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Fr Alvaro Corcuera’s Letter to Families at the YFE in Brazil
“I wanted to take advantage of this meeting… to reflect together about the way we live love and charity in the heart of the family.”

yfe family
"To proclaim the whole truth about the family, based on marriage as a domestic Church and a sanctuary of life, is a great responsibility incumbent upon all." (Pope Benedict XVI)

August 16, 2010. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Fr Alvaro Corcuera, LC, wrote the following letter to Regnum Christi members and friends for the Youth and Family Encounter that took in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from August 13 to 16.

In his letter, Fr Alvaro discusses how the family is a school of true love for the children and an evangelizing community that can bring the love of God to others. He also covers more specific aspects of love in the family, such as charity between spouses, the mutual love between parents and children, and charity with grandparents.

Since the topic is of universal interest, the entire letter is presented below and in pdf format.


Thy Kingdom Come!


Rome, August 6, 2010
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

To the participants at the Youth and Family Encounter
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Very dear friends in Christ:

It is a joy for me to be able to greet you and be with you through this letter in the celebration of the Youth and Family Encounter. God is offering us this opportunity to share our faith and our experience of Christ. He is the one who gathers us and invites us to live our battles and our moments of joy and sorrow in communion, aware that their true meaning is revealed only in him.

Under the embrace of Christ the Redeemer and the motherly gaze of Our Lady of Aparecida, I wanted to take advantage of this meeting, in which we gather as one big family, to reflect together about the way we live love and charity in the heart of the family. The Lord’s entire message can be summed up in the commandment of love. And with whom must we start living it if not our closest and most beloved ones? With the grace of God and the use of faith, the natural love that we have through our blood ties can be raised up and transformed into supernatural love.

It was precisely in Rio de Janeiro that John Paul II spoke these famous words during the Meeting for Families in 1997, summing up this mystery: “Rio de Janeiro, divine and human architecture; such is marriage and the family; I learned it fifty years ago,” he said, referring to his own family and pastoral experience.

It is always a joy to write about the family. As
Family, baby crying, familia
"In the family, we love the other person for who they are, not for what they have or what they do. They are accepted as they are."
the Aparecida document states in n. 432, “The family is one of the most important treasures of Latin American and Caribbean peoples, and it is the heritage of all humanity.” We exist thanks to our families. We owe them our life, education, and everything that we are. Throughout life’s different stages, the family plays a very important role in our lives. What is more, if we meditate on the mystery of the Incarnation, we realize that God wanted to be born in a family, to have someone to welcome him when he was born and to protect and educate him until he reached maturity. By so doing, Christ sanctified the human family.

Today it seems that the so-called “traditional” family (founded on an indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman) is no longer in fashion or that it is one option among many. We run the risk of falling into a certain pessimism and of speaking about it nostalgically. To flee this defeatist attitude, we Christians must not look back; instead, we must learn to go against the current, teaching with our own example that it is worthwhile to fight for the family. Faith in the family unites us more than ever. Pope Benedict XVI said that “The family is a necessary good for peoples, an indispensable foundation for society and a great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is a unique good for children, who are meant to be the fruit of the love, of the total and generous self-giving of their parents. To proclaim the whole truth about the family, based on marriage as a domestic Church and a sanctuary of life, is a great responsibility incumbent upon all” (World Meeting of Families, Valencia, Spain, July 8, 2006). In the same way, John Paul II was very energetic in his defense of the family and did not hesitate to condemn certain contrary policies promoted by international organizations. On one occasion, after breaking his leg, he said “this is the suffering that I needed to offer up for families.”

The family as a school of true love

Speaking about the family means speaking about love. A family with love is everything. Without love, it might be a hotel or a restaurant, but it won’t be a family. We always say that we learn to love by loving. But we can also say that we learn to love by receiving love. In
The Funke family.
"In the family, the members do not just learn the theory of Christian teachings; they learn to be Christians."
Valencia, the Pope said, “The family is the privileged setting where every person learns to give and receive love.” There we receive love; there we learn to love. Thus, the family is a true school of love and of the Gospel.

