WASHINGTON, D.C. — “A society where children are no longer being born is a society where people no longer understand what makes life worth living,” Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said at the annual summer liturgy conference hosted by the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life.
As archbishop of the largest Catholic community in America, which serves 5 million Catholics, baptizes 50,000 infants per year, and offers spiritual direction in 40 different languages, Gomez is something of an authority on the pastoral state of the family.
He opened his June 18 speech evoking an image of a secular view of family: Millennials turn to Google, asking, “Should I have kids?”
“It is sad, the results that come back,” Gomez said. “Not only that. It is sad how many people are asking these kind of questions.”
Couples are often afraid that by having children, they are neglecting their responsibility to the earth, that they are contributing to overpopulation, famine and climate change. Most significantly, Gomez pointed out that people simply have forgotten the truth first told by Catholicism: that for most people, sharing a deep love with a spouse, and conceiving and caring for a child out of that love is the most fulfilling experience of life.
Instead of this, culture has pointed its gnarled and omnipotent finger at children, and declared them “unethical” “irresponsible,” “disrespectful,” “impractical,” “uncool,” “unnecessary,” he said.
Gomez asked: “How are we going to live as Christians in this culture, and how are we going to raise our children and evangelize this culture?”
He offered some solutions to his own question. On a practical level, Gomez has personally witnessed the effectiveness of individual parishes guiding their parishioners, and urges dioceses to encourage ministries and initiatives in their parishes.
However, on a theoretical level, Gomez suggested that the Catholic community needs to rediscover its own radical narrative. He reminded the crowd that Christianity brought a strange newness to the idea of family.
St. Paul said, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Jesus Christ introduced humanity to the exciting idea that man and woman, through their mutual love can become “one flesh” and, in doing so, mirror God’s own act of creating life.
“The first Christians evangelized by the way they lived,” Gomez said. “They entered into marriage as a lifelong relationship of friendship and mutual devotion, and they considered it a sacrament, mysterious sign of God’s love for his people.”
Gomez called his audience to remember the Christian vision for a happy life: Rather than consumer goods and money, Archbishop Gomez reminded his audience that love, and particularly familial love, is the genesis of life and the center of Christian teaching.
“Our God, in his deepest mystery, is not a solitude but a family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love,” Gomez said, quoting from St. John Paul II’s pontificate.
Marriage, Gomez emphasized, is naturally and beautifully built into the Catholic tradition, and is always a sign and propagator of life.
“We are called to help every married couple realize this vocation,” Gomez said, “to live their love forever in a mutual and complete gift of self; to renew the face of the earth with children, who are the fruits of their love and the precious love of our Creator.”
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