Look at what Pope Benedict had to say about families during his visit to Croatia:
"[Dear families,] alongside what the Church says, the testimony and commitment of the Christian family – your concrete testimony – is very important, especially when you affirm the inviolability of human life from conception until natural death, the singular and irreplaceable value of the family founded upon matrimony and the need for legislation which supports families in the task of giving birth to children and educating them. Dear families, be courageous! Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage! Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person! Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them! The good of the family is also the good of the Church. I would like to repeat something I have said in the past: “the edification of each individual Christian family fits into the context of the larger family of the Church which supports it and carries it with her ... And the Church is reciprocally built up by the family, a ‘small domestic church’” (Address of Benedict XVI to the Participants in the Ecclesial Diocesan Convention of Rome, 6 June 2005). Let us pray to the Lord, that families may come more and more to be small churches and that ecclesial communities may take on more and more the quality of a family!"
This line in particular impressed me: "Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them." I had a delightful trip yesterday afternoon with Chad Cunningham and Dillon Barker to the Mass of Thanksgiving of newly-ordained Fr. Austin Litke, O.P. in his hometown of Henderson, KY. (It was beautiful to see Fr. Richard Cash serving as Master of Ceremonies for this young priest whose vocation, eventually to priesthood in religious life, was nurtured by the older priest.) Our conversation on the way home was particularly rich. This point that openness to life is a sign of hope came up, as did the point of freedom -- liberality in its true sense -- much later in the evening. We must have been on the BXVI wavelength yesterday!
I also want to join in the Pope's prayer that "ecclesial communities may take on more and more the quality of a family" -- particularly the ecclesial community called "Vanderbilt Catholic"! This was another point that came up in our conversation: that members of these ecclesial families will look after each other -- parents and children, children and parents, priests and religious. To put is bluntly, I am not worried about who will look after me when I am old! That is why I have such a family! For example, I was talking to Chad this weekend on a very different matter dealing with Vanderbilt Catholic and said that I have a certain responsibility as "father." I really believe that. And I believe that faithful paternity, including the spiritual kind, is fruitful. It was fun Saturday night to be with Bishop Choby and a gathering of seminarians and prospective seminarians. It was nothing so much as a family cook out!
One final random comment on the Pope's words in this rambling post! While I was driving back from Cullman, AL on Saturday, I was briefly listening to a country music radio station -- these are plentiful in north Alabama! I am not good at remembering exact words or even titles or artists, but this not-particularly new song has lyrics of youthful impatience for love. At first hearing, one might have thought, as I did think, that the song was urging fornication, to put it bluntly, as so many more mainstream songs do. But listening more carefully I realized that what this young man was impatient for was marriage! And marriage as a permanent commitment. You've got to love country music! Maybe the Pope can use it to help teach the world not to "be afraid to make a commitment to another person"!