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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Cardinal Rodé to Chilean Families: The Future of Chile Is in Your Hands
In his talk in Santiago de Chile, Cardinal Rodé encouraged the families he met to become “missionary families” who bring Christ to others.

Card. Franc Rodé, C.M.
Cardinal Franc Rode, CM, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Santiago de Chile. On December 10, 2008, Cardinal Franc Rodé, the Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, gave a talk in the gymnasium of the Cumbres School of Santiago to over 1,000 people, including parents of students of the schools, members and friends of the Regnum Christi Movement, and Legionaries of Christ who are working in Chile.

An English translation of his address, which was originally given in Spanish, is printed below. To see a video interview of the cardinal’s thoughts upon his arrival to Chile, click here.


Dear Fr Álvaro Corcuera, general director, dear Legionaries and members and friends of the Regnum Christi Movement:

          Providence has brought me here, to this beautiful country protected by Our Lady of Carmen, and to this city of Santiago, consecrated to the Immaculate Virgin who cares for us from St Christopher’s Hill. 

          It is a joy to be in contact with these families full of life and youth, who personify very well the motto of your last Encounter celebrated in the month of May: “apostles in movement.” The members of the Regnum Christi Movement are called to be precisely that: active apostles, Christians committed to spreading Christ’s Kingdom through their witness, preaching, and charity.

          Families, which you represent here, are the foundation of society and of the Church. The family, often called the “domestic church,” should be a community of growth in Christian life, where people live out the communion of love, and where they are taught to follow Christ and educated in the faith. As the Latin American and Caribbean bishops said in their meeting in Aparecida, Brazil: “The family, the heritage of humanity, constitutes one of the most valuable treasures of the Latin American peoples. It has been and continues to be a space and school of communion, a source of human and civic values, and the place where human life begins and is welcomed generously and responsibly.”

          I know that the Regnum Christi Movement helps and sustains you in the care of your families, and I have seen how it helps families become missionaries at the service of Christ and the Church.

Today one hears of the crisis of the family, and it is true that the family, as an institution, is facing many cultural and social difficulties, but that does not take away its value for the human person, for society, or for the Church. It is evident that the family is a permanent value, a lasting value. And if we look a bit at the history of humanity from the most ancient times, from the Code of Hammurabi (1760 B.C.) until these past years, the family has always been considered as the first cell, the foundation of society, of the nation, of the Church. And I have always thought that a man and a woman make up a family to perpetuate the family, the nation. It is only in these past few years that people are trying to define the family as something else, and this is a deviation. It is practically the first time in the history of humanity that people are trying to make the family something that it is not. The family is the natural habitat for the development of life and of Christian life. “In the heart of a family, the human person discovers the reasons and the way to belong to the family of God. From the family, we receive life, our first experience of love and of faith. The great treasure of the education of children in the faith consists in the experience of a family life that receives the faith, preserves it, celebrates it, shares it, and gives witness. Parents should become newly aware of their joyful and unavoidable responsibility for the integral formation of their children.” These are all quotes from the final document of the Latin American bishops gathered in Aparecida last year, a meeting I had the privilege to attend.

The Regnum Christi Movement, with its spiritual charism based on love, helps you give solidity to your family, to strengthen it. And dear friends, be grateful to the Lord that you are members of this great Movement, and live the Regnum Christi spirituality intensely.

Bring the life of the Regnum Christi Movement to your families. Pray as a family, do apostolate as a family, and enjoy your family life together. Everyone wants the best for their families. They want their loved ones to be happy. This project of happiness not only includes caring for the material needs of the children—their clothing, lodging, food, and education—above all, it means building an atmosphere of love and unity so that everyone can develop integrally and be happy. Of course, this is the ideal of every family: to create, certainly with sacrifices, with self-denial, to create this atmosphere of deep mutual communion, of deep mutual understanding and forgiveness. This is the most beautiful and happy space that a man and woman can create in this world. Building a family is much more than providing the more external elements such as food, education, etc. No, it is much more. It is above all a project of growth in love and in mutual trust. Growth in love and in mutual trust.

