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Why should God let you into Heaven?

The document offers a broad, yet by no means exhaustive, perspective on the present-day situation of the family, on the challenges of the family and on the reflections related to the family today. The topics which are not included in the document, those in response to question 9 in the Preparatory Document miscellaneous , will be treated in the Ordinary General Assembly of The proclamation of the Gospel of the Family is an integral part of the mission of the Church, since the revelation of God sheds light on the relationship between a man and a woman, their love for each other and the fruitfulness of their relationship.

Therefore, the primary task of the Church is to proclaim the beauty of the vocation to love which holds great potential for society and the Church. The Church, fully aware that family life is not ultimately defined by difficulties and that people do not have problems only, willingly recognizes the efforts being made, primarily by young people, to bring about a new springtime for the family. This can be seen in the moving testimonies in many Church encounters where a renewed desire for marriage and family life is clearly manifested, above all in the newer generations.

It is we who tire of asking his forgiveness. This accent on mercy has had a great impact even in matters relating to marriage and the family, in that, far removed from every kind of moralism, it confirms the Christian outlook on life and opens new possibilities for the future, no matter what the personal limitations or the sins committed.

The Book of Genesis shows that man and woman are created in the image and likeness of God; in receiving and accepting each other, they recognize that they are made for each other cf. Through procreation, man and woman collaborate with God in accepting and transmitting life: Their responsibility also involves the stewardship of creation and the propagation of the human family. In biblical tradition, the beauty of human love as mirroring divine love is developed mainly in the Song of Songs and the prophets. On the cross, he gave himself up with a love to the very end and, in his resurrected body, established new relationships among people.

Jesus, in assuming human love, also perfected it cf. GS , 49 , giving man and woman a new manner of loving, which has its foundation in the irrevocable faithfulness of God. A married couple possesses the charism cf. United in an indissoluble sacramental bond, the spouses live the beauty of love, fatherhood and motherhood and the dignity of participating, in this way, in God's creative work.

Throughout the centuries, the Church has maintained her constant teaching on marriage and family. One of the highest expressions of this teaching was proposed by the Second Vatican Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes , which devotes an entire chapter to promoting the dignity of marriage and the family cf. This document defined marriage as a community of life and love cf. GS , 48 , placing love at the center of the family and manifesting, at the same time, the truth of this love in counter distinction to the various forms of reductionism present in contemporary culture.

Furthermore, Gaudium et Spes , 48 emphasizes the grounding of the spouses in Christ. In the Incarnation, he assumes human love, purifies it and brings it to fulfillment. Through his Spirit, he enables the bride and groom to live their love and makes that love permeate every part of their lives of faith, hope and charity. In this way, the bride and groom are, so to speak, consecrated and, through his grace, they build up the Body of Christ and are a domestic Church cf. LG , 11 , so that the Church, in order to fully understand her mystery, looks to the Christian family, which manifests her in a real way.

In the wake of Vatican II, the papal Magisterium has further refined the doctrine on marriage and the family. In a particular manner, Pope Paul VI, in his Encyclical Humanae Vitae , displayed the intimate bond between conjugal love and the generation of life. John Paul II devoted special attention to the family in his catechesis on human love, his Letter to Families Gratissimam sane and, especially, his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio.

FC , 13 , he described how the spouses, through their mutual love, receive the gift of the Spirit of Christ and live their call to holiness. Pope Benedict XVI, in his Encyclical Deus Caritas Est , again took up the topic of the truth of the love between man and woman, which is fully understood only in light of the love of Christ Crucified cf.

Moreover, in his Encyclical Caritas in Veritate , he emphasizes the importance of love as the principle of life in society cf. CV , 44 , the place where a person learns to experience the common good. Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Lumen Fidei , treating the connection between the family and faith, writes: Faith is no refuge for the fainthearted, but something which enhances our lives. It makes us aware of a magnificent calling, the vocation of love. The life of the Church in these times is characterized by a widespread rediscovery of the Word of God, which has had an impact in various ways in dioceses, parishes and ecclesial communities.

In places with a vibrant Christian tradition and a well-organized pastoral programme, people are responsive to the Christian doctrine on marriage and the family. In other places, many Christians, for various reasons, are found to be unaware of the very existence of this teaching. Generally speaking, it can be said that biblical teaching, particularly that in the Gospels and Pauline Letters, is more extensively known today. Nevertheless, all bishops' conferences agreed that much work remains to be done if this teaching is to become the bedrock of spirituality and the Christian life, even in reference to the family.

In this regard, the formation of the clergy stands out as particularly decisive, especially in the quality of homilies, on which the Holy Father, Pope Francis has insisted recently cf.

Challenges

Indeed, the homily is a privileged means of presenting Sacred Scripture to the faithful and explaining its relevance in the Church and everyday life. In addition to the homily, another important means is the promotion, within dioceses and parishes, of programmes which help the faithful take up the Bible in a proper way. What is recommended is not so much multiplying pastoral initiatives as inserting the Bible in every aspect of existing ministerial efforts on behalf of the family.

Every instance where the Church is called to offer pastoral care to the faithful in a family setting can provide an opportunity for the Gospel of the Family to be announced, experienced and appreciated. Oftentimes, people without due preparation find difficulty reading these documents.

Nevertheless, the responses see a need to show the essential character of the truth affirmed in these documents. Some observations attribute the responsibility for this lack of knowledge to the clergy, who, in the judgment of some of the faithful, are not sufficiently familiar with the documentation on marriage and the family, nor do they seem to have the resources for development in these areas.

Some observations inferred that the clergy sometimes feel so unsuited and ill-prepared to treat issues regarding sexuality, fertility and procreation that they often choose to remain silent. Some responses also voice a certain dissatisfaction with some members of the clergy who appear indifferent to some moral teachings. Their divergence from Church doctrine leads to confusion among the People of God. Consequently, some responses ask that the clergy be better prepared and exercise a sense of responsibility in explaining the Word of God and presenting the documents of the Church on marriage and the family.

A good number of episcopal conferences mention that, when the teaching of the Church is clearly communicated in its authentic, human and Christian beauty, it is enthusiastically received for the most part by the faithful. When an overall view of marriage and the family is sufficiently set forth according to tenets of the Christian faith, its truth, goodness and beauty is clearly visible.

On the other hand, many respondents confirmed that, even when the Church's teaching about marriage and the family is known, many Christians have difficulty accepting it in its entirety. Generally speaking, where certain elements of Christian doctrine, although relevant, receive treatment, in varying degrees, other elements are overlooked, e.

However, many responses recount how Church teaching on the dignity of human life and respect for human life might be more widely and readily accepted, at least in principle. Some responses note the importance of identifying elements from local cultures which can be of assistance in understanding Gospel values. Such is the case in many Asian cultures often centered on the family.

In these areas, some bishops' conferences argue that it is not difficult to integrate Church teaching on the family with the social and moral values present in these cultures. At the same time, attention needs to be given to the importance of intercultural exchange in proclaiming the Gospel of the Family. Ultimately, the responses and observations call for the need of establishing real, practical formation programmes through which the truths of the faith on the family might be presented, primarily to appreciate their profound human and existential value.

In this regard, some responses point to the insufficiency of pastoral activity which is concerned only with dispensing the sacraments without a truly engaging Christian experience. Moreover, a vast majority of responses highlight the growing conflict between the values on marriage and the family as proposed by the Church and the globally diversified social and cultural situations. Responses from many countries recall the obstacles created by the long domination of atheistic ideologies, which have caused a general attitude of distrust in religious teaching.

Other responses relate the difficulties which the Church encounters in tribal cultures and ancestral traditions where marriage is characterized very differently from the Christian view, for example, those supporting polygamy or others opposing the idea of marriage as indissoluble and monogamous. Christians living in these cultural surroundings certainly need to receive the strong support of the Church and Christian communities.

Many responses voiced a need to find new ways to communicate the Church's teachings on marriage and family, which depends greatly on the vitality of the particular Church, its traditions and the effective resources at its disposal. Above all, some recognize the need of forming pastoral workers to communicate the Christian message in a culturally appropriate manner. However, almost all the responses stated that a Commission for the Pastoral Care of the Family and a Directory on the Pastoral Ministry to the Family exists at the national level.

Generally speaking, the episcopal conferences offer the Church's teaching through documentation, symposia and many other initiatives. On the diocesan level, work is done by various bodies and commissions. Clearly, responses from some particular Churches reveal the burdensome situation of a lack of economic and human resources in organizing an ongoing catechesis on the family.

Disability Is No Accident

Many responses relate the critical importance of establishing relations with academic centers which are adequately and properly prepared — doctrinally, spiritually and pastorally — in family matters. Some respondents speak of the fruitfulness at the international level between centres on university campuses and dioceses — even in outlying areas of the Church — in promoting qualified formative sessions on marriage and family.

