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P A R T 4 A N   P                W     S     C H A P T E R 1 3 “Lady, Your Beauty Was a Ray of Heavenly / Light to My Thinking The family is at the center of public debate. The attempt to regulate new forms of cohabitation, different from marriage conceived of as the definitive and fertile relationship between a man and a woman, has sparked heated debate, bringing a process begun many years ago to its peak. This debate has brought to light, on the one hand, that the dissemination of a contrary mentality through the mass media (film, television, and the press) has not prevented many people from having a positive experience of family. Although the traditional family is no longer a fashionable model for living, the inextricable experience of a good that people have had in their own family life endures. We are grateful for this good, and we want to pass it on to future generations, in order to share it with them. On the other hand, the good we have experienced has not prevented the assertion of other forms of cohabitation, different from 177 marriage. Here we must consider, too, another, no less important fact: this process began when the vast majority of national legislation in Europe concerning marriage still defended the traditional model derived from Christianity. All the protection the law had to offer did not prevent the spread of a mentality against marriage, and was not able to stop the shift. Regaining the Self How did this happen? How is it possible that all the clarity we had gained concerning the nature of marriage, confirmed over the course of centuries, could be called into question in such a short space of time, and so pervasively as to become the mainstream mentality? Pope Benedict XVI reminded us: “Good structures help, but of themselves they are not enough. Man can never be redeemed simply from outside.”1 Trying to understand the current situation seems to me to be particularly critical in order to respond to the urgent needs that arise from it. Sadly we realize that many people find themselves unable to stand firm before the many difficulties they go through, external and internal. And it is not enough to know the doctrine of marriage to stand up to life’s blows. Each time it becomes clearer that the maturity of the human subjects approaching marriage cannot be taken for granted. The reality is that, regardless of their goodwill, many young people reach marriage without a sufficient awareness of the nature of what they are about to undertake. Nor can this awareness be taken for granted when it comes to young Christians, who not infrequently approach marriage in the same condition as their non-Christian friends, the only difference being that they get married in church and have the desire to live more or less according to the idea of marriage defended and professed by the Church.This lack of awareness is a problem that cannot be solved simply through the premarital courses we know, which by nature cannot address the circumstances of those who at178 A New Protagonist on the World Scene tend them.The challenge is serious, indeed, and it concerns the entire Christian community, putting to the test its ability to generate adult personalities, men and women, who are capable of approaching marriage with the prospect of a positive outcome. There is one thing that in my mind is pivotal for shedding light on the specific relationship that is established between a man and a woman. The crisis of the family is one consequence of the anthropological crisis we find ourselves in. The spouses are two human subjects, an I and a You, a man and a woman, who decide to walk together towards destiny, towards happiness. The way they approach their relationship, the way they conceive of it, depends on the image each one has of their own life, of their self-realization.This implies a conception of humanity and its mystery. “The problem of the proper relationship between man and woman,” said Benedict XVI, “has its roots in the most profound essence of the human being, and can find its answer only from this. It cannot be separated from man’s ancient and ever-new question about himself: ‘Who am I? What is man?’”2 So the first help that can be offered to those who want to marry is to help them to become aware of their own...


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