The Choice of the Family
Bishop Jean Laffitte
Image (Sept 2015)
Bishop Jean Laffitte is Secretary of the Pontifical Council of the Family. This book consists of interviews he has given on marriage, being parents, living together and divorce. The book is easy to read, informative and timely. Bishop Laffitte reminds us that marriage is a vocation. It is a preparation for eternal life. So, to choose marriage without recourse to the eternal truths is to sever it of its intended grandeur. The sacrament of marriage is meant to deepen our friendship with God and neighbour.
The first chapter tells us of the bishop's own early life. He comes from a large family. He too had difficulties with the Church and drifted away from it in the sixties. This reminds us that when people accuse celibate clergy of not knowing much about difficulties in family life, they are wrong. Priests too have come from families.
The second chapter is about marriage preparation. The person who is engaged has a different calling to the one married. This is the time to prepare for marriage, to deepen our relationship with God. Living together before marriage has no depth because in this state it is not possible to see the other as gift. This helps explain why so many cohabiting couples break up when they encounter difficulties either while they are living together or when they get married. Cohabitation is not a preparation for marriage.
Bishop Laffitte reminds us that many people cannot distinguish between a commitment for always and one for as long as possible:
"If Christ unites Himself sacramentally with the married couple, He will not abandon His covenant on the pretext that the spouses have decided to divorce."
The covenant of marriage is thus indissoluble.
Throughout this excellent book, Bishop Laffitte reminds us that marriage and family life are vocations. The married couple have a vocation as spouses and parents as do their children. The book is a wonderful reminder that the family is the single most important institution in society.
Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan