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Prayer, Penance and the Eucharist Are Principal Sources of Spirituality for Married Couples

122 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 3 October 1984 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Referring to the doctrine contained in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, we will try to further outline the spiritual life of married couples. Here are the great words of this encyclical:

"While the Church does indeed hand on to her children the inviolable conditions laid down by God's law, she is also the herald of salvation. Through the sacraments she flings wide open the channels of grace through which man is made a new creature responding in charity and true freedom to the design of his Creator and Savior, experiencing too the sweetness of the yoke of Christ.

In humble obedience then to her voice, let Christian husbands and wives be mindful of their vocation to the Christian life, a vocation which, deriving from their Baptism, has been confirmed anew and made more explicit by the sacrament of Matrimony. For by this sacrament they are strengthened and, one might also say, consecrated to the faithful fulfillment of their duties; to realizing to the full their vocation; and to bearing witness, as becomes them, to Christ before the world. For the Lord has entrusted to them the task of making visible to men and women the holiness, and the joy too, of the law which unites inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God's love, God who is the Author of human life" (Humanae Vitae 25).

2. By showing the moral evil of the contraceptive act and by outlining at the same time a possibly integral framework for the honest practice of fertility regulation, that is, of responsible fatherhood and motherhood, the Encyclical Humanae Vitae creates the premises that allow us to draw the great lines of the Christian spirituality of the conjugal vocation and life, and likewise the spirituality of parents and of the family.

It can further be said that the encyclical presupposes the entire tradition of this spirituality, which is rooted in the biblical sources already analyzed, by offering the opportunity to reflect on them anew and to build an adequate synthesis.

It is well to recall here what was said about the organic relationship between the theology of the body and the pedagogy of the body. This "theology-pedagogy" already constitutes per se the essential nucleus of conjugal spirituality. This is indicated also by the above-quoted sentences from the encyclical.

3. Anyone would certainly read and interpret the Encyclical Humanae Vitae erroneously  who would see in it only the reduction of responsible fatherhood and motherhood to mere "biological rhythms of fertility". The author of the encyclical energetically disapproves of and contradicts any form of reductive interpretation (and in such a "partial" sense), and insistently reproposes the integral intention. Responsible fatherhood and motherhood, understood integrally, is none other than an important element of all conjugal and family spirituality, that is, of that vocation which the cited text of Humanae Vitae speaks about when it states that the married couple must "realize to the full their vocation" (HV 25). The sacrament of marriage strengthens them and, one would say, consecrates them to its fulfillment (cf. HV 25).

In the light of the doctrine expressed in the encyclical, it is well to become more aware of that strengthening power that is united to the "sui generis consecration" of the sacrament of marriage.

Since the analysis of the ethical problem of Paul VI's document was centered above all on the exactness of the respective norm, the sketch of conjugal spirituality which is found there intends to place in relief precisely those "powers" which make possible the authentic Christian witness of married life.

4. "We have no wish at all to pass over in silence the difficulties, at times very great, which beset the lives of Christian married couples. For them, as indeed for every one of us, the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life (cf. Mt 7:14). Nevertheless, it is precisely the hope of that life which, like a brightly burning torch, lights up their journey, as, strong in spirit, they strive to live sober, upright and godly lives in this world (cf. Ti 2:12), knowing for sure that 'the form of this world is passing away'" (cf. 1 Cor 7:31) (HV 25).

In the encyclical, the view of married life is marked at every step by Christian realism. Precisely this helps more greatly to acquire those "powers" which allow the formation of the spirituality of married couples and parents in the spirit of an authentic pedagogy of heart and body.

The awareness of that "future life" opens up a broad horizon of those powers that must guide them through the hard way (cf. HV 25) and lead them through the narrow gate (cf. HV 25) of their evangelical vocation.

The encyclical says: "For this reason husbands and wives should take up the burden appointed to them, willingly, in the strength of faith and of that hope which does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (cf. Rom 5:5) (HV 25).

5.  Here is the essential and fundamental "power": the love planted in the heart ("poured out into our hearts") by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the encyclical points out how the married couple must implore this essential power and every other divine help by prayer; how they must draw grace and love from the ever-living fountain of the Eucharist; how "with humble perseverance" they must overcome their deficiencies and sins in the Sacrament of Penance.

These are the means—infallible and indispensable—for forming the Christian spirituality of married life and family life. With these, that essential and spiritual creative power of love reaches human hearts and, at the same time, human bodies in their subjective masculinity and femininity. This love allows the building of the whole life of the married couple according to that "truth of the sign", by means of which marriage is built up in its sacramental dignity, as the central point of the encyclical reveals (cf. HV 12)."

After the catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Herzlich grüße ich nach diesen kurzen Überlegungen alle hier anwesenden Pilger und Besucher aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. Ich freue mich über eure so zahlreiche Teilnahme an dieser Audienz und erbitte euch daraus neuen Glaubensmut und Zuversicht für eure christliche Bewährung in Beruf und Alltag. Von Herzen erteile ich euch und euren Angehörigen in der Heimat dafür meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Aujourd'hui, je suis heureux de saluer les pèlerins de langue française, et notamment le groupe venu d’Edmundston au Canada: je leur redis ma joie d’avoir pu parcourir leur pays et rencontrer dans la foi le peuple canadien.

J’adresse cordialement mes veux à ceux qui viennent de diverses régions de France, notamment de Versailles, de Strasbourg, des Eyzies, de Lugny.

