Cardinals, bishops, theologians, and experts in education, pastoral care of families and the communications media are attending the event, as are various ecclesial movements from some 30 countries.
The congress - which is taking place as part of the Fifth World Meeting of Families - began on Tuesday and concludes tomorrow and is considering various themes associated with the family and reflecting upon how best to transmit the faith within families.
Figari, whose Christian Life Movement involves thousands of married couples and families spread throughout the world, said that the family is under a, “systematic siege,” which is incorporated in the process of globalization. The siege can only be countered by recognizing the, “value of the family in itself as well as its mission as the first line in the real proposal for a society of life - a community which is more just, more reconciled and more in accordance to the divine Plan,” Figari said.
Figari’s movement teaches a path to holiness in marriage which, in addition to being grounded in reflection and theoretical positions, also involves a practical program of five points. These five points, Figari said, are like the fingers of a hand - which symbolizes action.
Figari spoke briefly to the Congress of the five practical points he sees as necessary to a holy marriage.
Of primary importance, Figari said, is the personal holiness of the couple being called to married life. “More than a few people forget the order of things. They forget that, as taught since time immemorial, charity begins by attending to God’s Plan for one’s own self. If this step is not taken into account it is difficult, not to say humanly impossible, to take the others.”
“The horrible failure of so many millions of marriages,” Figari continued, “is due in large part to the fact that they do not begin from the idea that married life is about a man and a woman who have to proceed towards encounter, to harmonize with each other in love and in daily life, building a ‘we’ dimension out of their individual realities, realities which cannot be renounced. Husband and wife do not dissolve but go towards the encounter of one another as persons.”
The very institution of marriage, Figari said, is a vehicle through which God opens the way for man and woman to eternity. “I am convinced that if God, in Jesus, institutes the sacrament of marriage it isn’t in order to paint a varnish over some human situation, a social cell, however basic it may be considered, but in order to open up a beautiful, exciting, and vigorous channel for the person’s realization, a stream in which each of the members of this adventure of conjugal love can realize themselves and be happy in the light of the divine Plan.”
After one realizes the necessity of personal holiness one can take on the second step of integration as a couple. This integration, Figari continued, involves each person realizing the presence of Christ in their own being and then living love for the other in the same sacrificial way that Jesus did.
“Marital love is one of the most beautiful human adventures,” the movement founder said, “but its success, considering the loving grace that God pours out, demands an ascetic personal discipline, a renunciation of personal egoism in favor of the other, a constant and renewed building in the vital ideal of conjugal love.”
From that marital love flows the third step of loving children. And married couples, he said, must understand that children are gifts of God - entrusted to the education, love, tenderness, and care of the parents. Too many parents, Figari continued, objectify their children and fail in renouncing their own personal impediments, those things which impede their relationship with their spouse and allow such impediments to stunt, “the firm and healthy development,” of the children who have been entrusted to them.
The answer to such tendencies lays in living a family life full of faith, Figari said. “The faith illumines this whole process of family growth and maturation. Under this light it is necessary to examine one’s own attitudes and the family realities that with the help of the compass of faith, of self-examination before what we profess to believe, will show us if we are along the right path.”
A fourth point, Figari said, is the proper understanding of work in the context of the family. Work, which is necessary for the sustenance of a home, should never become an obstacle to the first three steps, he said. Figari said that the, “pressure of the ideology of ‘productivity,’ of professional competition, of consumerism, even of unemployment or underemployment, are factors that contribute to distortions which affect not only the lives of the spouses but the healthy growth and development of the children.” The living of the first three points cannot be postponed by fears surrounding work, he said.
Finally, Figari said, from all of the above points can flow a work of apostolate to the world. “Married Christians,” he said, “should turn to apostolate towards others, not as a routine, but with the same enthusiasm that they should have in knowing and loving each other.”
“It’s clear that there is an internal apostolate, with one’s spouse, with one’s children, everyone as a family, and there is an external one which is the personal radiation of Jesus from the heart of the family, as a testimony that Christian life is possible, that it is a path for personal transformation and for the transformation of the world, a fulfilling and vivifying path. From the heart of the family the Christian life should unfold in a proclamation of the Lord Jesus and in sharing his love with the most needy, as well as in the evangelization of culture and the transformation of the world.”
“In light of the awareness of all this,” Figari said in conclusion, “I would like to propose a demystification of the magnitude of the enterprise of personal holiness, of conjugal and family holiness. The initiative of the vocation to marriage is from God who gives the grace. One must collaborate with it and take the means following a process which helps endure challenges and nourish itself from love, enthusiasm, and affection. Even though the saints on the altars who were married in this life are very few, I am certain that those participating in the Communion of Love are myriad. Countless millions!”
“The path to marital holiness is not a quick race, but one of perseverance. It’s not a question of taking it all at once, but step by step, perseveringly, letting oneself be helped by the Spirit, and imploring the intercession of the ever Virgin Mary and the Holy Guardian, Saint Joseph,” he said.
“Families are the first line of the Church. Their task is enormous and exciting. These are the “domestic churches” whose mere mention, due to their greatness and their mission, is already overwhelming.”
For more information on the Christian Life Movement, in English, see their U.S. website at: http://www.clmusa.org
.- The Family is a “path to holiness and first line of evangelization,” said Luis Fernando Figari, Superior General of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae and Founder of the international Christian Life Movement during an address to the International Theological Pastoral Congress on the Family.