In Jesus, the fulfilment of God’s revelation, the family uncovers its calling within the universal call to holiness. For the disciple of Jesus, every vocation calls the person and the community in two distinct and complementary dimensions. We are called to communion and we are called for mission. We see this in the call of the 12 Apostles. They are called to be friends of Jesus and sent out to preach. The same is true of those disciples who are called to family life. Our group reflected on this gift and vocation, and on prayer and discernment as means to foster it.
While the sense of the word “vocation” is clear when applied to the priesthood, more clarity is needed when we talk about the phrase “vocation to the married life.” We must recognise that the family itself also has a vocation.
Seen through the lens of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the text would benefit from a more abundant use of Sacred Scripture, notably Luke Chapters 1 and 2, as well as examples from the Old Testament. Somany Old Testament couples, such as those from the Book of Tobit, responded beautifully to the vocation to marriage and family life.
The Church’s vision of the vocation of the family captures the beauty of God’s self-giving love. Considerable attention was given to locating a firm theological base for the Divine Pedagogy, flowing from the outpouring of love from the Trinity. At the core of the family is the original act of creation, the redemption by Jesus Christ and the orientation to eternal life.
The priority of listening to the Word of God and following Jesus opens up the good news for the family, which leads to a life of joy as well as an ever-deepening conversion from selfishness and sin.
The baptismal identity of every Christian matures in the seedbed of the family, which is often the first and primary evangelizer in which one discerns a vocation to a particular state in life. In this Year of Consecrated Life, we give special thanks for the gift of men and women in religious life and their families.
The final document would benefit from a consideration of “best practices,” which would show families how to more fully and faithfully live out their vocation. At the heart of such “best practices” is the receiving of the Word of God in the family. We make special mention of the great strides within the Church over the past 50 years in which study and reflection on Sacred Scripture has been integrated into the lives of families. While much remains to be done, such progress needs to be acknowledged.These “best practices” should also address proper catechesis and prayer and worship, including prayer within each family. Such a call would wisely and explicitly encourage the use of para-liturgical prayers and rituals within the setting of the family.
We also addressed questions related to methodology. In the past, the Holy Father often used the final approved texts as a basis for an Apostolic Exhortation and we spoke of the fruitfulness of this approach. However, we recognise the limitations of a document that will be approved at the conclusion of this Synod. Though every effort should be made to provide for streamlined, attractive language, a primary concern was the clarity of well-grounded explanations of Church teaching on marriage and the family.
With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we give thanks for the vocation of the family – a call to communion with Him and with each other and a call for mission in the world.