It would be a tragedy to neglect vital link between family based on marriage and well-being of society
Time to give fresh heart and new energy to ‘this vital social entity’
Renewing our appreciation of how married couples can be a support to each other and how the Christian vision of marriage can become a catalyst for renewal of good neighbourliness and support in local communities could offer something timely and important for us all.
My hope is that the forthcoming conference will contribute to this reimagining of the link between the sacrament of marriage – the call to witness to the faithful love of God for his church – and the renewal of community and good neighbourliness in our society.
This hope extends to our understanding of the Christian vocation of the family, based on marriage. The family is where the Christian faith is first encountered and lived. It is where we learn, in concrete experience, what it means to love and care for others, what it is to be “a good neighbour”, what it is to be a good friend.
When families become effective strangers to each other, each member absorbed or closed in on their own “life” and interests, it is not only the family that begins to disintegrate but society and the social bonds of friendship and neighbourliness.
Pope Francis captured this link in one his addresses for World Youth Day in Rio this summer. “There is neither real promotion of the common good nor real human development when there is ignorance of the fundamental pillars that govern a nation, its non-material goods: life . . . and the family, the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation.”
The guest speaker for our conference will be Dr Stijn Van den Bossche, from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. Dr Stijn is a layman, married with three grown-up children. Last year he collaborated on a new course on marriage which was looked at the questions: How does marriage teach us what being a Christian is about? How does being a Christian teach us what marriage is about?
In these questions lie the seeds of a renewed appreciation of the vital link between the family based on marriage and the wellbeing of society, a link that would be a tragedy for this generation to neglect.
Dr Christopher Jones is Bishop of Elphin and chairman of the Irish Bishops’ Conference Council for Marriage and the Family. catholicbishops.ie
For further information on the conference, email: email@example.com