An often-cited example in the responses is the collaboration with the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome which has several locations around the globe. In this regard, various episcopal conferences recall the importance of developing the insights of Pope St. Finally, the observations insist that catechesis on marriage and family, in these times, cannot be limited exclusively to the preparation of couples for marriage.

Instead, a dynamic catechetical programme is needed — experiential in character — which, through personal testimony, shows the beauty of the family as transmitted by the Gospel and the documents of the Magisterium of the Church. Long before they present themselves for marriage, young people need assistance in coming to know what the Church teaches and why she teaches it. Many responses emphasize the role of parents in the catechesis on the family.

As afar as the Gospel of the Family is concerned, they have an irreplaceable role to play in the Christian formation of their children. Their witness in married life is already a living catechesis in not only the Church but society as well. The large-scale perplexity surrounding the concept of the natural law tends to affect some elements of Christian teaching on the subject of marriage and the family. In fact, what underlies the relationship between the Gospel of the Family and the natural law is not so much the defense of an abstract philosophical concept as the necessary relation which the Gospel establishes with the human person in the variety of circumstances created by history and culture.

In light of what the Church has maintained over the centuries, an examination of the relation of the Gospel of the Family to the experience common to every person can now consider the many problems highlighted in the responses concerning the question of the natural law. In a vast majority of responses and observations, the concept of natural law today turns out to be, in different cultural contexts, highly problematic, if not completely incomprehensible.

The expression is understood in a variety of ways, or simply not understood at all. Many bishops' conferences, in many different places, say that, although the spousal aspect of the relationship between man and woman might be generally accepted as an experiential reality, this idea is not interpreted according to a universally given law. Very few responses and observations demonstrated an adequate, popular understanding of the natural law. Consequently, the natural law is perceived as an outdated legacy.

Today, in not only the West but increasingly every part of the world, scientific research poses a serious challenge to the concept of nature. In this regard, many respondents relate that the legal systems in many countries are having to make laws on situations which are contrary to the traditional dictates of the natural law for example, in vitro fertilization, homosexual unions, the manipulation of human embryos, abortion, etc.

In other words, from an emerging point of view, drawn from a widely diffused culture, the natural law is no longer to be considered as applicable to everyone, since people mistakenly come to the conclusion that a unique system of reference does not exist. The responses point to a general belief that the distinction between the sexes has a natural foundation within human existence itself.

Therefore, by force of tradition, culture and intuition, there exists the desire that the union between a man and a woman endure. The demise of the concept of the natural law tends to eliminate the interconnection of love, sexuality and fertility, which is understood to be the essence of marriage. This is also a result of a certain criticism of the natural law, even by a number of theologians. Given the lack of reference to the natural law by many academic institutions today, major complaints result from the extensive practice of divorce, cohabitation, contraception, procedures of artificial procreation and same-sex unions.

Other complaints against the natural law come from the poorest areas and those least influenced by western thought — especially some African states — which cite the phenomena of machismo, polygamy, marriages between teens and preteens, and divorce in cases of sterility or a lack of a male heir, as well as incest and other aberrant practices. Western society is now witnessing many cases in which children, in addition to their being with separated and divorced parents who might or might not be remarried, find themselves with grandparents in the same situation.

Moreover, in Europe and North America in particular but also among some countries in South Asia , the instances of couples or single persons, who lack a mentality of an openness to life, are increasing; single parenthood is also on the rise. A dramatic increase can also be seen on these same continents in the age at which people decide to wed. Many times, especially in northern Europe and North America, children are considered a hindrance to the well-being of the individual and the couple. In short, this tendency accentuates the absolute right to personal freedom without any compromise: This situation is heavily influenced by the mass media and by the lifestyles of some people in sports and entertainment.

These aspects are exerting influence even in countries with traditional family cultures which seem, until now, to have exercised great resistance in the matter Africa, Middle East and South-Central Asia. In particular, the vast majority of responses and an even greater part of the observations request that more emphasis be placed on the role of the Word of God as a privileged instrument in the conception of married life and the family, and recommend greater reference to the Bible, its language and narratives.

Moreover, this proposal insists on using language which is accessible to all, such as the language of symbols utilized during the liturgy. The recommendation was also made to engage young people directly in these matters. The family is acknowledged in the People of God to be an invaluable asset, the natural setting in which life grows and develops and a school of humanity, love and hope for society.

