Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive
prepared by the archdiocese of philadelphia and the pontifical council for the family
our sunday visitor, 128 pages, $9.95
Love Is Our Mission, a preparatory catechesis on family tied to the Catholic Church’s upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, begins exactly as it should: with Jesus revealing that being created in the image and likeness of God means being created to offer others the gift of ourselves.
The sexual difference between men and women is deeply connected to this giving. One of the catechesis’s virtues is the way it treats not only sex but also celibacy as open to this giving—and not just the celibacy of professed religious but the far more common celibacy of those who are unmarried but seeking to live chaste lives. For both celibates and married persons, “the internal motion of soul, the heart’s offering of itself, is similar at its core.” We might think that Christian married couples have more in common with other married couples of different values, whereas celibacy is a much different vocation. In truth, the catechesis notes, “a happy marriage—the kind that endures over a lifetime—has more in common with the generous, patient, self-giving powers of celibacy than what Pius XII called ‘a refined hedonism.’” Marriage also includes openness to procreation and to the purpose of parenting, which is to prepare children to become saints.
After articulating this vision of sexuality and the human person, the catechesis treats the more controversial topics, including contraception, divorce, and same-sex marriage. It notes that the Church’s injunction to chastity for Christians is uniform, no matter what sex they are attracted to: “All Christians are called to face their disordered sexual inclinations and to grow in chastity—not a single human individual is untouched by this summons—and hence in their capacity to give and receive love in a manner consonant with their state in life.”
The catechesis has one weakness: The authors frequently talk about God’s covenant without fleshing out what God’s covenants are and how they work in Scripture. That said, the term “preparatory catechesis” does not do this small book justice. Yes, it can help prepare those who read it for the World Meeting of Families. Much more than that, it provides a winsome, well-ordered, readable, and thorough introduction to the Catholic understanding of human sexuality and marriage. It explains what the Church believes and why in a merciful and charitable manner. It can serve as an important tool for evangelization and still teach those who have read widely on the subject.
This review was first published as a Briefly Noted in the 2015 June/July print issue.
Nathaniel Peters is a doctoral candidate in historical theology at Boston College.