Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

A Letter to Families

by Catholic Bishops of Minnesota


On the Feast of the Holy Family, the Catholic bishops of Minnesota asked their priests and people to defend true Christian marriage.

Publisher & Date

Catholic Bishops of Minnesota, December 26, 2004


We have just celebrated the wonderful feast of Christmas and the minds and hearts of believers everywhere are focused on the love of God made present among us in the birth of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. With Simeon in today's Gospel from St. Luke, we give thanks for the fulfillment of God's ancient promise which our eyes have now seen:

"A revealing light to the Gentiles, the glory of your people Israel."

Renewed in that 'revealing light' and motivated by God's "glory" made manifest among us, the Bishops of Minnesota take the occasion of this Feast of the Holy Family to reflect on the profound importance of marriage and family in our society. We do so with a two-fold hope: first, encouraging the great number of families who witness daily to the permanent reality of the state of marriage and secondly, sharing our concern over growing social influences that aim at the breakdown of the marriage bond and threaten the well-being of family life.

As Catholic leaders, our message is directed primarily though not exclusively to the members of the Catholic Church. The good of marriage and family life redound on the total human community in providing the basic building blocks for a stable social environment in which each person's growth and happiness are fostered and encouraged. All men and women of good will have a stake in the proper understanding of the role that marriage and the family have for the social, political and economic order.

God is the author of human marriage (cf Gaudium et Spes, 47.2) and God's own Trinitarian life exemplifies what married life should be like. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father so completely that this mutual self-giving is the personal bond of the Holy Spirit. It is from the Church's contemplation of God's own revelation of himself that she defines marriage as a union that is total, exclusive, faithful, fruitful and indissoluble. In the act of creation, God made man for woman and woman for man (cf Genesis 2: 18), so that their love would result in their own mutual good and in the gift of new life in their children,. For this very reason, God commanded husband and wife to "be fertile and multiply; fill the earth." (Genesis 1: 28) The proper ordering of marriage, therefore, is destined for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, raised this very understanding of marriage between the baptized to the level of a sacrament, that is to say, an "efficacious sign" of God's love, dispensed to us through the action of the Holy Spirit. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 131)

Jesus did so by recalling the plan of the Creator "in the beginning," namely, that husband and wife are to be two-in-one flesh (cf Matthew 19: 6) This beautiful vocation of man and woman, intended "in the beginning," was distorted by sin, which resulted in the subsequent experience of discord, domination, jealousy, infidelity and separation. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1606) Regrettably those same forces are still present in society today to such and extent that they appear to be receiving a legitimacy and acceptance that is detrimental to a right understanding of marriage from the viewpoint of Scripture and Tradition. Here we refer to divorce, contraception, cohabitation and same-sex unions as social realities that undermine the sacredness of the marriage covenant and thwart its God-give potential. While the Church's voice may be rebuffed in a culture imbued with secular values, she must continue to address the evils that are present in society in order to protect the inherent dignity of each man and woman as well as the understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

As our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, said so succinctly last November:

"The family, founded on marriage, is a natural, irreplaceable institution and a basic element of the common good of every society. Whoever destroys this basic fabric of human coexistence, not respecting its identity and distorting its duties, causes a deep wound to society and provokes often irreparable damages."

We, as pastors, must never fail to affirm, encourage and seek to strengthen the hundreds of families who remain bound together in Christian love and who demonstrate through the weal and woe of daily challenges their determination to live the vows they have made and to fulfill the obligations that they have assumed.

To these faith-filled believers, we offer as our own the advice of St. Paul in today's second Scriptural reading:

"... clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect."

Confident in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about conversion in our lives and finding in the Holy Eucharist the source of strength for fulfilling God's intended plan for our salvation, we, the Bishops of Minnesota, offer our collective prayer for the promotion of loving, faith-filled families. We also pray for a resolve on the part of all Catholics and persons of good will to support public works and legislation that will secure the dignity and integrity of marriage and family life throughout our society.

May God's choicest blessings be yours throughout this Christmas season!

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