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Mass for Pregnant Women


St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney
1 Kings 19:4-8; Eph 4:30 - 5:2; Jn 6:41-51

+ Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney

9 Aug 2009

This morning we are celebrating the second annual Mass and Blessing here at St. Mary's Cathedral for expectant mothers. Like all of you present, I came here to pray for these mothers and the fathers of the children as well as praying for your personal intentions.

For most of her history the Church probably did not feel the need for such a Mass, but in these changing times we need to reaffirm the basics of our understanding of human nature as well as the fundamentals of our Christian understanding of what is important in life.

In the old days Catholics were tempted to believe that having children was not only the main reason for marriage, but its only important rationale. At the time of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, and especially after Pope Paul VI's encyclical on natural family planning in 1968, a broader understanding of marriage developed which saw the mutual development of the spouses, husband and wife, as an equally important reason for marriage and these two important goals remain as the mainstay of the Catholic theology of marriage today.

In secular life the popular understanding of yesterday has been stood on its head and some have even abandoned part of the story. In the radically secular theory of the good life the marriage of a man and a woman, or the partnership of two individuals, sexual activity and the procreation of children are separated totally, three separate factors. In this alternative theory sexual activity does not have to be "making love", with love set aside cynically, while adults are seen to be autonomous, which means everyone can decide his own standards of right and wrong.

Elements of this package are offered to our young people, who are generally sympathetic to the idea that we must preserve our planet for the future that we must respect our physical environment. But human beings are the crown and summit of creation, masters but also guardians and servants of our world of nature and each generation also has an obligation to provide children for the future, to continue the human race. This is a sacred duty, which most adults understand instinctively and are happy to accept, but an increasing minority are unaware of these fundamental perspectives which shape the Christian way of living.

In these weeks the gospels recount Jesus talking about the "bread of life", a term which has different layers of meaning. But the bread which comes from heaven and brings its rewards in the next life as well as this life can mean correct teaching, the teaching of Christ which presupposes an accurate understanding of the purposes of life. Theologians say that grace builds on nature, takes human life to new heights of goodness and happiness. We saw wonderful glimpses of this in the hundreds of thousands of happy pilgrims at last year's World Youth Day. Many Australian non-Catholics were amazed that so many young people could be as happy and life-giving, as well as good and well behaved. Following Christ's teaching has this effect.

Accepting the bread of life or following Catholic teaching also gives us strength in times of trial so that we can persevere through difficulties.

Elijah the great Old Testament prophet and defender of the one true God, had fled into the desert to save his life. He was frightened and depressed, unsure he could continue. Twice he was strengthened miraculously by bread and water, so that he recovered his strength, took heart and marched for forty days until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

This incident has a symbolic meaning for us, exemplified in the many instances where adults have said to me that they don't know how they could have coped in their difficulties without their Christian faith.

Motherhood is a central fact of life, perhaps the central fact and a respect for motherhood is essential to the Christian understanding of life.

We thank God that in Australia the annual number of births is slowly increasing so that in 2008, 296,610 babies were born, the highest ever number of births. Like every other country in the Western world, Australia is not producing a sufficient number of babies to keep the population stable without migration, but with a fertility rate of 1.94 we are close to the 2.1 figure required.

Generation is an eternal mystery, whereby the father and especially the mother share in God's creative power. It is the woman who pays directly for this shared generation. No matter how the child was conceived, no matter how many problems remain, her child is precious because she knows that it is loved by God and she rejoices as she sees the hope of eternal life shine within her child.

Every child is a gift, ultimately a gift from God, a mystery which inspires awe, even in outsiders, so that the blessings are reckoned to outweigh the burdens by far.

Children, love making and marriage are an eternal triangle; a sustaining ideal which sometime comes unstuck, but it remains an ideal whatever the particular different circumstances.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, experienced more than her share of difficulties in her life with Joseph as she brought up Jesus. May she pray for and protect all the mothers here today with their beautiful children.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.



 

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