The family continues to be the privileged place in which Christ reveals the mystery and vocation of the person. The responses acknowledge that, as in centuries past, the family has played a significant role in society as the first place where the person is formed in society and for society. Since the family is the natural place for personal development, it is the foundation of society and the State. The family is the privileged place to live out and promote the dignity and rights of man and woman. What needs to be clearly delineated is the idea of the family as a resource in society, that is to say, a source of the essential virtues for a life in community.

In a family, a person learns a sense of the common good and experiences the goodness of living together. Families are not only the subject of protection by the State, but must regain their role as active agents in society. In this regard, the following challenges emerge: A number of responses focuses on the image of the Trinity reflected in the family. The experience of the mutual love between the spouses is an assistance in understanding the life of the Trinity as love. Through a communion lived in the family, children can glimpse an image of the Trinity.

Indeed, God is communion too: And this is precisely the mystery of Matrimony: A recurring subject in almost all the responses is the importance of the Holy Family of Nazareth as the model and example for the Christian family. In fact, the family is acknowledged to be the ordinary and everyday place to encounter Christ.

The Christian people look to the Holy Family of Nazareth as a model in relationships and love, as a point of reference for every family and as a comfort in time of trial. The Church invokes the Holy Family of Nazareth, entrusting all families, in their moments of joy, hope and sorrow, to the care of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Every child needs to live in the warmth and protective care of loving parents in a home where peace abides. Children must be able to see that Jesus is always with them and that they are never alone. Because of an obvious weakening in family ties, particularly in some parts of the world, children experience loneliness.

Even when children need correction, it should be done so as to ensure that they grow in a familial atmosphere of love and that parents might realize their vocation to be God's collaborators in the development of the human family. Considerable emphasis is placed on the formative value of love in the family for not only children but all its members.

The role of parents as primary educators in the faith is considered vital and essential. Emphasis is often placed on their witness of fidelity, particularly on the beauty of their individuality and at times, simply on the importance of their distinctive roles as father and mother. Still other responses, especially from Europe, stress the equal importance of both parents in the upbringing of their children and domestic responsibilities. Again referring to differences, some responses mention the richness of the inter-generational relationships experienced in the family, where decisive events take place, e.

Through these and other occurrences, the family becomes the place where children grow, through the various stages of their life, to respect life and form their personality. In a pluralistic society, parents can offer their children, in this manner, a basic orientation for their lives, which can sustain them even in the years after childhood. For this reason, the responses voice a need for families to create time and opportunities for family-togetherness and open, honest communication in a continual dialogue with one another. All respondents stress the importance of prayer in the family as the domestic Church cf.

In fact, a genuine knowledge of Jesus Christ is fostered through personal prayer and, particularly, family prayer, according to the specific forms of prayer and ritual practices in the home, which are considered an effective way to teach the faith to children. Great emphasis is also placed on reading Scripture in common and other forms of prayer, such as the blessing before and after meals and the family recitation of the rosary.

Most responses also speak of the need of living the Sacrament of Reconciliation and practicing Marian devotions. The family is essential in the maturation of those cognitive and affective processes which are crucial to personal development. In addition to being a vital environment in personal formation, the family is also the place to experience the awareness of being not only a Child of God but also called to a vocation of love. Still other places contribute to personal growth, such as living in community, the workplace, civic and ecclesial life.

Nevertheless, the fundamental elements acquired in a human family allow access to other levels of living in and building society. The family faces many daily difficulties and trials, as many responses indicate. Being a Christian family does not automatically guarantee the absence of trials, even excessively burdensome ones. But through such trials the family itself can be strengthened, and, with the support of pastoral care, led to recognize its fundamental vocation in God's plan.

The responses point out the significant fact that even in the face of very difficult situations, many people, especially the young, see a value in a stable, enduring relationship and express a real desire to marry and form a family. This creates the possibility for a married couple to realize a love that is faithful and indissoluble and one that offers a peaceful atmosphere conducive to human and spiritual growth.

The Church needs to provide care for families living in critical and stressful situations, ensuring that the family be attended in its entirety. The quality of the relationships within the family must be of utmost concern for the Church. It is the principal centre of a renewed pastoral care which receives and guides people and is animated by sentiments of mercy and tenderness. In this regard, parish organizations have a significant role in sustaining the family. Some particularly urgent cases, where family relationships are threatened through domestic violence, require supportive action that leads to healing wounds and uprooting their causes.