There are some young couples who presented themselves to us when we were coming to this room. They presented themselves as couples who will be getting married and forming a family in a few days or weeks. They have to know, and we all have to know, that joining together to form a family is something demanding, very difficult, because it demands a lot of patience, constant attention to the other person, and also the will to accept the other person just as he or she is, with their limitations, defects, with that deficient side of the human person that all of us, more or less, have here or there. And with the will to keep improving oneself and of growing as human beings in nobility, in dignity, in the spirit of sacrifice and growth in love. And that is how the great blessing of love in a family is formed.

God created man in his image and likeness: by calling him into existence out of love, he has also called him to love. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being, and the family is the natural habitat of love. In the family, the human person can naturally live out the experience of true love, which is generous self-giving to others. This point of generous self-giving to others is practically the work of a lifetime, to be really a gift and a grace for others. The spiritual charism of Regnum Christi helps you to cultivate this love in the family. Spiritual direction, the life of piety, and your personal commitment to Christ and the Church, will support you so that you can live out this vocation to love in all areas of your life, especially in your families.

The family is also the school of faith, the place where we live out the birth of Christ and develop our Christian life. It is true that the faith is a gift of God, but it takes a process of growth for that gift of faith to be assimilated, delved into, and lived out. Faith requires a community of believers, especially of the family, so that it can develop. In that sense, the parents and older brothers are the first evangelizers who teach their children and their little siblings to follow Christ, to be disciples of the Lord. It is true, the faith necessarily has a communitarian dimension. It is true, the faith always has to be a personal decision and also a way of personal growth, but we grow together, with others, and we grow deeper in our faith in a community, in a family. A French writer, a convert named Claudel, said, “When I start to pray the Creed, if I pray it by myself I almost never get to the end. I get lost. But when I pray it with the community, with the faithful in the church, then I can pray it to the end with a lot of conviction, united to the entire community of the faithful who are present in the church.” This holds true even more for families.

But it is not just a matter of passing on the knowledge of the truths of the faith. No, it is about much more. We should not forget that “Christianity is not a mere book of cultural knowledge or an ideology, nor is it just a system of values or principles, no matter how elevated they may be. Christianity is a person, a presence, a face: Jesus, who gives meaning and plenitude to the life of man.” So, true evangelization should lead people to experience Christ, not just to know about him. It is not just a cultural tradition that is passed on, but the experience of a loving encounter with the Lord. To be a Christian is to know, imitate, love, follow, and share Christ.

Parents are the true guides of their children; they help their children find their way toward a project of personal happiness, accompanied by their love and by God’s love. You know that your children are only yours in a certain sense because, although you feel responsible for them, you know that they do not fully belong to you, and that each one will take his own path to carry out this project of happiness to which he has been called.

And here I would like to mention a very important fact, which is a very certain fact of Catholic doctrine. We know that God creates each soul by an act of his will. Each soul, each human being, is created directly by God. The parents do not create the soul. God creates the soul. It is wonderful to think that we are created by God by an act of his will, by his personal decision. And it is not a generic creation, but an individual creation. Each one of us is personally wanted and loved by God, personally called into existence. And what defines us most deeply, what we are most deeply, what allows us to say “I,” is the soul. That is what we are, and that comes directly from God. What dignity and what beauty to be so ontologically linked to God by an act of personal decision! And of course, it is a source of joy to know that we were created, as theology says: “Ex  nihilo sui et subiecti,” meaning without precedent. Yes, our body does have a precedent, but not our soul. We are completely original, we are a “unicum” wanted by God, and we are an absolute novelty, an absolutely original creation. That is the greatness of the Christian concept of the human person. And I cannot understand how some people can get all excited about these theories of reincarnation, of previous lives, of other lives that take away that splendor of newness and also take away the fact of being absolutely free. Because the Lord created us as centers of love and freedom. It is not that I want to diminish the role of the parents in the life and existence of the children, but in fact, the parents have the great dignity of being collaborators in the works of God in the birth of their children, in their “coming to the world.”

