How can we better accompany families and couples pastorally?
This question was at the heart of the reflections at the 10th World Meeting of Families, which was held in Rome in late June.
And local Churches around the world are reconsidering this challenge after the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life published a guide on June 15, 2022, for those involved in this pastoral work. It gives orientations to dioceses, which are invited to launch “a pilot project” in parishes. Pope Francis wrote the preface of the document.
Speaking at the World Meeting of Families on Thursday, June 24, Fr. Fabio Rosini, director of the Vocations Service of the Vicariate of Rome since 2012, talked about how priests and seminarians can be trained in the pastoral care of couples. I.MEDIA interviewed him on this topic.
The first part of the interview is here.
How can a priest legitimately talk about sexuality to a couple preparing for marriage? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to let the laity talk about sexuality?
Yes, in fact I don’t do these marriage preparation courses myself. I have very good couples who help me and who logically address certain topics in a much more credible way. Without a shadow of a doubt, you have to know how to talk about this whole adventure, including sexuality, which is very delicate and vital to human existence.
At the same time, if there’s one thing that gives light and gives substance to the whole challenge of human affectivity and sexuality, it’s the art of loving. We have to train hearts, as opposed to bodies, because a heart that does not love does not practice sexuality in a healthy way. What is missing in sexuality is love. Love cannot be given without having received it. One must first experience unconditional love to be able to love unconditionally and authentically.
We’re also at a stage where the Holy Father has invited us a lot to talk about synodality, that is, doing things together, walking together. I’ve never done anything as a priest alone. I always did it with couples beside me who helped me so much because they put me into context, they made me grow, they trained me themselves. Nowadays a priest who does things alone is out of touch with reality. Lay people, couples, priests—we are an organic part of the Church. The functions of evangelization require that someone embodies and has experienced what I’m talking about. If we talk about love, we have to be people of communion who know how to collaborate.
How do you think priests can accompany couples even after they get married, and not just before?
There is absolutely a need for couples to always have an external point of reference for listening, dialogue and objectivity. A priest can be a tremendous help to a couple especially if he accompanies them through a growth experience. The problem is when he becomes the emergency room for when situations become difficult. It shouldn’t be that you get married and then if there is a problem you might call the priest and he helps you. The important thing is to keep growing and always moving toward being better, and the priest can propose this path of evolution, of human maturation, of losing more and more of one’s childishness.
If spouses walk together, engage in dialogue, and have a point of reference, their relationship automatically grows. So many times couples degenerate because they do nothing together. They come together in the same space, in the same house, but then it’s only two people taking unrelated paths. Then priests can propose paths of growth such that when the couple travels them together, those paths become the place where communion is woven.
How do you think pastoral care can be different for couples who are divorced or estranged from the Church?
Any baptized person always has growth to experience; any Child of God has the right to return to the Father’s house. The Word of God is for everyone, and proposing it means proposing that people follow a path. The important thing is always to welcome. What we very often have not understood with respect to the care of those whose marriage has fallen apart, and whose lives have gone on in other directions, is that fundamentally it is always and in every case about personal care.
You have to see the good of the person and the path of intimacy that they can walk with their Heavenly Father. And this can always be done with anyone in any condition. We think it’s a legal matter of “either yes or no” and instead it is a matter of creating a path – of walking or not walking, of welcoming or not welcoming, of healing or not healing.
See the first part of the interview, on marriage preparation, here.