This is an excerpt of an address given by Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday 2nd July 2011 to a group of pilgrims from the Italian Diocese of Altamura-Gravina-Acquaviva delle Fonti. It addreses the significance of the family’s reponsibility for Christain education.
Dear friends, particular attention must be given to the way of considering education in Christian life, so that every person can follow an authentic path of faith, through the different ages of life; a path in which – like the Virgin Mary – the person receives profoundly the Word of God and puts it into practice, becoming a witness of the Gospel. In the Declaration Gravissimum Educationis, the Second Vatican Council stated: Christian education “has as its principal purpose this goal: that the baptized, while they are gradually introduced the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, … and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth” (No. 2).
In this educational effort, the family remains the first responsible party. Dear parents, be the first witnesses of the faith! Do not be afraid of the difficulties amid which you are called to realize your mission. You are not alone! The Christian community is close to you and sustains you.
Catechesis accompanies your children in their human and spiritual growth, but catechesis is a permanent formation, not limited to preparation to receive the sacraments; we must grow throughout our lives in knowledge of God, thus in knowledge of what it means to be a man.
Know how to draw strength and light from the liturgy: participation in the Eucharistic celebration on the Day of the Lord is decisive for the family, for the whole community, it is the structure of our time. Let us remember always that in the sacraments, above all in the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus works for the transformation of men assimilating us to himself.
It is precisely thanks to the encounter with Christ, to communion with him, that the Christian community can give a witness of communion, lending itself to service, receiving the poor and the little ones, recognizing the face of God in the sick and in every needy one. Hence I invite you, beginning from contact with the Lord in daily prayer and above all in the Eucharist, to appreciate adequately the educational proposals and the forms of volunteer work in dioceses, to form persons in solidarity, open and attentive to situations of spiritual and material hardship.
In short, pastoral action should be geared to forming persons mature in the faith, able to live in contexts in which often God is ignored; persons coherent with the faith, so that the light of Christ will be taken to all environments; persons that live the faith with joy, to transmit the beauty of being Christians.