We are living in difficult times in which being a Catholic means swimming against the current. And you know that only dead fish do not swim against the current. We know that following Christ has never been for conformists. The Lord already told us about the persecution that will always accompany the Church: “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they had kept my Word, they would keep yours also.” In the world we live in, we have to be aware of this cultural and social hostility, but it should not discourage us. Rather, it should have the opposite effect: experiencing adversity has to lead us to value the authenticity, the magnificent beauty of Christ’s message much more, as well as the commandment of Christian love, of returning good for evil. The Christians of today and always have to make our life a continual offering to God and to our brothers and sisters, just as Christ offered himself for us: “By this we know what love is, that he laid down his life for us. We also ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

For us, the cross is not a symbol of death, but of life, of resurrection, of victory in Christ. In the cross of Christ, we discover the Son of God who gave himself up for me so that I could have eternal life. For Christians, the cross should not be a cause of scandal, but a stairway of salvation. And in these days, in Valladolid (Spain), a judge has decreed that there should be no crucifixes in public schools in Spain. How far we are from understanding what the crucifix is, that it is a sign of victory, that it is the sign of extreme love, that it is the sign of the highest nobility that a human being can imagine, and that it is the sign of our civilization! If we make Christ into an abstraction, we separate ourselves from the roots, the foundations of our culture and our civilization.

We are in the Pauline Year, and it is precisely St Paul, the first Christian theologian, who reveals that the cross and love are united. For him, the first conviction on which he based his life was precisely the cross of Christ: “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Christ’s self-giving on the cross for love of him became the solid foundation on which he built his life. Christ was the model to imitate: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

This message from St Paul continues to be valid today. We have to imitate Christ in his self-giving to others, in his obedience, in his generous oblation. How useful this advice is in the life of a family! How often we find marriages where man and wife pledge undying love to one another, but are incapable of denying themselves and giving in to the other in small details! Authentic love leads to sacrifice for the beloved, and love is demonstrated precisely in that unconditional self-surrender that leads to the point of self-denial.

When he proclaimed the Gospel, St Paul strongly emphasized the centrality of love and the centrality of the cross as the symbol of reconciliation, union, and loving self-giving.

For St Paul, the family should be a mirror reflecting the love of the Father, and marriage should be a beautiful image of the Church. In St Paul’s vision, the spouses should give themselves to each other as Christ gave himself to the Church, with the same love, with the same generosity, as he says:. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the Church. You see, the ideal of love in marriage is to be a visible image of the love of Christ for the church, of the love of Christ for humanity. And it is that magnificent image of self-surrender in love, of love given to the other, that has to be presented in marriage, to the children in the family.

Today, more than ever, our societies need the witness of Christian spouses’ love. In Chile, too… and in Santiago, too. Do not be satisfied with just observing the changes that this society is suffering, the loss of deep values that is happening in certain areas. Think about how you can help to bring the message of Christian love to all men, starting with your homes, with your children. You know that lamentations are sterile, and that only real apostolic commitment and solid integral formation can help to build better societies made up of integral people.

Parents are the natural teachers of values. It is they who educate their children in solid principles or who neglect this responsibility and leave it to others. They are the ones who pass on the faith or who allow their children to come into life without ever knowing the love of God. What a terrible alternative! To be transmitters of the fundamental values that guide the life of the human person, of those who live in society, or to let the desert of values take over in a nation.

In God’s pedagogy, the human being experiences the love of his parents from the moment of birth. He perceives it in all the gestures of love that they have for him. From the time when he has the use of reason and learns that God is his Father, he understands that the love he experienced is the same that God has for him, an absolute love made up of continual giving. This is the great task, the great mission of the parents: to be the first manifestation of the love of God, to be the visible image of the love of God for the children. And when this essential nourishment is missing in the lives of the children, when the love of the parents is missing, this is often the beginning of an unhappy future, of a disgraceful future, of people who will have a very hard time finding happiness in this life.

The parents’ love, which the child has experienced and lived at home, becomes the reference point for him to understand the love of God as a merciful father. Thus, we can say that the first catechesis is the love of spouses for their children. Here begins the marvelous mystery of passing on the deep experience of God’s love.