Charity needs an environment and a learning process. What is the most natural and spontaneous environment to learn to live it?  I believe there is no better institution for it than the family. It is the natural place where parents give their children unconditional love, and where children learn to love their parents and siblings in the same way. In the family, we love the other person for who they are, not for what they have or what they do. They are accepted as they are. Do we realize what it means that love is free? Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say, “Love begins at home… I want you to find the poor first in your own home, and start loving there. Maybe our people here have material things, maybe they have everything, but I think if we examine our own homes, how difficult we find it at times even to smile at one another. Well, a smile is the beginning of love!” (Speech to the participants at the Gente Nueva Congress, December 12 1988). These are simple but profound reflections. How can we go out to the world and give witness to Christ’s love if we are not capable of being kind and smiling in our own home, with the people we live with every day?  We can all practice the apostolate of smiling. And we can always start with the people around us, the ones God has put closest to us.

The family, an expression of charity to others

A deep family spirituality is the strongest guarantee of family unity. We have all heard that “the family that prays together, stays together,” as Fr Peyton, a promoter of the family Rosary, used to say. It is something that John Paul II liked to repeat. It is hard to conceive of family unity without the close presence of the Eucharist and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. That is why I am so edified by the families that pray together, that find a moment in the morning to offer their work to God, to go to Mass together, to pray the Rosary or give thanks at the end of
Holy Week presents a unique opportunity for your family to walk with Christ.
“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” (Familiaris consortio, n. 52).
the day. It is also beautiful to see how people travel to Marian shrines during their vacations, or go on evangelization missions. I remember that on one occasion, a 15-year-old boy approached me and told me that he had already gone on Holy Week missions 16 times. The first time, he was in the womb of his pregnant mother! And he has never missed it since then. “To hand down the faith to children, with the help of individuals and institutions like the parish, the school or Catholic associations, is a responsibility which parents cannot overlook, neglect, or completely delegate to others,” Pope Benedict XVI said in Valencia (World Meeting of Families, Valencia, Spain, July 8, 2006).

John Paul II called the family “a believing and evangelizing community,” a community that constantly needs to be evangelized if it is to carry out its fundamental ministry of evangelization within itself. “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” (Familiaris consortio, n. 52). Apostles are born and forged especially in Christian families. Both the parents and the children listen within the family to the Gospel of Christ in order to live it consistently and communicate it faithfully. All must open themselves to listen to the Holy Spirit who, as the sweet guest of the soul, invites them to grow in holiness and preach the Gospel with their words and the witness of their lives. Parents not only teach their children the faith; often, they also receive true Gospel lessons from their children.

Every family is called, with God’s help, to be an authentic “domestic church,” a focal point of evangelization and of the human person’s integral development. Thus it becomes an “authentic school of evangelization” in which everyone—parents, children, and other relatives and friends—become deeply imbued with the spirit of the Gospel in their daily chores and tasks.

When the family dedicates itself to spreading the faith, all of its members effectively grow in their identification with the Christian values they are trying to share. Faith is strengthened by giving it. A faith that is lived in family, not just inherited, unites and strengthens all the members and becomes a source of charity. On the other hand, the absence of those signs of faith weakens the unity of the members.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we see how entire families embraced the faith. In the family, the members do not just learn the theory of Christian teachings; they learn to be Christians. We can say that it is like a gymnasium in which a person can exercise all of the Christian virtues, such as humility, purity, obedience, the meaning of Christian poverty, a supernatural vision of life. In the couple’s relationship and in the education of the children, the members learn never to hurt each other, never to humiliate or mistreat one another, and to find ingenious ways of meeting each others’ needs. We learn to understand, to listen, to lift up our brother, and to do good to others always.

