“Creating Bonds Between People and Believers”.
New Year Pastoral Letter, 2013,
Archbishop Joseph Takami Mitsuaki, Archbishop of Nagasaki
In this “Year of Faith” we find ourselves both preparing for an Archdiocesan Synod and marking the “150 Anniversary of the Discovery of the Hidden Christians”.
So as we start this New Year I would like to call upon one and all, as individuals and as believers to accept respect and co-operate with one another in all that binds us together.
I pray that the Lord will bless you all, that this might be a meaningful and fruitful year.
1 – Family Bonds
Just mentioning the word ‘family”, we are aware that nowadays singles, childless couples, and those living alone are on the increase. However all such people have at some time experienced family life. So can we now possibly also turn to creating and building family like relations both in our parishes and in our neighborhoods. Families begin with a couple. Two ‘strangers’, as a couple, before God, freely commit themselves to marry, to love each other faithfully, to live together, for the whole of their lives. This relationship we name as “marriage”. From this love-bond a new love is born, children are born, a family is made, the right ordering of human society is built up. For it is within the family that, through marriage, not only do the couple grow as individuals, but also new life comes to birth and is nurtured. Even in couples who are not blessed with children in many and different ways are called by God to a different kind of fruitfulness.
The model of husband and wife – a couple is a model for all human behavior. For that relationship to be kept fresh and fruitful, daily prayer and sharing in the grace of the Word of God and the Eucharist, will sustain and deepen their trust in God, and help in learning to see life from the viewpoint of “the other”, with mutual respect and care for the other. Learning to communicate your feelings to the other clearly, while also listening to what they have to say.
If there is a strong bond between the partners in a married couple, and an equally strong bond with their children, those children will grow up as equally honest and caring individuals. When harmony between parents is absent, the bonding will be fragile, broken. Children will be raised with divided hearts, hearts torn in two. And the bonds with their parents will be damaged. Above all it is necessary to respect the children as individuals. This doesn’t mean giving them whatever they want, allowing them to eat and drink only what they like, whenever they want it. From their time as infants they need to learn self-control, to share with others, to assume an appropriate role and responsibility as a member of the family, to learn the difference between right and wrong, not just by being taught but also by example, by making their own decision, and as individuals to learn independence and autonomy, self-determination.
2 – Confirmation Preparation
Last year on October 28th in his homily at the Closing Mass for the Synod on “New Evangelization”, the Pope emphasized the importance of preparation for the Sacraments of Christian Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist. This is of course a common problem of the worldwide Church. I believe that we need to place even greater weight on Confirmation. In receiving Confirmation a believer, receives from the God the Father, in and through the laying on of hands and anointing by the Bishop, a sign of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the strengthening of the grace of Baptism, of those gifts of the Holy Spirit that are necessary to fulfill his vocation as a witness to Christ. Therefore before receiving Confirmation, it is essential that they learn well about the grace of faith, and the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
For those who are Baptized as infants, reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation is around the age of thirteen. This is the age when they are leaving the world of childhood and moving toward the world of adulthood. So we often hear Confirmation referred to as, a young believers, Coming of Age. In truth, however they are still experiencing puberty, and some years will pass before they finally Come of Age, and after that marry. Therefore as part of their preparation for receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, that they may grow into adulthood and become adult believers, it is important that they learn correctly about the meaning and importance of sex and marriage. Sex and marriage are not only for the satisfaction of our sexual desires/appetites, they are gifts from God that a man and a woman who truly love each other, mutually respect each other may be bonded together as a couple, and in response to God’s will and God’s love give birth to new life. So one should resist giving in to ones emotions or the seemingly natural progression of the situation, and behave with a necessary awareness of our responsibility towards life.
3 – Marriage Preparation
On October 7th at the Opening Mass of the same Synod, in his homily the Pope said, “that matrimony is a Gospel in itself, Good News for the world of today, especially the dechristianized world. The union of a man and a woman, their becoming “one flesh” in charity, in fruitful and indissoluble love, is a sign that speaks of God with a force and an eloquence which in our days has become greater because unfortunately, for various reasons, marriage, in precisely the oldest regions evangelized, is going through a profound crisis.” Marriage, as a faithful indissoluble union in love, is rooted in, founded on that love of the Trinitarian God that saw Christ liveout a love that was faithful all the way to the Cross. However today the crisis of faith and of marriage are as two sides of one coin.
Men and women as they look towards Marriage need to understand and accept the meaning, purpose value and social responsibility it involves. When it is a Marriage between two who don’t share the same faith, before they marry they need to learn about each other’s faiths, what troubles, what difficulties may come from those differences, and to think of how they can build a harmonious family. A sincere commitment is necessary, that they may know peace at heart and true happiness, since faith based problems are deeply linked to the meaning of life, one’s way of life, the purpose of life.
Someone who is self-centered, who has yet to achieve true independence and autonomy, will always be self-defensive, criticize the situation, blame the others. To create a strong bond each individual must understand necessity of being truly independent and being open to mutual respect and trust. Surely this is above all necessary in society, in the Church today.
訳/Translation: Brendan Kelleher svd, Nagoya, Japan.