Dear families of the Regnum Christi Movement, as I see you gathered here today, I think that the future of this beloved nation of Chile and of the Church in this country is in your hands. I invite you to build on solid rock. Anyone who hears the word of God and puts it into practice is like the prudent man who built his house on rock, and nothing will make it fall. Build your family on the word of God: listen to it and put it into practice so that it will enlighten your lives.

Make your families schools of prayer where the members live out a spontaneous relationship of union with God, where they always live under the gaze of the One who knows the deepest secrets of our hearts. Turn your families into missionary families so that you always give a witness of your faith and share it with joy. The Church in Chile and in America needs families’ commitment to evangelization.

The families of the Regnum Christi Movement have the mission of making Christ present in society, in culture, in its various spheres, among the youth, among children, among the elderly, among married couples. Seek to draw others to Christ, knowing that he is the Redeemer, the only Savior. Help them to discover in Jesus the very face of God. Teach them that Jesus is the Word that God wanted to speak to the world; he is God himself who came to share in each one of our lives. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Give Christ, and help your brothers and sisters to experience his irresistible attraction. Teach them the art of prayer, assiduous contact with the Lord, sacramental life. Bring them to know, love, and follow the Lord.

          Dear friends, the Church expects much from you. So, live out your spiritual charism and your apostolic charism to the full. Grow to reach more people, and form yourselves very well. Today’s world requires apostles who can guide their brothers and sisters toward what is good and true. Spare no efforts in your formation so that you can be better instruments for God. These are the recommendations I want to give you today.

          Thank you for allowing me to be with your families for this short time. I thank you for having come all the way here.

          I entrust the fruits of this meeting to Our Lady of Carmen, and I pray that she will obtain the Lord’s blessing for all of your homes, for your families, especially for the children and the sick. May she accompany you all with her motherly affection.

          Thank you very much.


Prayer at the end of the encounter

Thank you, Lord, for this encounter, for the words you spoke to us, and for the grace of having made these words sink into our hearts so that all of us, but especially the families, the parents, would be a magnificent reflection of your love, an image of the love of Christ for the Church. Thus, the testimony of Christians in this world will be invincible. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Final words

Dear friends, I have to tell you that this trip I have planned in Chile, and tomorrow I leave for Brazil, is not a clandestine or unknown trip. It is a trip that I told the Holy Father about in the audience he granted me a few days ago. We talked for a long time about the problems that are referred to our dicastery in charge of religious. And afterwards, I tolk him that I was going to meet the group of the Regnum Christi Movement and of my friends, the Legionaries of Christ, and the Holy Father Benedict XVI told me: “Tell them that I know them, that I esteem them, and that I appreciate them. Tell them that my blessing accompanies them and that they should continue following with a lot of conviction the path marked out by the charism given to the Regnum Christi Movements. Tell them to be great witnesses of Christ and of his Church in today’s world.”

With this, I think we can all go out strengthened, with a supplement of joy and of deep conviction about being on the right path, since the Holy Father encourages us to follow this path. Thank you.

Before leaving the room

I should tell you that in another meeting with the Pope, when speaking about Fr Corcuera, the Pope told me, “How good!  Fr Corcuera is a providential man.” So you have the certainty of having a good leader, a great leader.

Cf. Conclusive document of the V General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate, Aparecida 115, 204, 463b).

Aparecida, 302.

Aparecida, 118.

Cf. John Paul II, Post-synodal apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 11.

Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1253.

John Paul II, Speech to the youth in the Ice Palace of Berna, Switzerland, June 5, 2004.

Cf. Jn 15:20.

Cf. 1 Jn 3:16.

Gal 2:20.

Phil. 2:5-8.

Cf. Eph 2:16; Col 1:20.

Cf. Eph 3:14-15.

Cf. Eph 5:21-33.

Eph 5:29.

Cf. Mt 7:24-25; Lk 6:47-48.

Cf. John Paul II, Speech to the youth, National Stadium of Santiago de Chile, Thursday, April 2, 1987.

Cf. Jn 14:6.



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