Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil - Pastoral Letter - 2006

Pastoral letter issued by Cardinal Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of the Syro Malabar rite Catholic Church


Dearly beloved in the Lord,

The year 2006 is being celebrated in many of our eparchies as the year of the family. As part of the celebration, already there must have been many awareness-building programmes organised in some of these eparchies. Nevertheless, we still have to go a long way in this regard in order to generate abundant fruits of the Renewal Year in the personal, family and societal levels of our life. Family is the basic unit of the Church and Society. Family and its mission is always a subject man ought to study deeply. The changes affecting human life today in its various spheres raise new challenges regarding family life. On the one hand we have increasing un-employment, job-environments that are not conducive to good family life and the migration of people to foreign countries while on the other hand there are ever-increasing anti-life outlook, uncontrolled selfishness and pleasure seeking. The evil effects of the destruction of the family arena which fosters the formation of new individuals will be far-reaching, resulting in a situation endangering even the very existence of humankind.

It is in the family that the transmission of the ancestral values and life-styles and the initiation of good education ought to take place. But the onslaught of the communication media and globalisation and the resulting distorted outlook on life and the culture of consumerism have affected our families very negatively and weaken family bonds. While social evils like alcoholism and drug addiction destroy the foundations of family life, other evils like abortion, suicide and family strife erode its very essence like cancer.

Today at least in 25 countries of Europe sufficient number of children to maintain the present level of population are not born. They are slowly becoming countries of old people. In 2004, there was one person out of five who could not work. But by the year 2050, latest calculations indicate that the number of persons who would not be able to work will be shockingly more - one person out of two, i.e., half the population. It is not the lack of economic resources or good health that has caused a lower birth rate in these countries. The reason for this appalling situation is the culture of death severely criticised by Pope John Paul II and the lack of love pointed out by Pope Benedict XVI.

These influences do find their way into our society too. It is in this context that the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church requested the Major Archbishop to issue a pastoral letter for all our eparchies concerning the sanctity of marriage and family life. Marriage is a holy sacrament instituted by God. The world and every one of us within it are created by God. God made Man a collaborator in His work of creation through sexuality which is the power of sincere love.

The Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI basing on the words from St. John's epistle "God is Love" (1 Jn 4:10) deals with the sanctification of sexuality. The Pope likens sexuality as an exodus of Man from the prison of his selfishness to a state of deliverance through self-giving. It is in the self-giving of love that sexuality becomes divine. It is only through the path of discipline and self-control sexuality can be sanctified. Otherwise sexuality will degenerate into mere pleasures of the flesh and an indefatigable craving for such momentary pleasures.

We can observe the tendency today of making the other as our prey for satisfying our desires and means for our pleasures. Many do not even recognise the grave problems this tendency creates in families. The Father and the Husband who cannot provide better comforts to his family become worthless. The wife who cannot give pleasure loses her worth. Children become hindrance to a life of pleasure. Persons who are driven by excessive desire end up in the hell of selfishness. In pursuit of their selfish joys, even those who can afford to bring up children, do not want them. Those who have the means should come forward to have more children and bring them up. Responsible fatherhood and motherhood demand this. The impact of a market mentality that has eaten into human relationships is visible on all levels of society.

Relationships outside marriage, the tendency to dissolve marriages even on flimsy grounds, entering into family life after having had pre-marital relationships - all these destroy the very foundations of family life and its flavour. Jesus taught: "Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away" (Mt 5:28-29). Jesus did not teach us to suppress our emotions. They are like fire. If fire is not controlled, it will destroy everything. Just like a mother in her kitchen controls the fire and uses it as the heat to cook food, so children should be trained to make use of their emotions in a mature manner. The primary responsibility of forming children in this regard lies on their parents.

The Church teaches about responsible motherhood and fatherhood. God has united love and procreation of children in sexuality. There should be a responsible correlation between procreation of children and their upbringing. But today the tendency to avoid having children is on the increase among the couples who are motivated by selfishness to seek their own enjoyment. There is sin and injustice to society behind the decision of not having children by those parents who have the means and normal health. Children who have received life should become parents by imparting life. The future of the husband and wife is to be realised through their children. It is the love that is learnt in families that will flow into one's neighbours and the society.

Today there is also the tendency to spend extravagantly to obtain prestige and positions in the society. Often celebrations of marriage, betrothal, wedding anniversary, birthday celebrations, baptism, first holy communion, etc. become celebrations of extravagance. This is an indication of the wrong priorities of values. The hopeless debt trap into which many families have fallen after such celebrations is also a problem to be seriously considered. Even when it is said that family life is faced with many problems, it is not meant that all families are victims of such problems. It is to be noted that there are many families which lead lives of exemplary husband - wife and parents - children relationships.

In order to counter effectively the challenges that affect families adversely, there are very effective means such as the Holy Eucharist, family prayer, meditation of the Word of God, and reception of sacraments. It is by taking part in the Eucharist that the couples can renew their love and unity. It is by remembering in the Eucharist the great mysteries of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus that they are empowered to overcome the sufferings, temptations, disappointments and failures in their lives. The sufferings and sorrows in the families will provide to them in the context of their love, the true peace and joy of the Resurrection. It is through the participation in the Eucharist and the reception of the sacraments that the couples become capable of self-sacrificing love. Let us not forget the words of Jesus: "I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:5).

Family is the arena where heavenly mysteries are lived out. Family meals in our homes should become similar to the commemoration of the Last Supper of our Lord. Family life is a life of sacrifice. I pray that family life become a holy celebration where one's own body and blood is shared with the others. Praying for the blessing of God and the true joy and peace of family life upon every father and mother, husband and wife, the youth and children in our families, I bless you in the name of + the Father and + the Son and + the Holy Spirit.

Given at Kakkanad from the Major Archiepiscopal Curia of the Syro-Malabar Church at Mount St Thomas on 10 July 2006.

+Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil
Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church

N.B: This pastoral letter is to be read out during the Holy Mass on Sunday, 13 August 2006 in all churches and chapels of the Syro-Malabar Church where there is Sunday Mass for the public.
Coutesy: ICNS

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

applause!!! Your Grace, this article is simply excellent. would like to read more articles like this at this forum.