Rome, Italy, Oct 12, 2014 / 15:02 pm
The Synod on the Family is an opportunity to assure married couples they can succeed at marriage despite the many challenges facing them, according to Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville.
"I think the primary challenge is this need to restore confidence that somehow this couple, this family can have a fruitful and a successful marriage," the archbishop said. Married couples need the confidence that "they are not just a statistic, they are not at the mercy of statistics."
The synod is also an occasion to reinvigorate lay Catholic action, said the archbishop, who is a synod father.
"Let's participate: the spotlight is on the family. Let's all of us find ways to reach out, beginning in our own family," the archbishop told CNA in an Oct. 8 interview at Rome's North American College.
His comments come as the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops meets at the Vatican Oct. 5-19 to discuss the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization, and to prepare for the 2015 general synod on the same theme.
Archbishop Kurtz noted the excitement surrounding the synod and the popular interest in it. He also pointed out the novelty of an extraordinary synod to prepare for a subsequent synod.
He said Americans "want answers quickly" from the synod, but that it aims to "give us time to reflect."
The archbishop spoke of several themes raised in consideration of family life today: isolation, individualism, and thinking only of oneself.
He noted the need for "the capacity to understand what it means to have sacrificial love, which moves me out of myself."
People can take inspiration from their families and others in their lives, the archbishop stated. He cited his past experience as a social worker, when he would ask clients the question, "who loves you the most?"
"People invariably would say someone who had sacrificed for them," he continued. "People understand sacrificial love. We need to renew that gift."
Sacrificial love "is not only possible, but it is required if we are going to have deep and lasting friendships, and certainly if we are going to have the chaste relationships that Jesus calls us to, primarily in married love."
"People understand sacrificial love because they've experienced it in their own lives," he said. "Those who are blessed with children, they love their children and they want the best for their children. They are the natural gifts that are really the movements of grace that we need to build on."
He said the bishops will need to speak about "the beauty of the gift of sexuality," as well as its meaning and "the unique friendship which is that union of man and woman joined together two flesh as one, open to children, the union that Jesus talks about."
At the same time, the archbishop noted the need for reconciliation within families that have suffered splits, and in which family members have not talked to each other in decades but cannot remember why.
In this light, Archbishop Kurtz spoke of the importance of the sacrament of Confession and how the Church "calls people to reconciliation with one another" as part of the message of the Gospel.
Archbishop Kurtz noted that Pope Francis has said the Synod on the Family is "not a doctrinal synod." In the archbishop's view, the synod aims to find "the creative pastoral way" to reach out and welcome others.
The archbishop said that Pope Francis "sees the person first," as Christ does in the gospels. Pope Francis asks Christians to "accompany that person to the light of Christ."
"In a sense we are on a pilgrimage together," Archbishop Kurtz said.
"And those words are, I think, somewhat surprising to people, but they are not surprising to Christ or the history of our Church."