The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nev-
ertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and
Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity,
of hospitality, and of sacrifice.
Christ chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the
holy family of Joseph and Mary. The Church is nothing other than
“the family of God.” From the beginning, the core of the Church
was often constituted by those who had become believers “together
with all [their] household.”
When they were converted, they
desired that “their whole household” should also be saved.
These families who became believers were islands of Christian life
in an unbelieving world.
In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to
faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living,
radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an
ancient expression, calls the family the
It is in the
bosom of the family that parents are “by word and example . . . the
first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should
encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, foster-
ing with special care any religious vocation.”
It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children,
and all members of the family exercise the
priesthood of the baptized
a privileged way “by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and
thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active
Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and “a
school for human enrichment.”
Here one learns endurance and the
joy of work, fraternal love, generous—even repeated—forgiveness,
and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.
We must also remember the great number of
who, because of the particular circumstances in which they have to
live—often not of their choosing—are especially close to Jesus’ heart
and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the
171 GS 52 § 1.