In this regard, invaluable assistance comes from the community made up of families. Membership in movements and associations can also be a particularly significant source of support. The responses very often stress the need for a family ministry which provides systematic and ongoing formation on the value of marriage as a vocation and the rediscovery of parenting fatherhood and motherhood as a gift. Evidently, a more consistent and structured formation ought to be biblical, theological and spiritual as well as human and existential.

Catechesis requires a true exchange between generations, actively involving parents in the process of the Christian initiation of their children. In this regard, some responses gave particular attention to liturgical feasts, such as Christmas and particularly the Feast of the Holy Family, as invaluable occasions to show the importance of the family and take into consideration the human context in which Jesus grew up and where he learned to speak, love, pray and work.

At work in the pastoral programme for the family is a beneficial mutual exchange between the responsibility of the bishops and other members of the clergy and the various charisms and ministries of the ecclesial community. This synergy results in many positive experiences. The richness in this field is revealed by considering various subjects and reviewing some initiatives and approaches found in the responses.

The responses from the different continents display a great similarity when treating the subject of marriage preparation. Many refer to activities well underway, such as programmes in parishes, seminars and retreats for couples. In addition to priests, these are often led by married couples with extensive experience in family matters. These programmes have the following aims: Some responses mention that, in many cases, couples give little attention to pre-marriage programmes. For this reason, many different approaches are being adopted in catechesis, namely, offering instruction on the subject to the following: Some countries refer to true and proper schools of preparation for married life, especially intended for the education and advancement of women.

The contrary is true in strongly secularized areas, where, in certain cultures, couples are distancing themselves more and more from Church teaching. Particularly long courses are not always welcome. Some episcopal conferences express concern that couples, having already set a date for their wedding, often approach the Church too late, and, at times, require special attention in dealing with their situation, e. In recent years the content of these programmes has substantially changed from being merely a preparation for the Sacrament of Marriage to becoming an actual initial proclamation of the faith.

Many laudable initiatives in marriage preparation are taking place in various parts of the world, including: At times, however, these initiatives are seen more as an obligation than a freely undertaken opportunity for growth. Undoubtedly, another important moment in marriage preparation is the meeting with the pastor or his delegate, a necessity for all engaged couples.


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The responses mention that often this meeting is not sufficiently used as an opportunity to engage the couple in a more detailed discussion on marriage but, instead, is a mere formality. Several respondents report that attempts are being made to add new topics to marriage courses that are being offered, such as communication skills, the sexual aspects of conjugal life and conflict resolution. In some places characterized by a somewhat sexist cultural tradition, there exists a certain lack of respect towards women, which hinders the necessary mutual exchange in conjugal life between a man and woman who are equal in dignity.

In other places, dominated in the past by atheistic regimes and often lacking in even a rudimentary knowledge of the faith, new forms in the preparation of engaged couples are being introduced, e. Some responses indicate that in some multi-religious and multi-confessional territories, certain factors need to be taken into consideration, e.

The dioceses in Eastern Europe are exploring a dialogue with the Orthodox Churches in inter-marriage preparation. Interesting information exists on diocesan events celebrating the family with the bishop present and testimonies given by couples who are well experienced in the faith. Such days can create an opportunity for families to interact with each other and to dialogue with older couples, thus adding to the value of initiatives based on the Bible and moments of prayer for engaged couples.

The responses suggest a need to safeguard and promote the various forms of popular piety on the different continents in support of the family. Despite a break-down in family life, certain religious practices which bring families together still remain vibrant, e. In addition to the rosary, some people also pray the Angelus. In this regard, many also insist on the importance of praying the liturgy of the hours in common, the reading of the Psalms and other texts from Sacred Scripture.

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Still others recommend spontaneous prayers of thanksgiving and requests for forgiveness. Some countries encourage celebrating different religious events in life, such as anniversaries of baptism, marriage and death. One response refers to family prayer, frequently practiced during travel, work and school, which, in some countries, utilizes radio and television. Furthermore, some note how families can benefit from nearby monasteries which can complement the vocation of marriage with that of the consecrated life.

The same can be said for the fruitful relationship between couples and priests, in their respective roles. Many bishops' conferences recount how particular Churches render support to a familial spirituality in their pastoral activity. In our time, spiritual movements make a special contribution to promoting an authentic, effective pastoral programme for the family.

