HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE
DUBLIN – 25.08.2018 – 15.30 Visit to the St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral
Greeting of the Holy Father
I am pleased that we can meet in this historic Pro-Cathedral of Saint Mary’s, which has seen countless celebrations of the sacrament of matrimony over the years. How much love has been expressed, and how many graces have been received in this holy place! I thank Archbishop Martin for his cordial welcome. I am especially happy to be with all of you, engaged couples and married couples at different stages on the journey of sacramental love.
In a particular way, I am grateful for the testimony of Vincent and Teresa, who spoke to us of their experience of fifty years of marriage and family life. Thank you both for your words of encouragement and challenge addressed to a new generation of newlyweds and engaged couples, not only here in Ireland but throughout the world. It is so important to listen to the elderly, to our grandparents! We have much to learn from your experience of a married life sustained daily by the grace of the sacrament. In growing together in this “partnership of life and love”, you have experienced many joys and, to be sure, not a few sorrows as well. Together with all spouses who have come far along this path, you are the keepers of our collective memory. We will always need your faith-filled witness. It is a precious resource for young couples, who look to the future with excitement and hope and, perhaps… a touch of trepidation!
I also thank the young couples who have asked me several forthright questions. They are not easy to answer! Denis and Sinead are about to embark on a journey of intimate love that, in God’s plan, entails a life-long commitment. They asked how they can help others to see that marriage is not simply an institution but a vocation, a conscious and life-long decision to cherish, assist and protect one another?
Surely we have to acknowledge that nowadays we are not used to anything that really lasts for the whole of our lives. If I feel hungry or thirsty, I can eat; but my feeling of being full does not last even a day. If I have a job, I know that I might lose it against my will, or I may have to choose a different career. It is even hard to keep track of the world as it changes all around us, as people come and go in our lives, as promises are made but often broken or left unfulfilled. Perhaps what you are really asking me is something even more basic: Is there anything precious that endures at all? Even love itself? We know how easy it is today to find ourselves caught up in “the culture of the provisional”, the ephemeral. That culture strikes at the very roots of our processes of maturation, our growth in hope and love. How can we experience “the truly lasting” in this culture of the ephemeral?
Here is what I would say to you. Of all the kinds of human fruitfulness, marriage is unique. It is about a love that gives rise to new life. It involves mutual responsibility for the transmission of God’s gift of life, and it provides a stable environment in which that new life can grow and flourish. Marriage in the Church, that is, the sacrament of matrimony, shares in a special way in the mystery of God’s eternal love. When a Christian man and a woman enter into the bond of marriage, the Lord’s grace enables them freely to promise one another an exclusive and enduring love. Their union thus becomes a sacramental sign of the new and eternal covenant between the Lord and his bride, the Church. Jesus is ever present in their midst. He sustains them throughout life in their mutual gift of self, in fidelity and in indissoluble unity (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48). His love is a rock and a refuge in times of trial, but more importantly, a source of constant growth in pure and lasting love.
We know that love is God’s dream for us and for the whole human family. Please, never forget this! God has a dream for us and he asks us to make it our own. So do not be afraid of that dream! Cherish it and dream it together each day anew. In this way, you will be able to support one another with hope, strength and forgiveness at those moments when the path grows rocky and it becomes hard to see the road ahead. In the Bible, God binds himself to remain faithful to his covenant, even when we grieve him or grow weak in our love. He tells us: “I will never fail you nor forsake you!” (Heb 13:5). As husband and wife, anoint one another with those words of promise, every day for the rest of your lives. And never stop dreaming!
Stephen and Jordan are newlyweds and they asked the very important question of how parents can pass the faith on to their children. I know that the Church here in Ireland has carefully prepared catechism programmes for teaching the faith in schools and parishes. This is, of course, essential. Yet the first and most important place for passing on the faith is the home, through the quiet daily example of parents who love our Lord and trust in his word. There, in the “domestic church”, children learn the meaning of fidelity, integrity and sacrifice. They see how their mother and father interact with each other, how they care for each other and for others, how they love God and love the Church. In this way, children can breathe in the fresh air of the Gospel and learn to understand, judge and act in a manner worthy of the legacy of faith they have received. The faith is passed on “around the family table”, in ordinary conversation, in the language that persevering love alone knows how to speak.
So pray together as a family; speak of good and holy things; let our Mother Mary into your family life. Celebrate the feasts of the Christian people. Live in deep solidarity with those who suffer and are at the edges of society. When you do this with your children, their hearts will gradually fill with generous love for others. This may seem obvious to us, but sometimes we forget a little. Your children will learn how to share the goods of the earth with everyone, if they see how their parents take care of others poorer or less fortunate than themselves. In a word, your children will learn from you how to live a Christian life; you will be their first teachers in the faith.
The virtues and truths the Lord teaches us are not necessarily popular in today’s world, which has little use for the weak, the vulnerable and all those it deems “unproductive”. The world tells us to be strong and independent, with little care for those who are alone or sad, rejected or sick, not yet born or dying. In a moment, I will go privately to meet some families facing grave challenges and real hardship, but who are being shown love and support by the Capuchin Fathers. Our world needs a revolution of love! Let that revolution begin with you and your families!
A few months ago, someone told me that we are losing our ability to love. Slowly but surely, we are forgetting the direct language of a caress, the strength of tenderness. There will be no revolution of love without a revolution of tenderness! By your example, may your children be guided to become a kinder, more loving, more faith-filled generation, for the renewal of the Church and of all Irish society.
In this way, your love, which is God’s gift, will sink ever deeper roots. No family can grow if it forgets its roots. Children will not grow in love if they do not learn how to converse with their grandparents. So let your love sink deep roots! Let us never forget that “all the flowers on the tree come from what is buried beneath” (Bernárdez).
Together with the Pope, may the families of the whole Church, represented this evening by couples old and young, give thanks to God for the gift of faith and the grace of Christian marriage. In turn, let us promise the Lord that we will serve the coming of his kingdom of holiness, justice and peace by our fidelity to the vows we have made, and by our steadfastness in love! To all of you, and to your families and loved ones, I give my blessing.