So, how is St. John Paul II against the heresy of gradualism, which denies free will and grace?
Here, he is clear that marriage is a decision which demands the virtue of faith, given to all in baptism. In this grace, we all become prophets to the truth. We, through our lay lives in marriage, strengthen the Church and evangelize the unbelieving.
Again, God does not ask the impossible, and we all are given the theological virtue of faith, which like all the virtues, is made perfect in practice.
Do gradualists think the saint's words are mere poetry? Do they not believe this infallible document themselves? Have they never experienced the growth of faith through suffering in their own lives?
Maybe, maybe not...The entire point of gradualism is that people should be allowed the sacrilege of receiving Christ while they are in sin, instead of following the teaching of sacrifice and suffering put forward by St. John Paul II and others.
At the time of the wedding vow, faith is operative in both couples, unless there is an impediment, which only the Church can decide. In that moment, the couple agrees not only to love each other and subsequent offspring, but to evangelize through the sacrament and to build up the Church through their real, total love. They enter into the love of God Himself.
To throw this away, and worse, to turn against this sublime teaching mocks God, and God will not be mocked.
As a sharer in the life and mission of the church, which listens to the word of God with reverence and proclaims it confidently, the Christian family fulfills its prophetic role by welcoming and announcing the word of God: It thus becomes more and more each day a believing and evangelizing community.
Christian spouses and parents are required to offer "the obedience of faith." They are called upon to welcome the word of the Lord, which reveals to them the marvelous news--the good news--of their conjugal and family life sanctified and made a source of sanctity by Christ himself. Only in faith can they discover and admire with joyful gratitude the dignity to which God has deigned to raise marriage and the family, making them a sign and meeting place of the loving covenant between God and man, between Jesus Christ and his bride, the church.
The very preparation for Christian marriage is itself a journey of faith. It is a special opportunity for the engaged to rediscover and deepen the faith received in baptism and nourished by their Christian upbringing. In this way they come to recognize and freely accept their vocation to follow Christ and to serve the kingdom of God in the married state.
The celebration of the sacrament of marriage is the basic moment of the faith of the couple. This sacrament, in essence, is the proclamation in the church of the good news concerning married love. It is the word of God that "reveals" and "fulfills" the wise and loving plan of God for the married couple, giving them a mysterious and real share in the very love with which God himself loves humanity. Since the sacramental celebration of marriage is itself a proclamation of the word of God, it must also be a "profession of faith" within and with the church, as a community of believers, on the part of all those who in different ways participate in its celebration.
Marriage is not just between two people to control lust. The witness of marriage in the Church transcends the sub-human and brings people to a chance for perfection.
This profession of faith demands that it be prolonged in the life of the married couple and of the family. God, who called the couple to marriage, continues to call them in marriage. In and through the events, problems, difficulties and circumstances of everyday life, God comes to them, revealing and presenting the concrete "demands" of their sharing in the love of Christ for his church in the particular family, social and ecclesial situation in which they find themselves.
The discovery of and obedience to the plan of God on the part of the conjugal and family community must take place in "togetherness," through the human experience of love between husband and wife, between parents and children, lived in the spirit of Christ.
Thus the little domestic church, like the greater church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith.
52. To the extent in which the Christian family accepts the Gospel and matures in faith, it becomes an evangelizing community. Let us listen again to Paul VI: "The family, like the church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates. In a family which is conscious of this mission, all the members evangelize and are evangelized.
Here we are back to my theme yesterday, that we are all called to evangelize and no one is left out of this command, not even the mother at home, or the dad at work.
We HAVE the grace to stay married and to be married in Christ. We are given that grace and we only have to agree to living in that grace.
This apostolic mission of the family is rooted in baptism and receives from the grace of the sacrament of marriage new strength to transmit the faith, to sanctify and transform our present society according to God's plan.
Particularly today the Christian family has a special vocation to witness to the paschal covenant of Christ by constantly radiating the joy of love and the certainty of the hope for which it must give account: "The Christian family loudly proclaims both the present virtues of the kingdom of God and the hope of a blessed life to come."
Remember how I wrote yesterday that I had a missionary heart? All who are married are given that for their children and for the parish, the entire Church.
It should not be forgotten that the service rendered by Christian spouses and parents to the Gospel is essentially an ecclesial service. It has its place within the context of the whole church as an evangelized and evangelizing community. Insofar as the ministry of evangelization and catechesis of the church of the home is rooted in and derives from the one mission of the church and is ordained to the upbuilding of the one body of Christ, it must remain in intimate communion and collaborate responsibly with all the other evangelizing and catechetical activities present and at work in the ecclesial community at the diocesan and parochial levels.
54. Evangelization, urged on within by irrepressible missionary zeal, is characterized by a universality without boundaries. It is the response to Christ's explicit and unequivocal command: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation."
Anything less is not the individual or couple living out their baptismal calls.
The Christian family's faith and evangelizing mission also possesses this Catholic missionary inspiration. The sacrament of marriage takes up and reproposes the task of defending and spreading the faith, a task that has its roots in baptism and confirmation, and makes Christian married couples and parents witnesses of Christ "to the end of the earth," missionaries, in the true and proper sense, of love and life.
A form of missionary activity can be exercised even within the family. This happens when some member of the family does not have the faith or does not practice it with consistency. In such a case the other members must give him or her a living witness of their own faith in order to encourage and support him or her along the path toward full acceptance of Christ the savior.
