Pope Benedict XVI continued in his series of catecheses on the subject of the Fathers of the Church today in his General Audience. The church father that the pontiff drew upon is the saint known as the “Golden Mouth”, or perhaps more commonly as St. John Chrysostom.
The Holy Father stressed how St. Chrysostom teaches that if young couples want to avoid divorce, then they should be formed in their faith before marriage and once married, they should form their children from a young age.
St. John Chrysostom’s life
The Pope began by recalling the fact that this year marks the 16th centenary of the death of St. John Chrysostom, who was born in Antioch, in modern-day Turkey, in the year 349. "Called Chrysostom, meaning 'golden-mouthed,' for his eloquence, it could be said that he is still alive today through his works," the Holy Father observed.
"Ordained a deacon in 381 and a priest in 386, he became a famous preacher in the churches of his city; ... 387 was John's 'heroic year'," said Benedict XVI, the year of "the so-called 'revolt of the statues' when people destroyed the imperial statues as a sign of protest against the rise in taxes."
The Holy Father then went on to observe how this saint "was one of the most prolific of the Fathers, of him we have 17 treatises, more than 700 authentic homilies, his commentaries on Matthew and Paul, and 241 letters. He was not a speculative theologian. He transmitted the traditional and certain doctrine of the Church at a time of theological controversies, caused above all by Arianism,” a heresy which asserted that Jesus was only human.
Modern message of St. Chrysostom
Benedict XVI focused on how "St. John Chrysostom was concerned that his writings should accompany the integral - physical, intellectual and religious - development of the person." The Pope then explained how St. John thought a person should develop in their faith as they grow.
In his works, the saint highlighted the importance of childhood because it is then "that inclinations to vice and virtue appear. For this reason the law of God must, from the beginning, be impressed upon the soul 'as upon a wax tablet'."
Childhood, said the Pope referring to the saint's writings, "is followed by the sea of adolescence in which the gales blow violently as concupiscence grows within us."
For an age such as ours, that is witnessing constant attacks on the family, St. John Chrysostom had great words of wisdom for couples planning to marry. The eloquent church father said, "that a well prepared husband and wife close the way to divorce: everything takes place joyfully and children can be educated to virtue. When the first child is born, he or she is like a bridge: the three become a single flesh because the child brings the two parts together and all together they constitute a family, a little Church."
The Pope also recalled how the saint used to address his writings to the lay faithful who, "through Baptism, take on the priestly office, royal and prophetic. ... This lesson of Chrysostom on the authentically Christian presence of the lay faithful in the family and in society is today more important than ever."