Christian communities are characterized by a variety of ecclesial situations and approaches aimed at specific individuals. Clearly, local Churches should be able to find that this richness is a real resource for not only promoting various initiatives on behalf of couples intending marriage but devising ways to provide suitable pastoral care for families today. Some respondents recount that many dioceses foster specific endeavours and formation for couples who can then provide support to other couples and sustain a series of initiatives to promote a true familial spirituality.

Some argue that sometimes local communities, movements, groups and religious associations can be exclusive and too restrictive in the life of a parish. This situation illustrates the importance of their being fully engaged with the whole Church in an authentic sense of mission so as to avoid the danger of excessively looking inward. Families belonging to these communities exercise a vibrant apostolate and, judging from the past, are instrumental in the evangelization of many families.

Their members offer a credible witness with their lives of fidelity in marriage, mutual respect, unity and openness to life. Although some episcopal conferences mention that, in many parts of the world, a successful outcome to marriage and family life can no longer be presumed, they equally observe that young people have a high esteem for couples who, even after many years of marriage, continue their life together in love and fidelity.

As an acknowledgment, many dioceses celebrate, with the bishop present, wedding anniversaries and thanksgiving commemorations for married couples who have spent many years together. In this regard, special recognition needs to be given to those who faithfully remain with their spouses, despite problems and difficulties. This section deals with the responses and observations on the pastoral challenges of the family. It treats three fundamental questions: Some responses show how, in cases where the faith of family members is either weak or non-existent, both the parish and the Church in general are not seen as supportive.

This probably comes from a mistaken idea of the Church and her activity due to socio-cultural circumstances, especially where the institution of the family itself is in crisis. Therefore, the question arises on how to act pastorally in these situations, namely, how to make sure that the Church, in her variety of pastoral activities, can demonstrate that she has the ability of caring for couples in difficulty and families. Many respondents point out that a crisis in faith can either lead to failure or be taken as an opportunity for growth and an occasion to discover the deeper meaning of the marriage covenant.

In this way, the loss of a sense of meaning, or even the breakdown within a family, can be the means of strengthening the marriage bond. Families, willing to offer support to a couple in this difficult situation, can help them overcome this crisis. Most responses indicate that one of the many critical issues facing the family is a difficulty in relationships and communication. Whether it be tensions and conflicts in a marriage due to a lack of mutual trust and intimacy or the domination of one marriage partner over the other or the inter-generational conflict between parents and children, all hinder the building of family relationships and can even make them entirely impossible.

The dramatic aspect of these situations is that they lead to the gradual disappearance of the possibility of dialogue as well as the time and opportunity to work on relationships. For want of sharing and communication, each one is forced to face difficulties in isolation without an experience of being loved and, in turn, loving others.

The lack of a father-figure in many families causes major imbalances in households and uncertainty in gender identification in children. People who do not witness, live and accept love on a daily basis find it particularly difficult to discover the person of Christ as the Son of God and the love of God the Father. Other critical situations include many relationships which do not coincide with the idea of a traditional nuclear family, i.

In some cultures, polygamy is insistently seen as one of the factors causing the breakdown of families, along with a mentality of parents which is not open to life. Many bishops' conferences are greatly concerned about the widespread practice of abortion. Many responses also stress that a contraceptive mentality has a negative impact on family relationships. The responses unanimously make reference to psychological, physical and sexual violence and abuse in families which has a particularly damaging effect on women and children, a phenomenon which, unfortunately, is neither occasional nor isolated, particularly in certain parts of the world.

In this regard, the responses also mention the appalling phenomenon of the killing of women, often caused by deep emotional trouble in relationships. Arising from a false culture based on possessions, this is particularly disturbing and calls for action by everyone in society and by the Church in her ministry to the family. Sexual promiscuity and incest in the family are explicitly cited in certain parts of the world Africa, Asia and Oceania , as well as pedophilia and child abuse.

Several episcopates worldwide raise the tragic question of the trafficking and exploitation of children. When citing the various critical situations affecting the family, the responses constantly allude to not only addictions to alcohol and drugs but also pornography, at times used and shared within families, not to mention addictions to gambling and video games, the Internet and social networks.

As for the media, the respondents repeatedly stressed, in one instance, their negative impact on the family, particularly when they convey and offer opposing models to the image of the family, which transmit mistaken and misleading values. On the other hand, the responses refer to problems in relationships which the media, together with the social networks and the Internet, are creating within the family.

