"As Pope Paul VI observed, 'contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he listens to teachers it is because they are witnesses'. In the Church, the treasure of the family has been entrusted first and foremost to witnesses: to those fathers and mothers, sons and daughters who through the family have discovered the path of their human and Christian vocation, the dimension of the "inner man" (Eph 3:16) of which the Apostle speaks, and thus have attained holiness. The Holy Family is the beginning of countless other holy families. The Council recalled that holiness is the vocation of all the baptized. In our age, as in the past, there is no lack of witnesses to the "gospel of the family", even if they are not well known or have not been proclaimed saints by the Church. The Year of the Family is the appropriate occasion to bring about an increased awareness of their existence and their great number." (Letter to Families, St. John Paul II, 1994)When reading the lives of the Martyrs one is struck by the great joy that contemporaries observed in those courageous Christians who were condemned to cruel torture for their fidelity to Christ. From the Acts of SS. Felicity and Perpetua:
"The day of their victory dawned, and they marched from the prison to the amphitheater joyfully as though they were going to heaven, with calm faces, trembling, if at all, with joy rather than fear."The Romans not only admired the Christians' incredible fortitude but more importantly were impressed by the hope that strengthened them as they awaited their crown of martyrdom. Hope is not just an optimistic outlook; it is a gift from God and a trust in His promise of eternal life. In his encyclical on hope, Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI said,"One who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life."
Living with hope does not mean ignoring the reality of the present culture; rather, it means not allowing an oppressive milieu to cloud our vision so much that we no longer clearly see that joy that await us, the future happiness that should animate our daily lives. Cynicism and bitterness cannot be the barnacles of our vessels. Our lives, our families must instead be buoyed by our hope in Christ so that when everyone else is sinking in the storm, our barque will stand as a sign to others that, as St. Josephine Bakhita said,
"I am definitely loved and whatever happens to me - I am awaited by Love."We have been born into this time for a purpose. We have been blessed with the baptism of the Holy Spirit for a reason: "[To] go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature." This is not an option but an obligation. Our marriages, our families must be witnesses to the faithful and merciful love of God. We must not despair for lack of eloquent teachers or for the minority of witnesses. It does no good to continually curse the darkness. Rather, let us live our lives with true joy and take to heart the message of St. John Paul II:
"To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good, the source of which is found in Christ the Redeemer of man. Every family unit needs to make these forces their own so that. . . the family will be 'strong with the strength of God"."