A tous je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

I offer a special word of welcome to the groups of pilgrims from Norway and Nigeria. And I extend warm greetings to the Apostolate for the Blind Community from Melbourne, Australia.

It is a joy to welcome the young Anglican pilgrims who have travelled from England by bicycle, bringing with them a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Your pilgrimage to Rome, linked as it is with the International Youth Year, is a symbol of the particular contribution to the cause of Christian unity which can be made by young men and women. Thank you for praying for the complete unity of all Christ’s followers.

And I greet most cordially all the visitors at today’s audience from English-speaking countries. May God bless you and your families with his gifts of joy and peace.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Ahora un saludo cordial a todos los peregrinos de lengua española. En primer lugar a las religiosas Siervas de María y a los sacerdotes de Durango (México) que celebran sus Bodas de Plata de sacerdocio. Enhorabuena y sed siempre fieles a vuestra vocación. Saludo asimismo a los grupos de las varias parroquias y asociaciones venidos de España, de Argentina, Colombia y Puerto Rico. A estos doy un ¡hasta pronto en vuestra tierra! Y mi especial aliento en su vida cristiana para el grupo de renovación en el Espíritu Santo procedente de México. A todos los hispano-hablantes de los varios Países doy con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di espressione portoghese

Desejo saudar, com particular afecto, os grupos de brasileiros vindos do Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Porto Alegre, do Ceará, da Bahia e de Brasília. Todos estes lugares de vossa proveniência evocam em mim gratas recordações do grande Brasil. Faço votos de que possais levar desta viagem e, de modo especial, desta vossa estada em Roma, uma fé mais viva e uma esperança mais forte para o empenho cristão de construir uma civilização de amor. A vós e a todos os demais peregrinos vindos a esta audiência dou a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai polacchi

Serdecznie pozdrawiam wszystkich pielgrzymów, w szczególności z parafii mariackiej z Krakowa; z parafii Matki Bożej z Lourdes z Krakowa; z parafii Kraków-Zielonki; z parafii katedralnej z Tarnowa - oraz siostry Józefitki; z Poznania, z parafii św. Jana Wianeya oraz z parafii Chrystusa Króla; z Katowic-Koszutka, z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa; z parafii świętego Bonifacego ze Zgorzelca; z parafii Zielonki, tym razem koło Warszawy; z parafii Kazimierz Dolny; pielgrzymkę z Sandomierza; pielgrzymkę z parafii Radków - Ziemia Kłodzka; z parafii św. Stanisława Kostki z Warszawy; pielgrzymkę byłych więźniów obozów koncentracyjnycn; pielgrzymkę Towarzystwa Przyjaciół KUL-u z Kurii Metropolitalnej w Poznaniu; poza tym są grupy kolejarzy: z Katowic, z Warszawy, z Bielska-Białej, Wadowic i Katowic, inne grupy z Warszawy, służbę zdrowia PKP ze Skarżyska-Kamiennej, PTTK ze Śląska, grupę z polskiego statku “Turoszów”, grupy Orbisu, Turysty i Alma-Travel, oraz pielgrzymów indywidualnych zarówno z kraju, jak i spośród emigracji . . . Przy okazji, korzystając z waszej tak bardzo licznej obecności, pragnę przekazać pozdrowienia dla wszystkich waszych rodzin, w których żyjecie, w których pracujecie, przede wszystkim dla waszych parafii, dla waszych diecezji, dla całej naszej Ojczyzny.

Ai fedeli italiani

Saluto cordialmente tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana: in particolare saluto il gruppo delle Suore Missionarie studentesse del Foyer Paolo VI. Esse provengono da vari Paesi del Terzo Mondo e sono accompagnate dal loro Cappellano. A loro va il mio augurio di iniziare il nuovo anno accademico con una decisa volontà di aumentare il loro sapere nella luce del Vangelo!

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Ora il mio saluto va ai giovani, presenti a questa Udienza. Carissimi, mi sento vicino alle vostre aspirazioni e alle vostre gioie, ai vostri problemi ed alle difficoltà proprie della vostra età. Ricordatevi che il buon Dio vi è sempre accanto, con la luce e la forza sufficiente per superare le prove. Ma voi, a vostra volta, non cessate di lodarlo e di invocarlo con le parole del Cantico di San Francesco d’Assisi, Patrono d’Italia, del quale domani celebreremo la festa, “Altissimo, onnipotente, bon Signore”, perché solo in lui ritroverete l’energia per camminare ogni giorno con nuovo entusiasmo.

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Il mio pensiero si rivolge soprattutto agli ammalati, che saluto affettuosamente. Carissimi, in questo mese di ottobre consacrato alla pia pratica del santo Rosario, non tralasciate, per quanto vi è possibile, di elevare la vostra mente alla beata Vergine con la recita del Rosario. Ella, la Madre di Dio e la Madre nostra, non mancherà di presentare le vostre invocazioni e le vostre sofferenze a Gesù, nostro Redentore e nostro conforto.

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Infine voglio ricordare gli sposi novelli. Volentieri vi esprimo i miei voti, raccomandandovi alla celeste protezione del Signore e della Madre sua e nostra Maria, sotto il cui patrocinio desidero porre la vostra nascente famiglia. Vi esorto ad onorarla ed invocarla soprattutto con la recita del Rosario in famiglia. Vi accompagni la mia Benedizione.

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