In the homily during the Mass on the occasion of the First National Encounter of Croatian Catholic Families, celebrated on the second day of the apostolic visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Croatia, June 5, the Holy Father urged the family to resist the secular mentality "which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family." Observing that the family today "has to face difficulties and threats," the Pope urged families to commit themselves to teaching children to pray, and pray with them; draw them close to the Sacraments... and read the sacred Scriptures..., be like a little Upper Room, like that of Mary and the disciples, in which to live unity, communion and prayer!"
At the beginning of the homily, greeting all the families gathered at the Hippodrome, and all others linked through radio and television, the Pope said that he had very willingly accepted the invitation of the Croatian bishops to visit Croatia on the occasion of the National Encounter of Croatian Catholic Families. He added that he also expressed "sincere appreciation for this attention and commitment to the family." This "this basic human reality, in your nation as elsewhere, has to face difficulties and threats, and thus has special need of evangelization and support, but also because Christian families are a decisive resource for education in the faith, for the up-building of the Church as a communion and for her missionary presence in the most diverse situations in life."
"Everyone knows," continued the Pope, in his reflections on the family, during which on two occasions he cited his predecessor to the cathedra of Peter, the Blessed John Paul II, "that the Christian family is a special sign of the presence and love of Christ and that it is called to give a specific and irreplaceable contribution to evangelization…The Christian family has always been the first way of transmitting the faith and still today retains great possibilities for evangelization in many areas." The Pope then addressed a powerful appeal to families: "Dear parents, commit yourselves always to teach your children to pray, and pray with them; draw them close to the Sacraments, especially to the Eucharist… and introduce them to the life of the Church; in the intimacy of the home do not be afraid to read the sacred Scriptures, illuminating family life with the light of faith and praising God as Father. Be like a little Upper Room, like that of Mary and the disciples, in which to live unity, communion and prayer.
"By the grace of God, many Christian families today are acquiring an ever deeper awareness of their missionary vocation, and are devoting themselves seriously to bearing witness to Christ the Lord… In today's society the presence of exemplary Christian families is more necessary and urgent than ever. Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization, which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe. Freedom without commitment to the truth is made into an absolute, and individual well-being through the consumption of material goods and transient experiences is cultivated as an ideal, obscuring the quality of interpersonal relations and deeper human values; love is reduced to sentimental emotion and to the gratification of instinctive impulses, without a commitment to build lasting bonds of reciprocal belonging and without openness to life. We are called to oppose such a mentality! Alongside what the Church says, the testimony and commitment of the Christian family – your concrete testimony – is very important, especially when you affirm the inviolability of human life from conception until natural death, the singular and irreplaceable value of the family founded upon matrimony and the need for legislation which supports families in the task of giving birth to children and educating them," said the Pope in his homily at the Mass on the occasion of the First Encounter of Croatian Catholic Families.
"Dear families, be courageous! Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage! Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person! Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them! The good of the family is also the good of the Church.… Let us pray to the Lord, that families may come more and more to be small churches and that ecclesial communities may take on more and more the quality of a family!" said Pope Benedict XVI. In conclusion, the Holy Family urged Croatian families to live "the communion of faith and charity, and to hear themselves called to evangelize with the whole of their lives.