Spouses are the Primary Agents of Evangelization

by | Jul 13, 2023 | Church, Family Life, Parenting, Spirituality

Spouses=Primary Agents of Evangelization

Spouses are the primary agents of evangelization in our world.  According to the late Cardinal Carlo Caffara, a little more than a month before he died on June 28th 1978, Pope St Paul VI said, “One day, you will thank God and me for Humanae Vitae.”’

We cannot improve on the analysis given by the excellent moral theologian, Mgr Livio Melina on the 50th anniversary in 2018

Humanae Vitae 29

What I would say however is that one of the most important teachings in the document is at paragraph 29:
“it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ” but he would be a tireless confessor vigilant for the care of souls, “bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners” (HV 29)

A Document Not Taught:

Few among the episcopate and clergy over the last 55 years have taught very little of this “saving doctrine” of the evil of contraception. We fail to teach that spouses are the primary agents of  evangelization in our world. Just as contraception splits the procreative from the unitive in spousal love, so too does the spiritual fruitfulness in the priest diminish if he fails to guide and teach the faithful in to the truth of this “irreformable” teaching. How ironic it is that some obsess about marriage for priests, while at the same time failing to acknowledge and own the sin of omission of neglect in the formation of the faithful in marriage itself.  Especially in aspects to authentic human sexuality embodied in the commitment for life.

As a church, we are very good a building hard, physical institutional infrastructure. Faithful communities are building parish churches, schools, hospitals, and care homes. We have bought and sold property, refurbished at great cost, of former convents and religious houses into youth centers and formation/retreat centers. Furthermore we are building them to high standards, and rightly so!   We commit ourselves!

We do this because we know they are important to our mission and from these good things arise our charitable activities.  Specifically our care of the poor and sick, our overseas aid, care of refugees and migrants. With these investments, all can flourish.

How Do We Make a Change:

As said, we are very good at physical institutional infrastructure, but why are we not viewing marriage, as core of our non‐physical institutional infrastructure in the same way. We must truly form entire generations with a generous capacity to embrace the physical and supernatural richness that matrimonial graces bring,  If we do this, then the vocations to priesthood and religious life would flourish. These vocations would come with the healthy size of faithful families and then the “celibate” priest would swim in that ocean of married love, eager to serve it, guard it, give it diligent pastoral and spiritual care.

So the irony now is that we are obsessing about marriage for the priesthood which has been brought on by a crisis of our countless buildings not being manned.  However, when a document like Humanae Vitae has not been taught we reach staggering levels of spiritual poverty.  If Humanae Vitae were a building it would be like a diocesan cathedral crumbling from disrepair.  In short,  we would never allow such a thing to happen because we can see it, touch it, feel it, enter it, hungry to fill it to worship the Lord. Yet we allow what we cannot always see, think, or  feel [matrimonial grace] to be left to fend for itself.  We leave marriage unacknowledged and not affirmed in ways that leave spouses feel truly alone and unappreciated as part of the evangelizing mission of the Universal Church.

My Vision:

It’s the ultimate irony. We end up viewing a key solution to the crisis from a distinctly clerical mindset; For example, we neglect the most important and popular chosen sacrament among the laity [marriage] in an epoch of dumbing down the sacrificial priesthood. The inverted snobbery towards the laity decides that marriage is absolutely, suddenly critical for clerics more than it is for the salvation of the laity. We are called to live marriage freely, faithfully and fruitfully with a mind that is always open to life.

It is often said that the revival of the Church depends on a renewal of the priesthood.  I agree, but this needs to be in the context of the renewal of the family! From good, holy families [hopefully] vocations to the priesthood will stem. After all, fewer babies means fewer children to hear God’s call.  The family, after all, are the primary agents of evangelization. This is why Archbishop emeritus Chaput of Philadelphia encapsulated what lies at the heart of the renewal of the Church so succinctly: “There will be no renewal of the Catholic Church without renewal of the Catholic family, and no renewal of the Catholic family without a bold proclamation of the sacred truths regarding the transmission of human life.”

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Edmund Adamus

Edmund and his wife Catherine have been married for almost 18 years and have been blessed with 3 children; Patrick (who awaits them in Heaven), Paul and Beatrice. After 13 years of ministry in the Salford diocese and gaining a Master's in moral theology, he served the Archdiocese of Westminster from 2003-16 as Director for Pastoral Affairs/Marriage & Family Life. He successfully established the Annual Mass of Thanksgiving for Matrimony in Westminster cathedral as well as the Annual Theology of the Body Lecture series hosting world renowned scholars such as Michael Waldstein, Janet Smith and Christopher West. Christian Meert was also among those speakers. All his work both past and present has been through the prism of the truths of Humanae vitae. Since 2019 he has been Education Consultant to the relationships and sexuality formation project 'A Fertile Heart: Receiving & Giving Creative Love'. As freelance consultant he works as Secretary to the Commission of Inquiry into Discrimination Against Christians in the UK and has just been appointed Executive Director for the UK branch of the International Voluntary Solidarity Fund

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