Wünschen für eine erholsame Urlaubs - und Ferienzeit erteile ich Euch, Euren Lieben zu Hause und allen mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora con todo afecto a los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española. En particular, a la Escolanía de la basílica de la “Mare de Deu del Lledò”, de Castellón, así como a los peregrinos de las Archidiócesis de Sevilla, y Valencia, y a los diversos grupos venidos de México, Paraguay y de otros países de Sudamérica.

A todas las personas, familias y grupos provenientes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini portoghesi

Aos meus Irmãos e Irmãs,

De coração, dou as boas-vindas e saúdo os peregrinos presentes, especialmente os brasileiros das cidades anunciadas - São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro e Paraná -, e os peregrinos do Norte de Portugal: das paróquias de Nossa Senhora de Fátima em Viana, e de Serzedêlo e Gandaréla em Guimarães: que as vossas famílias sejam santas num amor fiel e fecundo, com a graça e o exemplo de Cristo que amou a Igreja e por Ela se entregou. Como penhor daquela graça e estímulo àquele exemplo, vos dou a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Witam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Polski. Pragnę powitać w szczególności pielgrzymki parafialne: z Wierzchowic - parafia Matki Bożej Pocieszenia, z Bierunia Starego, Brzeźców, Gliwic, Krasnego Stawu, Kazimierza Dolnego, z Inowrocławia - parafia bł. Królowej Jadwigi, z Częstochowy - parafia Pięciu Męczenników Polskich oraz czciciele Miłosierdzia Bożego z “ Doliny Miłosierdzia ”. Witam pielgrzymów indywidualnych z Warszawy, z Kluczów i Zawadzkiego (diecezja opolska) oraz z Poznania - parafia św. Jana Kantego.

Agli sloveni

Le vostre famiglie siano la sorgente della vita della Chiesa. Benvenuti i pellegrini di Starse a Dravsko polje in Slovenia, che desiderate arricchire la Vostra vita parrocchiale con il pellegrinaggio a Roma, rendere omaggio alle tombe dei Principi degli Apostoli e incontrarsi con il Successore di San Pietro. Possa questo pellegrinaggio arricchire spiritualmente Voi personalmente e le Vostre famiglie, affinché diventino la viva sorgente della vita per la Chiesa e per la cara nazione slovena. Con questo desiderio vi imparto la mia benedizione apostolica.

Ai croati

Cari Croati, vi saluto tutti di cuore. Benvenuti! Vi imparto la mia benedizione apostolica, accompagnata dalla fervida preghiera a Dio per la pace a tutte le care e martoriate popolazioni della Bosnia ed Erzegovina e della Croazia. Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Agli ungheresi

Cari pellegrini ungheresi! Benvenuti alla tomba di San Pietro. Siate forti nella fede! Siate fedeli al Papa! Con la mia benedizione apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai cechi

Rinnovate la vostra fede e il vostro amore per Cristo. Ora rivolgo tanti cordiali saluti ai fedeli della Boemia e della Moravia. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! Ringraziandovi per la vostra presenza, auspico che questo vostro pellegrinaggio ai piedi del sepolcro dei Santi Apostoli Pietro e Paolo, vi offra l’occasione per rinnovare la vostra fede e l’amore per Cristo. Volentieri imparto a tutti la mia benedizione apostolica.

Agli slovacchi

La fede è luce e forza per l’uomo dei nostri giorni. Saluto i pellegrini slovacchi da Presov, Bratislava e dintorni. Siete venuti alla tomba di San Pietro, il quale quasi duemila anni fa ha dato la vita per la fede che ha annunziato. Questa fede è la luce e la forza anche per l’uomo dei nostri giorni. Vivete secondo questa fede e annunziatela con il vostro esempio nel vostro ambiente. Non abbiate paura, la Vergine Maria vi accompagna su questa strada. E io vi impartisco di cuore la benedizione apostolica. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo.

Ai pellegrini di lingua italiana

Il mio pensiero affettuoso va ora a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana che partecipano a questa Udienza. In particolare, saluto le Suore Domenicane di Santa Caterina da Siena Insegnanti ed Infermiere, che stanno celebrando il loro Capitolo generale. Auspico che i lavori capitolari riaffermino il generoso impegno di tutta la Congregazione al servizio del Vangelo e della Chiesa.

Ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli

Rivolgo infine un saluto ai giovani, ai malati ed agli sposi novelli qui presenti.

Carissimi, e vi esorto a rimanere sempre fedeli alle vostre convinzioni cristiane. Solo Gesù Cristo, infatti, è per voi e per tutti la luce che illumina e il sostegno incrollabile tra le difficoltà dell’esistenza.

Vi ricordo con affetto e chiedo al Signore la perseveranza per voi giovani, la pazienza per voi sofferenti e la fortezza spirituale per voi sposi, che iniziate un nuovo cammino di vita.

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