Animated in its own inner life by missionary zeal, the church of the home is also called to be a luminous sign of the presence of Christ and of his love for those who are "far away," for families who do not yet believe and for those Christian families who no longer live in accordance with the faith that they once received. The Christian family is called to enlighten "by its example and its witness those who seek the truth. "
Just as at the dawn of Christianity Aquila and Priscilla were presented as a missionary couple, so today the church shows forth her perennial newness and fruitfulness by the presence of Christian couples and families who dedicate at least a part of their lives to working in missionary territories, proclaiming the Gospel and doing service to their fellow man in the love of Jesus Christ.
Christian families offer a special contribution to the missionary cause of the church by fostering missionary vocations among their sons and daughters and, more generally, "by training their children from childhood to recognize God's love for all people."
Do some of the fathers in the synod not get it that marriage sanctifies? Adultery leads to perdition. Period. How is it that they think that those in mortal sin, according to Divine Law and the mystery of the sacrament, can receive grace? They cannot, and, in fact, insult God by putting their sin in His Face, as it were. Again, those who insists on this position cannot understand the freedom of will we all have, and grace, given to all.
56. The sacrament of marriage is the specific source and original means of sanctification for Christian married couples and families. It takes up again and makes specific the sanctifying grace of baptism. By virtue of the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, of which the spouses are made part in a new way by marriage, conjugal love is purified and made holy: "This love the Lord has judged worthy of special gifts, healing, perfecting and exalting gifts of grace and of charity."
So we become saints in marriage. Yes, this is possible, with free will choosing real love through grace.
The gift of Jesus Christ is not exhausted in the actual celebration of the sacrament of marriage, but rather accompanies the married couple throughout their lives. This fact is explicitly recalled by the Second Vatican Council when it says that Jesus Christ "abides with them so that just as he loved the church and handed himself over on her behalf, the spouses may love each other with perpetual fidelity through mutual self-bestowal...For this reason, Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state. By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses fulfill their conjugal and family obligations they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ, who fills their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance toward their own perfection as well as toward their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God."
Christian spouses and parents are included in the universal call to sanctity. For them this call is specified by the sacrament they have celebrated and is carried out concretely in the realities proper to their conjugal and family life. This gives rise to the grace and requirement of an authentic and profound conjugal and family spirituality that draws its inspiration from the themes of creation, covenant, cross, resurrection and sign, which were stressed more than once by the synod.
Christian marriage, like the other sacraments, "whose purpose is to sanctify people, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God," is in itself a liturgical action glorifying God in Jesus Christ and in the church. By celebrating it, Christian spouses profess their gratitude to God for the sublime gift bestowed on them of being able to live in their married and family lives the very love of God for people and that of the Lord Jesus for the church, his bride.
And if people fail, we have the sacrament of confession. One does not have to dump the conjugal relationship. One can forgive, one can ask forgiveness.
An essential and permanent part of the Christian family's sanctifying role consists in accepting the call to conversion that the Gospel addresses to all Christians, who do not always remain faithful to the "newness" of the baptism that constitutes them "saints." The Christian family too is sometimes unfaithful to the law of baptismal grace and holiness proclaimed anew in the sacrament of marriage.
Repentance and mutual pardon within the bosom of the Christian family, so much a part of daily life, receive their specific sacramental expression in Christian penance. In the encyclical Humanae Vitae, Paul VI wrote of married couples: "And if sin should still keep its hold over them, let them not be discouraged, but rather have recourse with humble perseverance to the mercy of God, which is abundantly poured forth in the sacrament of penance."
There is much in this encyclical on children, the family and preparation for marriage, but I am going to skip to these next selections.
And here the Pope-Saint addresses priest directly:
Priests and deacons, when they have received timely and serious preparation for this apostolate, must unceasingly act toward families as fathers, brothers, pastors and teachers, assisting them with the means of grace and enlightening them with the light of truth. Their teaching and advice must therefore always be in full harmony with the authentic magisterium of the church, in such a way as to help the people of God to gain a correct sense of the faith to be subsequently applied to practical life. Such fidelity to the magisterium will also enable priests to make every effort to be united in their judgments in order to avoid troubling the consciences of the faithful.
In the church, the pastors and the laity share in the prophetic mission of Christ: The laity do so by witnessing to the faith by their words and by their Christian lives; the pastors do so by distinguishing in that witness what is the expression of genuine faith from what is less in harmony with the light of faith; the family, as a Christian community, does so through its special sharing and witness of faith.
and again....the synod referred to here is the one in 1981
...the church cannot ignore the time of old age with all its positive and negative aspects. In old age married love, which has been increasingly purified and ennobled by long and unbroken fidelity, can be deepened. There is the opportunity of offering to others in a new form the kindness and the wisdom gathered over the years and what energies remain. But there is also the burden of loneliness, more often psychological and emotional rather than physical, which results from abandonment or neglect on the part of children and relations. There is also suffering caused by ill-health, by the gradual loss of strength, by the humiliation of having to depend on others, by the sorrow of feeling that one is perhaps a burden to one's loved ones, and by the approach of the end of life. These are the circumstances in which, as the synod fathers suggested, it is easier to help people understand and live the lofty aspects of the spirituality of marriage and the family, aspects which take their inspiration from the value of Christ's cross and resurrection, the source of sanctification and profound happiness in daily life, in the light of the great eschatological realities of eternal life.
In all these different situations let prayer, the source of light and strength and the nourishment of Christian hope, never be neglected.