In fact, television, smart phones and computers can be a real impediment to dialogue among family members, leading to a breakdown and alienation in relationships within a family, where communication depends more and more on technology. In the end, the means of communication and access to the Internet replace real family relationships with virtual ones.

This situation runs the risk of leading to not only the disunity and breakdown of the family but also the possibility that the virtual world will replace the real one particularly a danger in Europe, North America and Asia. Furthermore, the responses allude to the growing phenomenon in the Internet age of an information overload , namely, the exponential increase of information on line, often not corresponding to an increase in quality, in addition to the inability always to check the reliability of the information available on the Internet.

Technological progress is a global challenge which can cause rapid changes in family life regarding values, relationships and the internal equilibrium. This situation becomes critical, therefore, when a family lacks an adequate knowledge of the proper use of the media and new technologies.

All responses, treating the impact of work on the well-being of the family, make reference to the difficulty of coordinating the communal aspects of family living with the excessive demands of work, which require of the family a greater flexibility. An increasingly hectic life leaves little opportunity for moments of peace and family togetherness.

Some parts of the world are showing signs of the price being paid by the family as a result of economic growth and development, not to mention the much broader effects produced by the economic crisis and the instability of the labor market. Increasing job insecurity, together with the growth of unemployment and the consequent need to travel greater distances to work, have taken their toll on family life, resulting in, among other things, a weakening of family relationships and the gradual isolation of persons, causing even greater anxiety.

In dialoguing with the State and the related public entities, the Church is called to offer real support for decent jobs, just wages and a fiscal policy favouring the family as well as programmes of assistance to families and children. In this regard, laws protecting the family in relation to work are frequently wanting, particularly those affecting working mothers.

Moreover, civil support and involvement on behalf of the family provides the Church with an opportunity for working together. Networking in this area with organizations which pursue similar goals is equally wise and productive. In treating the relation of work to the family, the responses also emphasize the impact of migration on the family. To support the family financially, fathers, and an increasing number of mothers, are being forced to abandon their families for work.

The absence of a parent has serious consequences on both the well-being of the family and the upbringing of children. This situation requires promoting appropriate policies that make it easier for families to be reunited. The responses and observations widely and insistently refer to the economic hardships endured by families as well as the lack of material resources, poverty and the struggle for subsistence. This widespread phenomenon is not limited to developing countries only, but is also mentioned in responses and observations from Europe and North America. In such cases of extreme and increasing poverty, the family has to struggle for subsistence, a struggle to which the family has to devote most of its energy.

The Greatest Challenge

Some observations call for the Church to raise a strong prophetic voice concerning poverty which puts a strain on family life. Careerism and a competitive spirit are also pointed out as crucially affecting family life. Relegating life, faith and ethics to the private sphere is also noted, particularly in the West, to have a decisive effect. A culture based on the senses and immediate gratification is also having an influence. Responses from almost every part of the world frequently refer to the sexual scandals within the Church pedophilia , in particular and, in general, to a negative experience with the clergy and other persons.

In addition, a conspicuously lavish lifestyle by some of the clergy shows an inconsistency between their teaching and their conduct. The responses lament that persons who are separated, divorced or single parents sometimes feel unwelcome in some parish communities, that some clergy are uncompromising and insensitive in their behavior; and, generally speaking, that the Church, in many ways, is perceived as exclusive, and not sufficiently present and supportive. In this sense, an open and positive pastoral approach is needed, one which can restore confidence in the institution through a credible witness by all her members.

Added to the critical situations within and outside the family mentioned above, others are prevalent in different parts of the world, e. Achievement at school and obtaining scholastic degrees credentialism are considered by the family as prime objectives. Such cases affect family life and the life of faith as well as the free time for children to play, not to mention, to rest and sleep. Expectations can sometimes be so powerful that they lead to ostracism, and even suicide. Finally, the responses note the great difficulty of the Church and society — arising from specific cultural and social situations — to confront these types of problems and discuss them openly.

The responses, particularly those from Africa and the Middle East, speak of the impact of war on the family, causing violent deaths and the destruction of homes and forcing people to abandon everything to seek refuge in other countries. In some places, wars lead to the breakdown of society, forcing persons, and at times entire families living in poverty, to abandon their Christian faith community.

