With the Holy Family of Nazareth in the background, I wish to reflect on the Christian Family and Human Life.

          The Christian family – every family – is the basic cell of society. The Christian family, moreover, is a domestic Church, and – with other families – an essential witness and promoter of the dignity and sacredness of every human life. As a community of life and love, the Christian family contributes with other families and concerned associations and peoples to the defense and promotion of the culture of life.

The family is the sanctuary of life, that is, “the place in which life – the gift of God – can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth” (John Paul II). “If the Christian family is the sanctuary of life, the place where life is conceived and cared for, it is a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed” (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia).

The role of the family in building a culture of life is “decisive and irreplaceable.” The Christian family is committed to “proclaim, celebrate and serve life”(John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae).

The Christian couples are asked to proclaim life by being aware of the true meaning of procreation, which reveals that human life is “a gift received in order to be given as a gift.” With God, the parents give origin to a new life. As Christians, they practice responsible fatherhood and responsible motherhood. The family proclaims the Gospel of Life, an essential part of the Gospel of Christ, by raising children and educating them in human and Christian values and virtues, and in Christian faith and morals. The parents teach their children, in particular, the meaning of life, health, suffering and death.

The family is asked by its faith in Christ to celebrate life through daily prayer – individual and family prayer. Indeed, the family that prays together stays together. It is called to celebrate life by giving thanks to God for the precious gift of life, listening to his Word, participating in the Sunday Eucharist, and receiving forgiveness and grace to forgive in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In his lovely Apostolic Letter The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, St. John Paul II highly recommends to families to pray the Rosary, a prayer of and for the family: “We need to return to the practice of family prayer and prayer for families, continuing to use the Rosary.” The family celebrates life through the daily life of its members – “if it is a life of love and self-giving.” The members of the family are also “people of life and people for life.” Furthermore, the Christian family in particular, celebrates life by helping other families celebrate life.

Serving life is the third task of the family, in particular the Christian family: serving life through solidarity within and around the family. Solidarity is manifested in attentive and loving care, and it has to be integral. Integral solidarity is expressed, too, by participating – united to other families and family associations – in the social and political life. Networking with one another, families work for just laws that protect and promote family dignity and rights, including “the right to life from the moment of conception to natural death.”

Serving the Gospel of Life entails also serving all other families and, above all, the needy families. In Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II asks the family to make a preferential option – or love – for the poor and disadvantaged families:“The apostolate of the family will also become wider through works of spiritual and material charity towards other families, especially those most in need of help and support, towards the poor, the sick, the old, the handicapped, orphans, spouses that have been abandoned, unmarried mothers and mothers-to-be in difficult situations who are tempted to have recourse to abortion, and so on.”

Families serve all the members that make up a family, in particular children and older persons. In our materialistic and secular societies, in “the world,” it appears that the elderly are being considered more and more as useless burdens, candidates of what Pope Francis calls the “throwaway culture.” The Argentine Pope asserts: “The family protects human life in all its stages, including its last” (Amoris Laetitia). The Christian families, in particular, ought to show great respect and love for their older members, who are – John Paul II states – “sources of wisdom and witnesses of hope and love. And adds, Our older brothers and sisters deserve a worthy life and a worthy death.

Human life possesses essentially a unique value and dignity. Human dignity means fundamental or essential dignity, a dignity that is equal in all human beings, and cannot be lost. It implies necessarily possession of human rights, beginning with the fundamental right to life: “Before the right to freedom is the right to life” which is inalienable and inviolable (Elio Sgreccia).

To defend and promote the indivisible right to life, humanists and believers appeal to what is called a consistent-life-ethics, symbolized for Christians by the seamless garment our Lord Jesus Christ had before he was crucified. The soldiers at the foot of the cross did not cut the seamless robe of the Lord so as not to destroy it. Similarly, human life, every human life must not be cut neither at its beginning nor at its end. Therefore, human life must be respected from the moment of conception (against abortion) to the moment of natural death (against euthanasia and the death penalty). We underline: the Church, the community of disciples of Jesus defends and promotes, too – and this ought to be emphasized – a dignified human life for all.

The family is a community of life and of love. Love is the value of life, and the task of all – in particular of the family and its members – is to build a civilization of love.