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Themes for the New Evangelization and the Family in Preparation for the Second World Meeting with the Holy Father

Rio de Janeiro, October 4-5, 1997,
the Year dedicated to Jesus Christ in the Journey towards the Third Millennium


In preparation for the Second World Meeting of the Holy Father with Families in Rio de Janeiro, October 4-5 1997, we offer the Episcopal Conferences of the world, the parish clergy, those working for the pastoral care of the family, movements, associations and groups, and all families, this PASTORAL AID, for greater understanding of the teaching of the Church on the family and adequate preparation for this important event.


The World Meeting of the Holy Father with Families cannot be regarded as just a happening, limited in space and time to two days of celebration and reflection. On the contrary, it should be considered the culmination of a series of activities aimed at reflecting on the family and life, on the institution of marriage, especially in a world where the values of marriage and the family are often damaged.

We have to "rediscover" the original values of the institution of the family itself, and find ways sustaining and supporting them starting from the family itself and the institutions working for the protection of the common good.

In this spirit, we have drawn up twelve themes following the structure of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio - as a kind of guide - that can be used by various workers in the pastoral care of the family. These themes respond somewhat to the most varied concerns and problems of the family today. By reflecting on the fundamental and basic elements of the institution of the family, when faced with real challenges, families will realize that they are not alone, that the difficulties they encounter are not insurmountable, that they can overcome the forces of evil surrounding them with adequate preparation and firm unity, and, above all, that the Lord, "the Bridegroom", is with them. For this reason we have put the essential christological dimension first in the reflection, which also follows the theme proposed for 1997 in Tertio Millennio Adveniente: "Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of the World, yesterday, today and for ever" (Hebrews 13:8).

As mother and teacher, the Church also stands beside families, with the great riches of the Magisterium that provide so much guidance in the present circumstances: the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, the Charter of the Rights of the Family, the Letter to Families, Gratissiman Sane and the recent Encyclical Evangelium Vitae. All these documents shed light on family life and help families as they make their day-by-day journey.

The overall theme of the World Meeting of the Holy Father with Families in Rio de Janeiro will be: The family, gift and commitment, hope for humanity. This will be the central subject for specific study in the Theological-Pastoral Congress that will also take place in Rio, from October 1 to 3. Therefore, although the themes of the reflections put forward here do not strictly follow that overall theme, they will help make it better understood.


We propose a journey of reflection, preferably through FAMILY GATHERINGS, leaving the Bishops fee to make use of the content of the material in the ways they consider most suitable because of cultures and customs, as well as the time when these themes will be presented. They can also be enriched, for example, on suitable occasions during the liturgical seasons such as Advent, Lent, Easter, or especially significant celebrations such as mother's day or father's day. In many countries, the Bishops' Conferences organize a "family week". This material could be very useful for all these initiatives.

Finally, in so many dioceses a Mission of Evangelization may be taking place in preparation for the Jubilee in the year 2000. These family themes could be especially helpful in enriching such a Mission of Evangelization, aware that "it is necessary that the preparation for the great Jubilee pass, in a certain sense, through each family." (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 28)

The themes of this pastoral aid may be useful for those working especially for the family, not only for priests, but also religious men and women, and married people, in making the Family Gatherings become a dialogue. These gatherings consist of bringing families together, parents and children (according to the limitations of space), adequately accompanied, to reflect on the themes proposed.


  1. Opening song/hymn(1)
  2. The Lord's Prayer
  3. Scripture Reading
  4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church(2)
  5. The Bishop's Reflection(3)
  6. Dialogue(4)
  7. Commitments(5)
  8. Psalm(6)
  9. The Hail Mary with the invocation: Queen of the Family: Pray for us.
  10. Prayer for the Family
  11. Final song/hymn

Whoever coordinates the meeting, in the role of facilitator, should know the teaching of the Church well and be ready to intervene, if necessary, and be able to enlighten or to clarify any doubtful points that may arise. This is why it is most important for those responsible for the meetings to be adequately prepared.

At the end of this booklet, the documents of the Magisterium dealing with the family are set out. It will be useful to have these at hand and those in charge of the meetings should be familiar with them.

The Pontifical Council for the Family thanks all who helped in preparing this material with their advice and timely assistance: the Episcopal Council for Latin America (CELAM), the National Conference of Bishops of Brasil (CNBB), the Archdiocese of San Sebastián de Rio de Janeiro, and the experts and collaborators in Rome.
