Charity between spouses

Love between spouses is the beginning and foundation of every family. On their wedding day, the spouses promise each other mutual fidelity, a fidelity that can only be sustained in time with a growing love. It is a fidelity that is nourished in the great fire of divine love. Besides fidelity, the spouses promise above all to love each other with a love that they foster and cultivate every day in their mutual self-giving,
"On their wedding day, the spouses promise each other mutual fidelity, a fidelity that can only be sustained in time with a growing love."
each putting the other ahead of self. It is a love that is not improvised, a love that is not sentimentalism or pure emotion.

A successful marriage is not the result of luck. Normally, we harvest what we sow. Love is like a plant: it is not enough for us to have a good seed; we also need to take away the rocks and thorns, water it, protect it from too much sun or cold… There are many factors that can drown the seed, keep it from growing, or pose deadly threats once it has been born. The spouses have to be alert, always vigilant, so that nothing and no one clouds their first love; instead, everything should help to make it grow and mature. One way of doing so is by dialogue, as an eminent sign of the spirit of charity in the couple and in the family, a serene, constructive dialogue that is open to the other’s needs above one’s own, full of the desire to harmonize opposing positions and, when necessary, ready to give up one’s own point of view for the greater good of the mutual union.

In this sense, other families that have already had years of experience of marriage and family life can play a fundamental role. Here we see the need to foster the formation of groups of married couples and organize retreats, family get-togethers, parenting classes… There is no doubt that these are very valuable means of ongoing formation for all Christians. The parishes and movements must bet on the family. Along the same lines, we will always welcome initiatives of yours which, following the guidelines of the Pope and the bishops, lead you to create integral formation centers for families. In such centers, courses could be given for all members of the family, offering a clear formation, according to the criteria of Catholic teachings, on different aspects concerning the family. Thanks be to God, Regnum Christi is slowly building up its apostolate in this field and putting it at the service of the parishes and local churches.

In summary, I believe that the crisis of the family results from a crisis in the living of true love. Without authentic charity, there cannot be happy families. The spouses’ life together requires a constant exercise of charity, of self-giving to each other, of mutual forgiveness and understanding, with the acceptance of each other’s limitations. There needs to be a lot of self-forgetfulness in order to create a habitual atmosphere of serenity and harmony, trust and joy, mutual respect and openness. Whoever learns to love forgets self and is happy in marriage. Marriage makes the spouses happy insofar as they detach from self. That is how they grow in holiness. Whoever does not love, or loves little, feels that marriage is a burden and is not happy.

Mutual love between parents and children

God willed for the love between spouses to be open to new life and bear fruit with the arrival of children. Every human being should come into the world as the result of an act of true love. “Father and mother have said a complete ‘yes’ in the sight of God, which constitutes the basis of the sacrament which joins them together. Likewise, for the inner relationship of the family to be complete, they also need to say a ‘yes’ of acceptance to the children whom they have given birth to or adopted, and each of which has his or her own personality and character,” (Benedict XVI, ibid).

Children are a blessing for their parents. They make the union more solid, stable, and definitive. They are the crown of marriage; “they are the hope that keeps flowering, a project that is continually beginning, a future that is ceaselessly opening. They represent the flowering of conjugal love, which is reflected and consolidated in them” (John Paul II, Jubilee of Families, Rome, October 14, 2000). For this reason, we cannot accept the widespread contraceptive mentality that considers children a threat or a burden to be avoided. Sometimes one meets up with young couples who do not want to have children or who postpone the arrival of their first child for many years without a serious or a just cause. Others excessively limit the number of children, although their life conditions would allow them to take responsibility for more. This is sad because it shows that some have possibly not understood the deep meaning of marriage. Unfortunately, the rejection of children and the same dynamic of contraceptive methods often becomes the ruin of the marriage because it falsifies the intimate relationship of the spouses, canceling out the totality of the gift and generating a way of living intimacy between the spouses in which it is very difficult to leave egotism to one side. And egotism is the opposite of love. Without love, as we have already said, there is no marriage and no family.

