The group recognised that the purpose of part I was not simply to repeat the analysis of last year’s Synod. It was felt, however, that the analysis of the difficulties which the family faces was too negative.
We look at what emerged in the reflection of the Church over the last year and what we have experienced in our own local churches. We tried to look in the light of faith at how millions of families truly try day by day to realise what Pope Francis called “God’s dream for his beloved creation.”
We witness every day families who try to make God’s dream their dream; to find happiness sharing their loving journey and seeing their love realised in the children they bear and guiding their children, especially their adolescent children into the mystery of marital love.
The group stressed that the extended family is so often the ordinary means by which men and women are accompanied through every stage of life. The love and support given by and received in so many families on the pilgrimage of life is an expression of the love that God has for his pilgrim people.
Despite the challenges that the family face in every culture, families with the assistance of divine grace do find within them the strength to carry out their vocation to love, to strengthen social bonds, and to care for wider society, especially for the most vulnerable. The group feels that the Synod should express strong appreciation to such families.
The place of part one is to listen and observe the factual situation of families. The group felt strongly, however, that for the Christian such an analysis should always look through the eyes of faith and not remain simply sociological analysis. More scriptural references would help to understand the nature of God’s dream that families are called to make their own and to realise that in the difficulties of life they can place their trust in a God who neither disappoints nor abandons anyone.
It was noted that alongside the socio-cultural challenges that families face, we should also openly recognise the inadequacy of the pastoral support that families receive from the Church on their itinerary of faith.
Analysis of the situation of the family should recognize how, with the help of grace, families who are far from perfect, living in an imperfect world do actually realize their vocation, even though they may fail along their journey. As members of the group we shared a reflection, each of us on the experience of our own family. What emerged was far from a stereotype of an “ideal family,” but rather a collage of families different in their social, ethnic, and religious background.
Amid many difficulties our families gave us the gift of love and the gift of faith; in our families we discovered a sense of self-worth and dedication. Many of our families are of mixed confession or religion, but in all we learned an ability to pray and to reflect upon how the family is central to the transmission of faith in a multiplicity of situations.
An analysis based on the light of faith is far from an analysis which avoids facing reality. If anything, such an analysis can focus on questions of marginalisation, which easily escape from the mindset of the dominant culture in many of our societies. An analysis based on the light of faith can lead to a deeper discernment of how families suffer marginalization and forms of poverty, which go beyond economic poverty to include the social, cultural, and spiritual.
Such discernment should help us to identify groups in our world of those who find themselves in a situation similar to that of Jesus and his parents, for whom there was “no place at the inn.”
It was noted that among the groups who experience such exclusion, one should not overlook families who are discriminated against or marginalized because of their belief in Jesus Christ.
The language of Scripture can be closer to the realities of the daily experience of families and can become a bridge between faith and life. The group felt that the language of the final document should be a more simple language, accessible to families, showing also that the Synod Fathers had listened to and heard their contribution and comments to the synodal process.
The situations in which families strive to live out their vocation are varied. It would be impossible to encapsulate all these situations in a single document. Each local Church should try to identify the particular situations of family marginalization in their own society.
Social policy should have a priority concern for its effects on families. Good social policy should begin with an indication of where the social peripheries of each community lie, rather than from a simple economic analysis. Such discernment of the reality of marginalization should also be a dominant characteristic of the pastoral care of the Church for families.
Social problems like inadequate housing, unemployment, migration, drug abuse, the cost of rearing children all have the family as primary victim.
In looking at the challenges facing particular groups, the group proposed a broad rewriting of paragraphs 17-30 under the title of The Family on the Pilgrimage of Life.
Young people live in an oversexualized culture. They need to be educated to a culture of self-giving, which is the basis of the self-donation of conjugal love.
Young people need to develop the ability to live in harmony with emotions and feelings, and to seek mature affective, mature relations with others. This can be an antidote to selfishness and isolation, which often lead young people to a lack of meaning in their lives and even to despair, self-harm, and suicide.
Generosity and hope are at the root of a culture of life. Life in the womb is threatened by the widespread practice of abortion and infanticide. The culture of life should also embrace the elderly and those with special needs, where very often support only comes from the extended family. Many families testify to the fresh vision of life that comes when one of its members has such special needs.
The experience in our group was that of pastors who share a firm conviction that the future of Church and society passes through the family. It was stressed that politics and policies may attempt to change structures, but politics alone do not change hearts.
The humanization of society and our future will depend on how was as a community realize God’s dream for his beloved creation. We can only give thanks to God for our Christian families who through their love and self-giving, however imperfect, open their hearts to the healing love of the God revealed in Jesus Christ.
We owe a great debt to these families who in immense ways support and challenge our ministry as pastors.