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May 18, 2021
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May 18, 2021

Understanding “the nearest hospital” – The Family

The Archdiocesan Family Life Commission (AFLC) is hosting a weekly online training workshop, ‘Understanding the nearest hospital’ running from April 17 to June 5.

The training is one of the ideas for pastoral care being implemented for the Year of Amoris Laetitia to promote meetings for reflection and discussion on the beauty and challenges of family life (cf AL 32, 89).

The AFLC references Pope Francis’ description of the Church as “a field hospital” and the family as “the nearest hospital” (AL, 321).  In this regard, it is hoped the value of the family at the societal level would be recognised, and well-established networks created consisting of pastors and families who, through their witness can accompany those who are struggling.

Tricia Syms

Tricia Syms, Episcopal Delegate for the AFLC chaired the workshop on May 8. A video ‘Many voices, one promise’ was shown with images of couples from around the world getting married and celebrations interwoven with scenes from nature. Participants were invited to share their impressions of the video.

AFLC Theological Adviser and Spiritual Director Fr Matthew Ragbir commented afterwards, “marriage is meant to endure through God’s grace, it is not a bed of roses, no call of life is…the rituals and ceremonies are very important to help us grow in God’s grace”.

He responded to a question from the previous session on what happens to a marriage when an unbaptised spouse goes through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).

Fr Ragbir said, “The natural bond of marriage is valid that exists between a baptised Christian and a non-baptised person. [It] becomes a sacrament at the moment the non-baptised person is baptised so long as marital consent continues. In other words …so long as there is free, total gift of self, that ‘yes’ for each other continues.” Upon being baptised the spouse is “incorporated into Christ”.

Fr Ragbir gave the example of a marriage between two baptised non-Catholics such as Anglicans and referred to Pope Benedict’s Anglicanorum Coetibus Providing for Personal Ordinariates For Anglicans Entering into Full Communion with The Catholic Church.

He said the sacramental bond of marriage existed and remained intact when they converted to Catholicism. He added, “It depends on the quality of their living that sacramental bond of course.”

The natural bond of marriage that exists between two unbaptised persons continues in a non-sacramental state when one of them is baptised. He clarified, “the sacrament is a sign of Christ’s love, and it is two baptised persons in the body of Christ.”

A video was shown with Dr Gregory and Lisa Popcak of Pastoral Solutions Institute that dealt with the Rite of Christian Relationship, one of the 3 Rs of Liturgy of Domestic Church Life.

Participants heard about secure and insecure attachment in relationships and how this impacts relationship with God. Group discussion followed.

At the May 15 session, Fr Ragbir explained about convalidation— in which one or two Catholics enter into a marriage that is invalid and would like to make it valid.

“A Catholic did not observe the canonical form of marriage: consent exchanged before an authorised priest, deacon and two witnesses, and did not receive a dispensation to do so.”

Some circumstances that would make a marriage invalid are, getting married before a Justice of the Peace, before an “Elvis Presley lookalike in Vegas”, with a minister at a beach or hotel, and eloping.

He gave an example of a couple who eloped but subsequently approached him to get married within the Church. “The canonical form of marriage is required when the marriage involves at least one Catholic party,” Fr Ragbir said. He briefly discussed baptism, and God’s love as a model for human spousal love.

He urged participants to continue learning about their faith. He highlighted different approaches to study family life: Christian anthropology, scripture, Church teaching, philosophy, sociology, psychology.

Fr Ragbir said the theology and work with family was recent. He mentioned Casti Cannoubii (1930), Familaris Consortium (1981), two synods of the family called by Pope Francis in 2013 and 2015 and his apostolic letter Amoris Laetitia (2016).

Fr Ragbir said, “We are in relatively new waters and it requires a lot of work for us to come to terms with, to delve to see how we minister, how do we care for the family and how do we defend marriage and family life.”

Syms continued the training using the Popcaks’ video on Rite of Christian Relationship.

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