We all know well that the education and formation of children also requires the parents to practice charity, sometimes to a heroic degree. It continues for many years. It is an art that the parents take on out of love and with love, sustained by the grace that comes to them from God. This responsibility cannot be delegated to the school or to any other institution. Parents must be good observers. They should watch attentively, discover the signs that their children send with their face, their behaviors, their eyes. Parents need infinite patience to listen to them with empathy and strive to understand them. The most natural thing is to correct, contradict, make them see all their mistakes… How difficult it is to truly listen! Charity moves parents to come closer and reduce distances, without causing fear or dread. This requires a lot of self-forgetfulness and a very authentic charity, which must be asked for in prayer.

No situation tests the parents’ love so much as a father or mother’s relationship with their adolescent boy or girl. The son or daughter’s friendship cannot be bought. It cannot be obtained with gifts or presents. The children can detect when their parents have a sincere interest in them and their lives, an interest from the heart, from a heart that truly loves. True charity also moves the parents to look for a good school for their children, to help them be surrounded by good friendships and healthy pastimes. Not to do so would be indifference, which is the opposite of love.

There are more and more young people today who grow up in environments where everything is easy and comfortable. They do not develop their willpower and their critical thinking skills. They are used to receiving everything already done for them, without having to put in their own effort. Here as well, the parents, as educators, will often have to go against the tide. True charity must create an environment of exigency and seriousness in, for example, the use of the communications media. We cannot be naïve: the indiscriminate and excessive use of these electronic media is damaging the lives of many teenagers. Preventing, setting standards, and keeping watch are ways of living the virtue of charity. We have to teach, accompany, supervise… and little by little, leave room for personal conviction.

In this sense, it is beautiful to see the results that programs like School of Parents, Build the Family, Grow in Family, etc. are giving in different places. These programs are aimed at parents who ask for and need guidance in the integral formation of their children, and their purpose is to teach the father and mother how to be true educators of their children. They offer instruction on fundamental pedagogical principles; the ideal of the integral formation of the human person; the foundations of Christian anthropology; how to form the intellect and the will, as well as the sentiments, affections, imagination, and memory; how to form the moral conscience as the axis of all growth in human and Christian values; the principles of developmental psychology with a special emphasis on the difficult period of adolescence; an education in chastity and the Christian value of sexuality; special problems of adolescence, such as the use of drugs, sects, and esoteric movements; the proper use of music, etc. Through various formative meetings, parents can acquire a complete vision of family pedagogy, based on a healthy Christian anthropology. These initiatives, and others like them, are a sign of the charity that moves many parents who want to be good instruments in the integral education of their children.

For their part, the children’s love for their parents is shown in respect, veneration, and loving obedience. “Honor your father and mother as the Lord, your God, has commanded you, that you may have a long life and prosperity in the land” (Dt 5:16). The wisdom books are full of precepts that shed light on the children’s relationship with their parents: “With your whole heart honor your father; your mother´s birthpangs forget not” (Sir 7:27). “He who honors his father is gladdened by children, and when he prays he is heard” (Sir 3:5). “He stores up riches who reveres his mother” (Sir 3:4). On the other hand, St. Paul called for reciprocity with children when he wrote: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother.’ This is the first commandment with a promise, ‘that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:1-4).

Charity with grandparents

The grandparents’ presence is important in the family: “They are a treasure which the younger generation should not be denied, especially when they bear witness to their faith at the approach of death,” said Pope Benedict XVI at the Fifth World Meeting of Families (July 8, 2006). “Elderly people help us to see human affairs with greater wisdom, because life´s vicissitudes have brought them knowledge and maturity. They are the guardians of our collective memory, and thus the privileged interpreters of that body of ideals and common values which support and guide life in society. To exclude the elderly is in a sense to deny the past, in which the present is firmly rooted, in the name of a modernity without memory. Precisely because of their mature experience, the elderly are able to offer young people precious advice and guidance” (cf. John Paul II, Letter to the Elderly). The grandparents’ closeness and presence in the family is certainly providential for the children and grandchildren. We must live in a constant effort to learn to value and be thankful for what they have done for us. Normally, we have to reach our own adult age to appreciate and be grateful for our own parents’ sacrifices and efforts.

