Fr. Guillermo Carmona, National Director for the Schoenstatt Movement in Argentina •
A couple of weeks ago, Pope Francis published this exhortation on marriage and family: The Joy of Love. A hymn to life and hope. It’s a good read, particularly during the Easter season when the light shines through the darkness. I could re-name this exhortation “The Gospel of the Family.” The good news contained in it is for us who belong and live in the Schoenstatt Family.
The Pope speaks about the family as “God’s dream” which he describes as the “most beautiful, most excellent, most appealing and at the same time most necessary” and should “occupy the centre of all evangelizing activity.”
I thought it appropriate use this Covenant Letter to share some of the ideas in this document, which corresponds with Fr. Kentenich’s philosophy and makes it practical. Translating theory into praxis – in other words, the pedagogical dimension – has always been and continues to be the most difficult aspect in Schoenstatt and the Church. We also need to forge family bonds that pulsate the “joy of love.”
The family is not an idyllic or utopian reality. In order to build a family it is necessary to cultivate attitudes that are expressions of the Father’s mercy through which we want to go out and encounter others. I can summarise them as seven “sacramentals of love” that shower graces if we embody them:
- Start with dialogue.
Without good communication there is no family, just a group of islands. Sometimes we need to break the wall of silence but also know how to listen. Both. I once heard that there are schools that teach people “oratory” but not “auditory”: an invented expresson that is both a play on words and very real. We are surrounded by communication but we lack a more personal communication, which emerges when we make eye contact with each other, put down our cell phones and pay attention.
- The family grows when we are ready to serve.
Service is knowing the needs of others and — to the extent that it’s possible and wholesome — try to satisfy them. We need to do good, says the Pope: this requires a bit of self-denial and selflessness. Fr. Kentenich used to say: he who serves, reigns.
- The third requirement is respect which implies respecting others as they are, without trying to make them fit my mould.
Respect is to exalt the “you”, it is knowing that all people, being children of the Father, are the fruit of his love and benevolence. And, as a result, treating them as such.
- In contrast, the joy of love requires having and giving trust.
We feel good when someone tells us: “I can trust you.” The other person also feels good when we trust them, open up our souls and share our joys, fears, and desires. Trust is often destroyed – we let others down and are let down ourselves. And even though it is difficult to restore this trust that is a giving of the self to a “you,” it is not impossible when there are noble and upright hearts.
- Acceptance and understanding.
We are different, we have different temperaments, histories and different family traditions. This makes us original and, therefore, able to complement one another. This is why it is good, says the Pope, to give time to others, knowing that the best fruits need a mature and substantial development. Praise and encouragement are signs of acceptance. Without giving and receiving “tenderness for the soul,” life becomes more hostile.
- The joy of love is sustained with freedom and closeness
We need both: healthy autonomy and a close and attentive presence. The risk of freedom is not easy: it requires trust, dialogue, and shared values. The “you” is a gift and not property that I can dispose of at will.
- Finally, openness to the grace of God.
Only in God can we start afresh: forgiving because He forgives us, giving thanks for the “gift” of the other and experiencing the encounter as if it were the first, the only, the last. This brings joy to the family every morning.
I invite you to live these attitudes, which are the deposits of mercy. Start with an examination of conscience and take a “particular examination” during this time as a contribution to the “joy of love.” This gives meaning to death and resurrection, like Jesus on Good Friday and the victorious Easter morning.
Original: Spanish. Translation: Sarah-Leah Pimentel, Cape Town, South Africa