By Mario & Paola Martinez
Saint Teresa of Calcutta wisely said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” The love that is experienced in marriage and the family nucleus has the capacity to change spouses, children and the entire society. Those who have grown up in a healthy environment are more predisposed to transmit life and love to a sick society. However, many families around the world, and particularly families in the United States, are going through a crisis of love that is dramatically affecting the health of society. The fifth theme of the U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Marriage affirms marriage as the “Foundation of Family and Society” and how conjugal love gives life to children, the extended family and the community.
Why should we care about this issue? Marriage is not simply a private arrangement; it is also a social issue. Marriage fosters stable families that allow children to thrive, strengthens communities and helps family members succeed and cope with life’s challenges. On the other hand, those born into fragmented families are increasingly likely to repeat the patterns of their parents and experience the pain, hardship and risks that result.
Relativism is another evil of our days. It maintains that there is no absolute truth, because each one has his own truth. It has given rise to ideologies that distort the vocation of marriage and family life according to God’s design. The lack of compassion within the family and society is another adversity for families today. Often, we are not willing to suffer with others, to accompany each other in the joys and sorrows of life. The throwaway culture that Pope Francis talked about is also harming families around the world. People are seen as disposable as objects to be used for personal pleasure.
One bright spot in our Diocese is that the family is highly valued in the Hispanic/Latino culture. Also, parishes have developed family-oriented evangelization programs at each stage of the family cycle. At the diocesan level, pastoral care for difficult situations in family life are priorities. These include separation, divorce, deportation, detention or other family trauma.
Indeed, we live in challenging times when many forces seek to destroy or distort God’s plan for marriage and family life. However bleak the future may seem, there is hope in Jesus Christ, as the Gospel of Saint John reminds us: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him.” Pope Francis also joyfully tells the world in Amoris Laetitia: “I thank God that many families, which are far from being considered perfect, live in love, fulfill their vocation and move on, even if they fall many times along the way.” Full of hope, he tells all the families of the world: “Let’s make this journey as families; let’s keep walking together.”
(To download the pastoral letter and/or for information on natural family planning resources, we invite you to visit sbmarriageinitiative.org)
Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the Office of Marriage and Family Life Ministries in the Diocese of San Bernardino.