As grandparents get older, they begin to need special care and often go through moments of solitude and moral and physical difficulties: they are widowed, their friends die, they suffer illnesses… That is when the children have the chance to return the love they received freely. “Love is repaid with love,” as the saying goes. As life-expectancies get longer and the number of elderly people grows, it is urgent to promote a culture where old age is welcomed and valued. This requires a constant exercise of charity, sometimes unto heroism. Taking care of an elderly person implies a lot of renunciations. Many of them cannot stay home alone and require constant attention and adjustments to the family schedule, pastimes, and trips. Sometimes, because of their advanced age or because of the solitude of widowhood, they also experience mental disorders and do not want or allow others to care for them. These factors can make the service given them all the more virtuous, but it can also become a heavy burden for a family that needs the help of other relatives, neighbors, friends, and sometimes professional assistance so that those who are directly responsible for the care of an elderly family member can also get some hours and days of necessary rest.

We must all remember that taking care of an old person is taking care of Christ. He who cares for an elderly person ends up receiving more than he gives. It is not perceived in an immediate way—perhaps it seems to be the opposite—but his soul is changing through contact with the older person. “While speaking of older people,” wrote John Paul II, “I would also say a word to the young, to invite them to remain close to the elderly. Dear young people, I urge you to do this with great love and generosity. Older people can give you much more than you can imagine” (Letter to the Elderly, n. 12).

In some situations, circumstances require admission into a nursing home for the elderly, especially when they need to receive a specific form of assistance. I believe that, except in cases where they have lost their mental faculties, the elderly know how to distinguish when they are brought to a nursing home for their own good, to receive better care, and when they are brought because they are seen as an obstacle for the family. It is necessary to make a special effort to relieve the weight of solitude and to help the elderly feel loved, useful, and cherished. Charity should move us to turn these nursing homes into true homes in which everyone loves and knows each other, and where they share their joys and sufferings.

We could continue talking about charity with other relatives: aunts and uncles, cousins, in-laws, etc. The love between siblings is also worth a special mention, but I do not want to go on further in these reflections. God willing, may we always be a source of harmony, peace, and unity in our families, true promoters of the good of others. It is sad to see so many families divided over problems of money or inheritances. So much is lost when we put our personal interests first, but how much we can gain when patience, understanding, and unselfish love reign in our lives and our family relationships. I am aware that there are very difficult situations in which living such a love also requires its share of heroism; but I am also convinced that if God has given us this gift, he will also give us the grace of living this virtue to the necessary degree.

To conclude, I would like to share the prayer John Paul II composed for families to pray:

Let us pray today for all families in the world, that they may respond to their vocation just as the Holy Family of Nazareth responded to theirs.

Let us pray especially for families that are suffering, going through many difficulties, or are threatened in their indissolubility and in the great service to love and life for which God chose them.

Oh Jesus, kindly receive our family which today offers and consecrates itself to You. Protect it, keep it, and imbue it with your peace so that all may come to enjoy eternal happiness.

Oh Mary, loving Mother of Jesus and our Mother, we ask you to intercede for us, so that we will never be lacking in mutual love, understanding, and forgiveness, and so that we may obtain your grace and blessings.

Oh Saint Joseph, help us with our prayers in all our spiritual and temporal needs, so that we may please Jesus eternally. Amen.

I conclude these reflections entrusting you to Mary, the Queen of Families. She must be the guide to lead you along the way of unselfish love so that, like the family in Nazareth, your homes may be oases of true charity, mutual love, and understanding, even in the midst of the sacrifices and struggles implied in building a Christian family. We also ask her for Christian families to be seedbeds of vocations to the priestly and consecrated life. What greater joy and honor for a family than for God to choose one of its members to be dedicated exclusively to him and his interests.

May God bless you and accompany you always. With a remembrance in my prayers, I remain yours sincerely in Christ and the Movement,

Fr Alvaro Corcuera, LC



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