1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 6: 15-18

"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? shall I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, 'The two shall become one.' But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body."

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church:

God is love...Creating the human race in his own image and continually keeping it in being, God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.

The family has always been considered as the first and basic expression of man's social nature...The family originates in marital communion...a covenant in which man and woman give themselves to each other and accept each other.

Consequently sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and a woman commit themselves totally to one another until death. The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present. If the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally.

The only "place" in which this self-giving in its whole truth is made possible is marriage, the covenant of conjugal love freely and consciously chosen, whereby man and woman accept the intimate community of life and love willed by God himself (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48), which only in this light manifests its true meaning.

The institution of marriage is not an undue inference by society or by authority, nor the extrinsic imposition of a form. Rather it is an interior requirement of the covenant of conjugal love which is publicly affirmed as unique and exclusive in order to live in complete fidelity to God the Creator. A person's freedom, far from being restricted by this fidelity, is secured against every form of subjectivism or relativism and is made a sharer in creative wisdom.

This totality which is required by conjugal love also corresponds to the demands of responsible fertility. This fertility is directed to the generation of a human being, and so by its nature it surpasses the purely biological order and involves a whole series of personal values. For the harmonious growth of these values a persevering and unifed contribution of both parents is necessary.

...Jesus Christ, the bridegroom who loves and gives himself as the Saviour of humanity, uniting it to himself as his body...reveals the original truth of marriage, the truth of the "beginning" (cf. Genesis 2: 24; Matthew 19: 5) and, freeing man from his hardness of heart, he makes man capable of realizing this truth in its entirety. (cf. Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio, Gratissimam Sane)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

What is the moral disorder involved in fornication and pre-marital relations?

Why is marriage the only "place" where conjugal giving is possible?

Why does establishing a family first require a marriage commitment?

7. Commitments (for example...)

To appreciate and value the marriage commitment which sustains and guides my family.

A concrete action that shows my spouse or my parents how grateful I am for their gift.

8. Psalm 132 (133)

"Behold how good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell in unity!"

9. Hail Mary.....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn



1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: Matthew 19: 4-8

"Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.' They said to him, 'Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away? He said to them, 'For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.'"

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church:

The family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its own identity, what it is, but also its mission, what it can and should do. The role that God calls the family to perform in history derives from what the family is; its role represents the dynamic and existential development of what it is. Each family finds within itself a summons that cannot be ignored and that specifies both its dignity and its responsibility: Family become what you are.

...the family has the mission to become more and more what it is, that is to say a community of life and love in an effort that will find fulfilment, as will everything created and redeemed, in the kingdom of God.

But if it is to achieve the full flowering of its life and mission, the married couple must practise an affectionate sharing of thought and common deliberation as well as eager cooperation as parents in their children's upbringing. The active presence of the father is very important for their training: the mother, too, has a central role in the home, for the children, especially the younger children, depend on her considerably; this role must be safeguarded without underrating women's legitimate social advancement.

Looking at it in such a way as to reach its roots, we must say that the essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God's love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church, his bride.

Every particular task of the family is an expression and concrete actuation of that fundamental mission...Thus with love as its point of departure and making constant reference to it....(these are the) four general tasks for the family:

1) Forming a community of persons;

2) Serving life;

3) Participating in the development of society;

4) Sharing in the life and mission of the Church.

(cf. Familiaris Consortio, Gaudium et Spes)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

What does it mean that the family is a communion or a community of life and love?

What is the foundation of this community?

So what are the main tasks in the mission of the family? What are the specific tasks of the father and the mother?

7. Commitments

8. Psalm 14 (15)

"Who shall dwell in your tent, O Lord?"

9. Hail Mary....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn



1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5: 25-30

"Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church:

The family, which is founded and given life by love, is a community of persons: of husband and wife, of parents and children, of relatives. Its first task is to live with fidelity the reality of communion in a constant effort to develop an authentic community of persons.

The first communion is the one which is established and which develops between husband and wife. By virtue of the covenant of married life, the man and woman "are no longer two but one flesh"(Matthew 19: 26; cf. Genesis 2: 24) and they are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving.

