The World Meeting of Families which took place in Rome (June 22-26), was an oasis of hope for the family and a glimpse of optimism for the future. Some 2,000 delegates elected by the Bishops' Conferences, the Synods of the Oriental Churches and international ecclesial realities traveled to Rome to participate in the meeting.
Formation and accompaniment seem to be the key words of this year's meeting. Pope Francis wanted it to serve as the culmination of the year. Amoris Laetitia proclaimed by the Pontiff just one year ago.
We have been hearing for some time that preparation for marriage is essential, with special insistence on the importance of remote preparation. At the same time, being born into a Christian family and having more or less established family values does not guarantee marital success. The marriages that run into difficulties and often end up breaking up are not only non-believers but also people who we could say Church.
Gabriella Gambino is the deputy secretary at the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life and main organizer of the event. She explains to Omnes some of the key aspects of the World Meeting of Families:
Is it not enough to know the theory of marriage and relationships for a marriage to last? Do you think it would be necessary to make young people more aware of the need to prepare themselves for this new adventure?
I believe that an essential point in marriage preparation is to be able to listen to the testimony of other couples who are already living married life. They know the difficulties and have also learned the strategies to achieve a better marriage. take advantage of the grace of the sacrament of marriage. The Christian sacrament marks the difference between a civil marriage and a canonical one: In one, the presence of Christ is found between the spouses. And before marriage, no one knows this presence. It is a beauty, a gift, that can only be experienced in marriage itself.
But as engaged couples, we have to form ourselves for this, placing Christ at the center of our lives. You have to know how to listen and learn to grasp precisely the signs of his presence in our concrete daily life, in the simplest things. If you do not learn to do this from an early age with a remote preparation for marriage and then a gradual preparation that leads you little by little to the sacrament, it is difficult to learn to do it later in a sudden way. Remote preparation makes it possible for young people to find faith and learn to recognize Christ already during courtship.
In this regard, the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life has recently published "Catechumenal Itineraries for Married Life". These pastoral guidelines for the particular Churches are intended precisely as a kind of preparation for marriage. However, many media have labeled the document as a "memorandum of sexual morality".
The itineraries are a fundamental tool for rethinking the entire vocation ministry in the Church. It is fundamental to accompany children in understanding the beauty of marriage and the family, which are a gift within the Church. And parents must be helped to accompany their children in this discovery because they cannot do it alone. Today, the family is facing many challenges: The smartphonesOften they propose life models that are completely different from what parents expect for their children, starting with the vision of affectivity and sexuality.
The itineraries have precisely the purpose of helping parents on a remote path. To really help them to cultivate values such as chastity, which serve precisely to protect children in their ability to prepare themselves for total love forever. And today it is very important not to leave families alone on this path.
Another of the topics discussed at the congress was precisely that of the education of young people in affectivity and sexuality. There are many parents who still approach these topics as taboo subjects, in a superficial way. Do you think there is a change of mentality? Are the new generations less afraid to discuss these topics with their children or with their friends?
The subject of sexuality is a complex one within the family. Certainly, today, young people are put to the test, challenged by so many messages they receive from a complex world. Parents need to be trained in these areas. They have to keep up with the times by developing greater relational or empathic skills, dialoguing with their children on these issues. From childhood and adolescence to adulthood.
The way we talk to our younger children about affectivity and sexuality will not be the same as when they are 16 and 17 years old. But when that time comes, it will be very important to have initiated a dialogue with them from a young age and to keep that dialogue open. This allows us to address these issues and the questions they generate later on, which otherwise can become a source of inner restlessness because, nowadays, young people are forced to have very strong early experiences that later mark their human and spiritual life.
What difference does it make to learn these things at home, in the family, by watching the example of the parents, than to learn them outsidethrough cell phones or other devices in general?
Receiving values at home is necessary to know how to make better use of what they read on the Internet or what they find around them, in their own environment. From experience, we know that, if children have reading tools, critical tools to be able to observe the reality around them, and also to evaluate it intelligently, they are able to dialogue with this reality serenely.
The certainty that God blesses marriage and gives spouses the grace to face all the difficulties they encounter along the way has been lost in a certain sense. How could the sacramental value of marriage be revitalized?
First of all, with the witness of other spouses who live this grace and who can attest to its presence. Young people need to see, they need real testimonies. Nothing is more convincing than a testimony. Secondly, we must accompany engaged couples and spouses so that they learn to pray together. It is only praying together that really makes the presence of Christ alive among them. It is different from praying separately. And very different is the effect it has on the couple, on the unitive dimension. This is an aspect on which we have to work a lot so that in the communities, in the parishes, especially the spouses are really accompanied in praying together.