The Christian family must become a “radical” sign against a climate of despair and isolation Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles said Tuesday.
Gomez, who serves as the vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered the speech June 18 as part of a four-day conference on Liturgy and the Domestic Church at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.
“Our society has rejected what twenty centuries of Christian civilization considered a basic fact of nature — that most men and women will find their life’s purpose in forming loving marriages, working together, sharing their lives, and raising children,” Gomez said.
The archbishop explained that in previous decades preserving and promoting the family involved a cluster of issues, including divorce, cohabitation, contraception and abortion, same-sex relationships, and the sexual confusion of society. Now, he argued, the basic human imperative to marry and have children is being abandoned.
“Many young people are debating whether it is ‘ethical’ to have kids in an age of global warming. There is an even larger conversation going on among millennials about the ‘value’ of starting a family,” Gomez said.
Just Google that simple question: ‘Should I have kids?’ It is sad, the results that come back. Not only that. It is sad how many people are asking these kinds of questions.”
“The truth is this: for whatever reasons, people have already stopped having children.”
Gomez said that the decline of birth rates, and the rejection of the concept and worth of family, is a sign of more than just selfishness: it is an indication of despair. Without minimizing the importance of climate change, Gomez said, a cultural narrative of coming dystopia has emerged, in which children are considered to be better off having never been born.
“These same kinds of bleak scenarios are being spun out daily in newspapers and magazines, in books, in the media, in classrooms,” Gomez said, and it is the mission of the Church, expressed through the witness of the Christian family, to respond.
“The question for us is: how are we going to live as Christians in this culture, and how are we going to raise our children and evangelize this culture? In these times, what case can we make for marriage, for the family, for children?”
In the Los Angeles archdiocese, he said, a community of more than five million Catholics was baptizing 50,000 infants every year. “These are not just numbers,” Gomez said, “these are souls, entrusted by God to our care. As a pastor, I do not want a single one to be lost.”
It is vital, he said, to discover and promoted the “Domestic Church” of the family, rooted in a parish able to sustain and support them.
“In my opinion, forming small faith communities is crucial,” Gomez said, while insisting that continuous sacramental and faith formation was essential to the life and mission of the Church.
“When we marry a couple or baptize a child — we need to see that as the beginning of a relationship. We need to find ways to nurture that relationship, to support that child and that couple, to help them grow in their love of Jesus and their commitment to living the Gospel in their families.”
Formation of families in the faith is, Gomez said, central to the Church’s mission at a time when the Gospel message is once more seen as antithetical to the culture.
“We need to rediscover the radical ‘newness’ of the Christian message about the family,” he said.
“Before Christianity, no one had ever spoken about marriage in terms of a love that lasts a lifetime, or as a calling from God, or as a path that can lead to holiness and salvation. It was a new and thrilling idea to speak of man and woman becoming ‘one flesh’ and participating in God’s own act of creating new life.”
The simplicity of the family, mirroring the hidden life of Christ in the Holy Family of Nazareth, offers the opportunity to evangelize by a witness to hope and to authentic human happiness – something which society is losing along with the will to have children.
“The first Christians evangelized by the way they lived. And the way they lived was to be in this world but not of this world. They lived the same lives as their neighbors, but in a different way,” Gomez said.
“They rejected birth control and abortion and welcomed children in joy as a gift from God and treated them as precious persons to be loved and nurtured and brought up in the ways of the Lord.”
“The first Christian families changed the world — simply by living the teachings of Jesus and his Church. And my friends, we can change the world again, by following the same path.”
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