For its many readers, the Italian daily “Avvenire” asked CANA eight key questions. Published on the eve of the World Meeting of Families in Rome (June 19), here is what CANA has answered.
Article in Italian here.
1) CANA’s mission is expressed in the phrase “For a better, stronger love”. Why have couples in our time lost the ability to love or to relate, to overcome the problems of everyday life together?
Through our missions in the world, we observe the loss of reference points, especially Christian ones. Couples find it difficult to reconnect, to know what is essential in life, to take time for each other. There is competition from work, often from both spouses, hectic lives, multiple outside activities, internet and social networks…. Today’s western society is very individualistic and pushes everyone to develop their projects, their career, to privilege their personal fulfillment, etc… to the detriment of the couple and the family. CANA is there to help couples to stop and take time for the essential: LOVE, TO LOVE…
2) In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis indicates a renewed path for the pastoral care of the family, explaining that marriage is not a point of arrival but a point of departure on a path where fragility and problems must be taken into account. Do the couples who come to your “CANA Week” have this awareness?
YES. Many choose to come because they feel they are experiencing difficulties in their daily lives; they do not always know how to name their fragility. They do not have or no longer have any reference points, or the keys to move forward, in the face of obstacles and difficulties. They are waiting, looking for something that will help them to communicate better, understand each other, learn to go through crises together, forgive each other, live a better sexuality… They realize then that they are not the only ones in this situation and that they can move forward like many others on this journey.
3) Do you think that the Post-Synodal Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, is known and appreciated by the couples you meet in different countries of the world?
In the CANA mission we promote a lot Amoris Laetitia – The Joy of Love – because the language of Pope Francis is rich, beautiful, concrete and above all more accessible than that of his predecessors. But outside of a circle of committed couples close to the Church, Amoris Laetitia remains little known. Much remains to be done and it will take time.
4) When we talk about the different problems that families have to face on a daily basis (couple dynamics, sexuality, education of children, relations between generations, etc.), are there different sensitivities between Christian couples and couples of other confessions?
We address ourselves to all Christian couples in the world. We find that all couples of different Christian denominations (Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Orthodox, Coptic, Maronite…) have the same questions about their married and family life. They have the same problems to solve: sexuality, communication, work/family life balance, the crisis of the Covid, education of children with the Internet, transmission of the faith, how to last in the relationship, personal and couple spiritual life, the place of each in the couple…. Secularity runs through the world, especially in the West, but we note that the question is also posed in the large agglomerations of developing countries.
5) What are the greatest difficulties of the couples who participate in your “Weeks”? Are there significant differences in the different countries?
Strangely enough, there are no significant differences between countries on any continent. Secularization and modernity affect almost everyone, with the same sensitive issues (see answer to question 4). The major difficulties are the same with nuances linked to the family environment and culture. For example, in some countries, playing with one’s children is unusual. In many countries, sexuality is often not well known; simply talking about the intimacy of the couple is very rare.
6) How should the Church change to better address these issues?
This is a broad question and there are surely several angles of attack. Here are a few ideas:
- Revisit the language to make it audible, simple and understandable by the greatest number. We notice that many people discover the beauty of the Gospel message of the Church when they hear it for the first time in a new way! The Pope has taken a big step in this direction with Amoris Laetitia.
- Choosing married couples or people in positions of responsibility in the Church as Pope Francis has begun to do. So that the Church has a word that is more adapted to the context, more open, more credible, while keeping the message of the Gospel. This also raises the question of the formation of these lay people and the accompaniment of their spiritual life.
- To take the time and the means to really understand what (young) couples live today in their countries. They are committed and have strong values, often without knowing those of the Gospel. To go from morals to what gives meaning! To make people understand from the inside the deep meaning of the Church’s message, such as that of chastity before marriage for example.
7) Why do you think the number of marriages is decreasing in the Western world?
The secularization of society is a steamroller: individualism, personal fulfillment, freedom understood as a refusal of constraints dominate. Women who study are looking to enhance their career; they postpone the age of having children or refuse to have them… Young couples no longer see commitment as an official act (no constraints), the increase in the number of divorces is not an incentive and even a counter-example! And the loss of the Christian faith in society no longer brings landmarks to those who are far from it.
8) How can we encourage the families of our time to still have faith in the Church?
The Church has an extraordinary and unique message to transmit, but it must review the way it is presented. It is a matter of learning to welcome couples where they are today, without judgment, and encouraging them to move forward, step by step, in trust. Not in a moralistic atmosphere of what is allowed or forbidden, but in an atmosphere of freedom and joyful simplicity. By showing them that it is possible.
It will take time. It is essential to reconnect with the families by welcoming the children very well, giving them their rightful place, offering them to experience programs that correspond to their realities of today while keeping the sense of faith.
To do this, it is necessary to work in proximity, to take care of families in difficulty, and especially to work hand in hand between clerics and laity. Together, we need a lot of humility, including in language, and mutual respect for each other’s vocation.
In the Church, we have the immense good fortune that many couples can bear witness: life as a couple is beautiful, even if it is not always obvious. Let us therefore highlight the witnesses of this world! At CANA, we know many believing couples who give themselves for the mission to couples because they have received a lot themselves. Let us value them, let us encourage them! This will give confidence to others.