This conjugal communion sinks its roots in the natural complementarity that exists between man and woman and is nurtured by the spiritual willingness of the spouses to share their entire life project, what they have and what they the Lord Christ, God takes up this human need, confirms it, purifies it and elevates it, leading it to perfection through the sacrament of matrimony: the Holy Spirit...offers Christian couples the gift of a new communion of love that is the living and real image of that unique unity that makes of the Church the indivisible mystical body of the Lord Jesus.

The inner principle of that task, its permanent power and its final goal is love. Without love the family is not a community of persons and, in the same way, without love the family cannot live, grow and perfect itself as a community of persons.

Such a communion is radically contradicted by polygamy: This, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women, who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive. (Likewise divorce is opposed to the personal and total self-giving of spouses, as well as the good of the children).

...the indissolubility (and unity) of marriage finds its ultimate truth in the plan that God has manifested in his revelation:....the absolutely faithful love that God has for man and that the Lord Jesus has for the Church. (cf. Familiaris Consortio)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

What does it mean that married people are no longer two but one flesh?

What does "what God has joined, let no one put asunder" mean?

Communion in marriage - is it already fully perfect or must it grow and continue being perfected?

Polygamy, divorce and "free love" - are these manifestations of liberation or slavery?

7. Commitments

8. Psalm 121 (122)

"I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord!'"

9. Hail Mary....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn



1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: Genesis 2: 21-24

"So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.' Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh."

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church:

The moral criterion for the authenticity of conjugal and family relationships consists in fostering the dignity and vocation of the individual persons, who achieve their fullness by sincere self-giving.

Above all it is important to underline the equal dignity and responsibility of women with men. This equality is realized in a unique manner in that reciprocal self-giving by each one to the other and by both to the children which is proper to marriage and the family. What human reason intuitively perceives and acknowledges is fully revealed by the word of God. The history of salvation, in fact, is a continuous and luminous testimony to the dignity of women.

In creating the human race "male and female" (Genesis 1: 27), God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity, endowing them with the inalienable rights and responsibilities proper to the human person.

The true advancement of women requires that clear recognition be given to the value of their maternal and family role, by comparison with other public roles and all other professions. No programme of equal rights between women and men is valid unless it takes this fact fully into account. There is no doubt that the equal dignity and responsibility of men and women fully justifies women's access to public functions.

(This is why it is necessary to discover) the original and irreplaceable meaning of work in the home and in rearing children. Society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not in practice compelled to work outside the home...

The Christian message about the dignity of women is contradicted by that persistent mentality which considers the human being not as a person but as a thing, as an object of trade, at the service of selfish interest and mere pleasure: The first victims of this mentality are women. (cf. Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio, Mulieris Dignitatem)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

What is the primary criterion of family relationships and the importance or dignity of the person?

Why isn't work in the home seen as deserving esteem and social recognition? What are the social costs of women working outside the home?

Does valid consent presuppose and require the equal dignity of man and woman with regard to marriage?

7. Commitments

8. Psalm 8

"O Lord, our God, how wonderful is your name in all the earth!"

9. Hail Mary....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn



1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3: 14-19

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God."

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church:

With the creation of man and woman in his own image and likeness, God crowns and brings to perfection the work of his hands: He calls them to a special sharing in his love and in his power as Creator and Father through their free and responsible cooperation in transmitting the gift of human life: "God blessed them, and God said to them, 'be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.'" (Genesis 1: 28).

Thus the fundamental task of the family is to serve life, to actualize in history the orginal blessing of the Creator - that of trasmitting by procreation the divine image from person to person (cf. Genesis 5: 1-3).

Fatherhood and motherhood are themselves a particular proof of love; they make it possible to discover love's extension and original depth. But this does not take place automatically. Rather, it is a task entrusted to both husband and wife...Experience teaches that human love, which naturally tends towards fatherhood and motherhood, is sometimes affected by a profound crisis....

(Fatherhood and motherhood are) the fruit and the sign of conjugal love, the living testimony of the full reciprocal self-giving of the spouses: "While not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole meaning of family life which results from it, have this aim: that the couple be ready with stout hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Saviour, who through them will enlarge and enrich his own family day by day." (Gaudium et Spes, 50)

However, the fruitfulness of conjugal love is not restricted solely to the procreation of children, even understood in its specifically human dimension: It is enlarged and enriched by all those fruits of moral, spiritual and supernatural life which the father and mother are called to hand on to their children, and through the children to the Church and to the world. Indeed children are the supreme gift of marriage and greatly contribute to the good of the parents themselves. (cf. Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio, Gratissimam Sane)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

What and where is the root of the dignity of the parents' mission in transmitting life?

