The XIV Ordinary Synod “On the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World” concluded on October 25. Like each synod before it, a “final report” from the bishop participants was sent to the Holy Father; its official English translation was published mid-December. From this report, it is expected—as the Synod Fathers themselves request—that the Holy Father will pen his own exhortation on the matter, based on the Synod’s final report.
The report is divided into three principal parts: “The Church Listening to the Family,” in which the current social, economic, and cultural circumstances are examined; “The Family in God’s Plan,” which outlines, according to Scripture and traditional teaching, the Church’s teaching on the family; and “The Mission of the Family,” which provides guidance on how the family can and ought to live its full life in today’s world.
In this latter section, the document gives attention to the liturgical celebration of the Sacrament of Marriage. “The marriage liturgy is a unique event,” the document states. “An engaged couple devotes a great deal of time preparing for the wedding ceremony. These cherished moments ought to be for them, their families and friends a truly spiritual and ecclesial celebration. The wedding celebration is an auspicious opportunity to invite many people to the celebration of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. The Christian community, through its heartfelt and joyous participation, is to welcome the new family in its midst so that the new family as a domestic Church might feel a part of the larger ecclesial family. The wedding liturgy ought to be prepared through a mystagogical catechesis which may make a couple understand that the celebration of their covenant takes place ‘in the Lord.’ Frequently, the celebrant has the opportunity to address an assembly made up of people who seldom participate in the life of the Church or belong to other Christian denominations or religious communities. The occasion provides a valuable opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, which can lead the families who attend to a rediscovery of faith and love which come from God” (59).
Following the marriage celebration, the Synod report continues, prayer and the liturgical life are to be a central aspect of the married couple’s new life together. “[F]amily spirituality, prayer and participation in Sunday Mass can also be stressed and couples can be encouraged to meet regularly to promote growth in their spiritual life and solidarity in the practical needs of life. A personal encounter with Christ through the reading of the Word of God, in the community and in homes, especially in the form of lectio divina, is a source of inspiration in the family’s daily activities. Liturgies, devotional practices and Eucharistic celebrations for families, especially on the anniversary of marriage, sustain the family’s spiritual life and its missionary witness” (60).
In light of the present report and also by way of preparation for the Second edition of the Rite of Marriage, the “mystagogical catechesis” on the sacrament of Marriage will continue to be featured in upcoming issues of Adoremus.