In some geographical areas, like Asia and North Africa, given the low percentage of Catholics, a great number of couples in families is made up of one who is Catholic and the other who comes from another religion. Some responses, while recognizing that these couples bring great richness to the Church, highlight the inherent difficulties of these unions in the Christian upbringing of children, particularly where civil law has an influence in determining the religious affiliation of the couple's children. Sometimes, different religions in the family are seen as an opportunity or a challenge for growth in the Christian faith.

Other difficulties affecting the family, in addition to physical illnesses, including AIDS, are: Times such as these, marked by illness and bereavement, are a particularly opportune occasion to rediscover the sustaining and consoling nature of the faith. In some parts of the world with declining birth rates, still other critical situations include the spread of sects, esoteric practices, occultism, magic and witchcraft. The responses clearly indicate that no area and no situation can be considered a priori unable to be reached by the Gospel.

Therefore, the power and urgency of proclaiming the Gospel of mercy is crucial for a Christian community in the course of providing for and receiving persons in these difficulties, especially when a family is particularly in need. Under the heading of so-called marriage difficulties, the responses consistently recount stories of great suffering as well as testimonies of true love. Real pastoral attention is urgently needed to care for these people and bring them healing so that they might continue their journey with the entire ecclesial community. The mercy of God does not provide a temporary cover-up of personal misdeeds, but rather radically opens lives to reconciliation which brings new trust and serenity through true inward renewal.

The pastoral care of families, far from limiting itself to a legal point of view, has a mission to recall the great vocation of love to which each person is called and to help a person live up to the dignity of that calling. Sometimes marriage takes place after the birth of their first child and the wedding and baptism are celebrated together. Statistics show a high incidence of these unions, though with some qualification between rural areas, where cohabitation is rarer and urban areas, e.

Generally speaking, cohabitation is more commonly seen in Europe and North America, increasingly witnessed in Latin America and almost non-existent in Arab countries and Asia minor. In some regions of Latin America, cohabitation is more of a tradition in rural areas, integrated into the indigenous culture servinacuy: In Africa marriage is practiced in stages and associated with verifying the fertility of the woman, which implies a sort of bond between the two families in question.

In Europe, a variety of situations exist, which, in some cases, are influenced by a Marxist ideology, and, in others, are increasingly claimed to be simply a moral choice. Among the circumstances which lead couples to choose cohabitation, the responses mention: These and other factors tend to make couples delay marriage.

In this regard, the fear of making a commitment and the idea of having children are also elements to be taken into consideration, especially in Europe and Latin America. Others indicate that improper marriage formation is a reason couples choose cohabitation.

21 Encouraging Bible Verses About Challenges

For still others, cohabitation allows a couple to live together free from any definitive decisions or responsibilities on an institutional level. In this regard, some pastoral approaches might include offering, from a young age, instruction on appreciating the beauty of marriage and better forming pastoral workers on the topics of marriage and the family.

Not to be overlooked is the witness-value of the many young people preparing for marriage and presently living their engagement period in a spirit of chastity. Living together ad experimentum often takes the form of de facto unions, which are not civilly or religiously recognized. The responses note that, in some countries, civil recognition of these unions, though not equivalent to marriage, is governed by specific legislation which has been enacted in their regard.

Despite the availability of this option, an increasing number of couples do not request any form of registration. The responses recount that in western countries, society no longer views this situation as a problem. Some reasons given for this situation, especially in western countries, is: Immigrants, especially when they enter a country illegally, are a particular problem, because they fear being identified as such, if they seek public recognition for their marriage. The responses mention a concept of freedom, mainly associated with life in the West but equally found in other countries, which considers the bond of marriage as a relinquishment of personal freedom.

Such an idea influences poorly formed young people to make them think that love cannot endure for a lifetime. The media largely promotes this attitude among young people. Often, cohabitation and de facto unions are a symptom of the fact that young people tend to prolong their adolescence and consider marriage too challenging and, therefore, fear embarking on an adventure considered too great for them cf.

In this regard, any possible response to this situation through pastoral care must assist young people overcome an overly romantic idea that love is only an intense feeling towards each other and teach them that it is, instead, a personal response to another person as part of a joint project of life, which reveals a great mystery and great promise. Such a pastoral approach must include education in human love and emotions which begins already in childhood, is reinforced in young couples in the early stages of their engagement and puts the community and liturgical aspects in relief.

We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. I will never abandon you. What can mere people do to me?

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever.

April 2003 General Conference

T hree times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys , in danger from rivers, danger from robbers , danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night , in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.

And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son , that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

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