Why are children the supreme gift of marriage that greatly contribute to the good of the parents themselves?

What are the human and Christian motives for carrying out this task of parenthood?

7. Commitments

8. Psalm 94 (95)

"Sing a new song to the Lord."

9. Hail Mary....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn



1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 1: 22-23

"Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God."

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church:

The Spirit which the Lord pours forth gives a new heart, and renders man and woman capable of loving one another as Christ has loved us. Conjugal love reaches that fullness to which it is interiorly ordained, conjugal charity, which is the proper and specific way in which the spouses participate in an and are called to live the very charity of Christ, who gave himself on the cross.

Precisely because the love of husband and wife is a unique participation in the mystery of life and of the love of God himself, the Church knows that she has received the special mission of guarding and protecting the lofty dignity of marriage and the most serious responsibility of the transmission of human life.

Thus (the Magisterium)...reaffirms and reproposes with clarity the Church's teaching and norm, always old yet always new, rgarding marriage and regarding the transmission of human life...(as the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Popes teach)...that love between husband and wife must be fully human, exclusive and open to new life.

The Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae affirms:..the Church, which interprets natural law through its unchanging doctrine, reminds men and women that the teachings based on natural law must be be obeyed and teaches that it is necessary that each conjugal act remain ordained in itself to the procreating of human life (n. 11).

When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings that God has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as "arbiters" of the divine plan and they "manipulate" and degrade human sexuality and with it themselves and their married partner by altering its value of "total" self-giving.

Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life, but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.

In the context of a culture which seriously distorts or entirely misinterprets the true meaning of human sexuality because it separates it from its essential reference to the person, the Church more urgently feels how irreplaceable is her mission of presenting sexuality as a value and task of the whole person, created male and female in the image of God.

In this perspective the Second Vatican Council clearly affirmed that "when there is a question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspect of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives. It must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his or her acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. Such a goal cannot be achieved unless the virtue of conjugal chastity is sincerely practised." (Gaudium et Spes, 51) (cf. Gaudium et Spes, Humanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

What are the moral requirements for rightly living married love?

Why is contraception opposed to the goodness of married love?

What links are there between contraception, infidelity, abortion and divorce?

7. Commitments

8. Psalm 15 (16)

"Defend me, my God, for in you I take refuge."

9. Hail Mary....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn



1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 3: 16-19

"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If any one destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and that temple you are." Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of the world is folly with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their craftiness.'"

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church:

The family is truly the sanctuary of life: the place in which life - the gift of God - can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth. Consequently the role of the family in building a culture of life is decisive and irreplaceable.

If the family is so important for the civilization of love, it is because of the particular closeness and intensity of the bonds which come to be between persons and generations within the family. This is why the culture of death attacks the family, because it is the centre and the heart of the civilization of love. However, the family remains vulnerable and can easily fall prey to dangers which weaken it or destroy its unity and stability.

But the Church firmly believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a splendid gift of God's goodness. Against the pessimism and selfishness which cast a shadow over the world, the Church stands for life: In each human life she sees the splendor of that "yes", that "amen", who is Christ himself (cf. 2 Corinthians 1: 19; Revelation 3: 14). To the "no" which assails and afflicts the world, she replies with this living "yes", thus defending the human person and the world from all who plot against and harm life.

The Church...promotes human life by every means and defends it against all attacks in whatever condition or state of development it is found. Thus the Church condemns as a great offence against human dignity and justice all those activities of governments or other public authorities which attempt to limit in any way the freedom of couples in deciding about children. Consequently any violence applied by such authorities in favour of contraception or, still worse, of sterilization and procured abortion must be altogether condemned and forcefully rejected.

Likewise to be denounced as gravely unjust are cases where in international relations economic help given for the advancement of peoples is made conditional on programmes of contraception, sterilization and procured abortion. (cf. Familiaris Consortio, Centesimus Annus, Evangelium Vitae)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

Why is the family the best environment for the birth, growth and education of children?

What are the ways to help families where the children are in danger?

How can mothers be helped who are tempted to have an abortion? How can mothers be helped who have already had an abortion?

7. Commitments

8. Psalm 68 (69)

"Save me, O my God!"

9. Hail Mary....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn



1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5: 15-21

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father."

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church:

The Church interprets the moral norm and proposes it to all people of good will without concealing its demands of radicalness and perfection. She is convinced that there can be no true contradiction between the divine law on transmitting human life and that on fostering authentic married love.

In particular, responsible fatherhood and motherhood directly concern the moment in which a man and a woman, uniting themselves in one flesh, can become parents. This is a moment of special value both for their inter-personal relationship and for their service to life...The two dimensions of conjugal union, the unitive and the procreative, cannot be artificially separated without damaging the deepest truth of the conjugal act itself.

Accordingly, the concrete pedagogy of the Church must always remain linked with her doctrine and never be separated from it. To diminish in no way the saving teaching of Christ constitutes an eminent form of charity for souls....a tenacious and courageous effort to create and uphold all the human conditions - psychological, moral and spiritual - indispensable for understanding and living the moral value and norm.

There is no doubt that these conditions must include persistence and patience, humility and strength of mind, filial trust in God and in his grace, and frequent recourse to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of reconciliation. In the Christian view, chastity by no means signifies rejection of human sexuality or lack of esteem for it: Rather it signifies spiritual energy capable of defending love from the perils of selfishness and aggressiveness, and able to advance it toward its final realization.

To dominate instinct...undoubtedly requires ascetical particular with regard to the observance of periodic continence...It demands continual effort, yet thanks to its beneficent influence husband and wife fully develop their personalities...Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace...and helps both parties to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love, and deepens their sense of responsibility. By its means, parents acquire the capacity of having a deeper and more efficacious influence in the education of their offspring. It will be easier for married people to make progress if (they are accompanied)...with the help and support of pastors of souls (faithful to the Church's teaching).

With regard to the question of lawful birth regulation, the ecclesial community at the present time must take on the task of instilling conviction and offering practical help to those who wish to live out their parenthood in a truly responsible way...(for example through) a more precise knowledge of the rhythms of women's fertility. A very valuable witness can and should be given by those husbands and wives who through the joint exercise of periodic continence have reached a more mature personal responsibility with regard to love and life. (cf. Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio, Gratissimam Sane)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

Is it true that responsible parenthood distances husband and wife from one another?

What is the connection between the spread of contraceptives and the breakdown of the family? Why does this relationship exist?

Can periodic continence foster understanding and love between husband and wife?

7. Commitments

8. Psalm 88 (89)

"Yet you have rejected and spurned and been enraged at your anointed."

9. Hail Mary....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn



1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6: 1-4

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honour your father and mother' (this is the first commandment with a promise), 'that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.' Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church:

The task of giving education is rooted in the primary vocation of married couples to participate in God's creative activity: By begetting a new person...parents by that very fact take on the task of helping that person effectively to live a fully human life. As the Second Vatican Council recalled: "Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children...Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues which every society needs".

This right and duty of parents to give education is esential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others...and it is irreplaceable and inalienable and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others.

The most basic element, so basic that it qualifies the educational role of parents, is parental love, which finds fulfilment in the task of education as it completes and perfects its service of life...the parents' love is also the animating principle...inspiring and guiding all concrete educational activity, enriching it with the values of kindness, constancy, goodness, service, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that are the most precious fruit of love.

In the raising of children conjugal love is expressed as authentic parental love. The communion of persons, expressed as conjugal love at the beginning of the family, is thus completed and brought to fulfilment in the raising of children.

Parents must trustingly and courageously train their children in the essential values of human life...a correct attitude of freedom with regard to material goods...a sense of true justice...respect for the personal dignity of each individual...a sense of true love, understood as...disinterested service with regard to others, especially the poorest and those in most need.

The family (represents) the most concrete and effective pedagogy for the active, responsible and fruitful inclusion of the children in the wider horizon of society. Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance whether at home or in educational centres chosen and controlled by them. In this regard, the Church reaffirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents.

For this reason, the Church is firmly opposed to an often widespread form of imparting sex information dissociated from moral principles. That would merely be an introduction to the experience of pleasure and a stimulus leading to the loss of serenity - while still in the years of innocence - by opening the way to vice. (cf. Gravissimum Educationis, Familiaris Consortio, Gratissimam Sane)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

What are the central values of irreplaceable parental education?

Can the duty to educate be delegated by parents to the school or to others?

How is the sexual education of children to be carried out?

7. Commitments

8. Psalm 126 (127)

"Unless the Lord build the house."

