Advent Pastoral Letter 2008

Christmas, Holy Family, Our Family


The second “Year of the family” of the Diocese is coming to the end. I hope that every coming year will be a year of the family. The family should always be our chief pastoral concern. God, when He created humanity had at the same time established the family. A man and a woman should be united in a faithful and undivided love. The fruit of this love is a new life. Brothers and sisters increase the joy of the family. The new life grows up in the warmth of the family. The family shares the joy in good time and the pain in adverse condition. The security given by the family makes a young person strong to face life, full of confidence and esteem in himself, responsible and ready for sacrifice.


Unfortunately, this family joy cannot be taken for granted. Failed marriages, and broken families are our common experience. Whoever is at fault the result is always painful. These failures could be avoided in most cases. We must not give in to the events.


A so called sex culture floods our society, taking “sex” as pure expression of instinct and the body as merchandise. How can love without chastity result in perfect marriage? How can permanent relationship be established without fidelity and generous mutual giving of oneself? How can it give a secure home to the next generation?


In his encyclical “God id Love” the Pope denounces the prejudice that the teaching of the Church belittle the love between man and woman. On the contrary, love between man and woman is the masterpiece of God’s creation. God uses the image of betrothal and marriage to describe His love for His people and the love of Christ for the Church. Man is a spiritual being. True love transcends lust. It sees the partner as one more important than oneself. It forgets oneself, respects and loves the other faithfully and for the whole life.


God loves us so fundamentally that He became man and dwells among us. “To live together” is the secret of success for a family. Husband and wife must use every possible means to have time together and have time to be close to their children. Christmas and the feast of the Holy Family encourages us to strengthen or, if necessary, to revive the tenderness of the family.


There is a saying in Italian, “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”. Christmas is a feast of family gathering. Let us begin with Advent: The Church has special liturgy and let us make our home also into a church.


Business and social life should not deprive the husband and wife of the tenderness of being together. Children should not come home and find their parents always missing. Parents should satisfy the innocent demands of the children and guide them when their behaviour is not correct.


It is not necessary that every family have a Christmas tree. But to have a wreath and light one more candle on each Advent Sunday can create a wonderful atmosphere. The recent Synod of Bishops encourages “Bible reading”. How good it is if the family can gather every day to do the readings of the Mass of the day or of the next day! Let the children use their own words to pray, to remember the family members who are gone or in difficulties, to remember their birthdays and the important moments of their studies and work. Christmas gifts need not be expensive, they are more meaningful if they are obtained with savings of each day.


Jesus is the Saviour who has died and now lives in the glory of the resurrection. But for our need he becomes once again a child and a boy. Let him come to our homes, our schools and our parishes this year as a child and a boy. And let us see him and love him in the children!


Cardinal Joseph Zen
Advent 2008

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