9. Hail Mary....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn



1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: Mark 3: 20-25

"Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. And when his friends heard it, they went out to seize him, for they said, 'He is beside himself.' And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, 'He is possessed by Be-el-zebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out demons.' And he called them to him, and said to them in parables, 'How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.'"

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church

The family has always been considered as the first and basic expression of man's social nature. (It is the primary and original society, preceding all other natural societies.)

The family has vital and organic links with society since it is its foundation and nourishes it continually through its role of service to life. It is from the family that citizens come to birth and it is within the family that they find the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principle of the existence and development of society itself.

The very experience of communion and sharing that should characterize the family's daily life represents its first and fundamental contribution to society. The relationships between the members of the family are inspired and guided by the law of "free giving". By respecting and fostering personal dignity in each and every one as the only basis for value, this free giving takes the form of heartfelt acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity.

Thus the fostering of authentic and mature communion between persons within the family is the first and irreplaceable school of social life, and example and stimulus for the broader community of relationships marked by respect, justice dialogue and love.

The family is thus...the place of origin and the most effective means for humanizing and personalizing society. It makes an original contribution in depth to building up the world by making possible a life that is properly speaking human, in particular by guarding and transmitting virtues and "values". In the family, the various generations come together and help one another to grow wiser and to harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social living.

Consequently, faced with a society that is running the risk of becoming more and more depersonalized and standardized and therefore inhuman and dehumanizing, with the negative results of many forms of escapism - such as alcoholism, drugs and even terrorism - the family possesses and continues still to release formidable energies capable of taking man out of his anonymity, keeping him conscious of his personal dignity, enriching him with deep humanity and actively placing him, in his uniqueness and unrepeatability, within the fabric of society.

Civil authority should consider it a sacred duty to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality and promote domestic prosperity. (cf. Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio, Gratissimam Sane)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

What is the primary and fundamental social mission of parents?

How can a true formation of children be promoted in the home?

Why does the family have the right to be helped and sustained by society?

7. Commitments

8. Psalm 127 (128)

"Blessed are you who fear the Lord"

9. Hail Mary....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn



1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: Mark 16: 14-16

"Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned."

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church:

Among the fundamental tasks of the Christian family is its ecclesial task. The Family is placed at the service of the building up of the kingdom of God in history by participating in the life and mission of the Church. The marriage of baptized persons thus becomes a real symbol of that new and eternal covenant sanctioned in the blood of Christ.

In order to understand better the foundations, the contents and the characteristics of this participation, we must examine the many profound bonds linking the Church and the Christian family and establishing the family as a "church in miniature" (ecclesia domestica) (Lumen Gentium, 11), in such a way that in its own way the family is a living image and historical representation of the mystery of the Church.

It is above all, the Church as mother that gives birth to, educates and builds up the Christian family... By proclaiming the word of God the Church reveals to the Christian family its true identity, what it is and should be according to the Lord's plan; by celebrating the sacraments the Church enriches and strengthens the Christian family with the grace of the continuous proclamation of the new commandment of love the Church encourages and guides the Christian family to the service of love so that it may imitate and relive the same self-giving that the Lord Jesus has for the entire human race.

In turn, the Christian family is grafted into the mystery of the Church to such a degree as to become a sharer, in its own way, in the saving mission proper to the Church. By virtue of the sacrament Christian married couples and parents "in their state and way of life have their own special gift among the people of God" (Lumen Gentium, 11). For this reason they not only receive the love of Christ and become a saved community, but they are also called upon to communicate Christ's love to their brethren thus becoming a saving community.

The Christian family...(places) itself in what it is and what it does as an intimate community of life and love at the service of the Church and of society. The spouses together as a couple, the parents and children as a family, must live their service to the Church and to the world. The Christian family also builds up the kingdom of God in history through the everyday realities that concern and distinguish its state of life.

The Second Vatican Council recalls this fact when it writes: "...the Christian family, which springs from marriage as a reflection of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church, and as a participation in that covenant, will manifest to all people the Saviour's living presence in the world and the genuine nature of the Church. This the family will do by the mutual love of the spouses, by their generous fruitfulness, their solidarity and faithfulness, and by the loving way in which all the members of the family work together". (Gaudium et Spes, 48) (cf. Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

What is the family's main task for the Church?

How can the mission of parents as the first evangelizers be carried out?

The family is a "domestic church": what does this mean?

7. Commitments

8. Psalm 110 (111)

"I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart."

9. Hail Mary....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn



1. Opening song/hymn

2. The Lord's Prayer

3. Scripture Reading: Matthew 6: 6 and 8; 5: 48

"But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you......for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

4. A Reading from the Teaching of the Church:

The followers of Christ, called by God not in virtue of their works but by his design and grace, and justified in the Lord Jesus, have been made sons of God in the baptism of faith and partakers of the divine nature, and so are truly sanctified.

(This universal call to holiness is also addressed to all Christian married couples and parents. For them it becomes specific through the celebration of the sacrament of marriage and it is concretely translated into the real situations of married life and the family.) Our Saviour, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of marriage. He abides with them in order that by their mutual self-giving spouses will love each other with enduring fidelity, as he loved the Church and delivered himself for it.

By describing himself as a Bridegroom, Jesus reveals the essence of God and confirms his immense love for mankind. But the choice of this image also throws light indirectly on the profound truth of spousal love. Indeed by using this image in order to speak about God, Jesus shows to what extent the fatherhood and the love of God are reflected in the love of a man and a woman united in marriage.

Spouses, therefore, are fortified and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state by a special sacrament; fulfilling their conjugal and family role by virtue of this sacrament, spouses are penetrated with the spirit of Christ and their whole life is suffused by faith, hope, and charity; thus they increasingly further their own perfection and their mutual sanctification, and together they render glory to God.

All married life is a gift; but this becomes most evident when the spouses, in giving themselves to each other in love, bring about that encounter which makes them one flesh (Genesis 2: 24). Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is directed and enriched by the redemptive power of Christ and the salvific action of the Church, with the result that the spouses are effectively led to God and are helped and strengthened in their lofty role as fathers and mothers. (cf., Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes, Gratissimam Sane)

5. The Bishop's Reflection

6. Dialogue:

What does conjugal holiness mean?

What are the fundamental elements of a holy life in the family?

How can dialogue on holiness be carried out with other families and with children?

7. Commitments

8. Psalm 92 (93)

"The Lord is King, in splendour robed."

9. Hail Mary....Queen of the Family: Pray for us.

10. Prayer for the Family

11. Final song/hymn


Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution, GAUDIUM ET SPES, nos. 47-52.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: The sacrament of marriage, nos. 1601-1666; human and Christian sexuality, nos. 2331-2359 and 2514-2529; love of spouses and offences against the dignity of marriage, nos. 2360-2391.


Encyclical Letter, HUMANAE VITAE, July 25, 1968

Apostolic Exhortation, EVANGELII NUNTIANDI, December 8, 1975


Apostolic Exhortation, FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO, November 22, 1981


Encyclical Letter, MULIERIS DIGNITATEM, August 15, 1988

Letter to Families, GRATISSIMAM SANE, February 2, 1994

LETTER TO CHILDREN, for the Year of the Family, December 13, 1994

Encyclical Letter, EVANGELIUM VITAE, March 25, 1995

LETTER TO WOMEN, June 29, 1995

Apostolic Letter, TERTIO MILLENNIO ADVENIENTE, November 10, 1994


PERSONA HUMANA, Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, December 29, 1975

DONUM VITAE, Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and the Dignity of Procreation, February 22, 1987


FROM DESPAIR TO HOPE: Family and Drug Addiction, 1992

IN THE SERVICE OF LIFE (Instrumentum laboris), 1992


THE TRUTH AND MEANING OF HUMAN SEXUALITY: Guidelines for Education within the Family, December 8, 1995



(1) This should be well known and hopefully it should correspond with the theme of the reflection.

(2) We have taken this mainly from the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, with texts from the Second Vatican Council, the Letter to Families Gratissimam Sane, and the Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae.

(3) Here we seek creativity: the introductory theme should preferably be given by the Bishop. To achieve this, his message could be provided on a recorded casette or a video. On the basis of this given text, the co-ordinator of the meeting will later open dialogue on the theme.

(4) Some questions have been worked out which might serve for the dialogue. These are an attempt to apply the message of God in the real and concrete life situation. The questions are only suggestions and others can be added so that the dialogue can be lively and enriching.

(5) At the end of each meeting, those taking part should leave with some concrete commitments, so that their work and reflection will really bear fruit in their lives and families. In the first theme, some commitments have been set out as an example.

(6) As a prayerful response to the day's reflection.