Family is a source of grace for society



Kathleen of Habsbourg-Lorraine

Still from the video Mrs Habsbourg speaking

Many families are broken. Yes, that is true. But family is still a source of grace for society.

That said Her Imperial and Royal Highness Kathleen of Habsbourg-Lorraine at the autumn board meeting of the Federation of Catholic family associations in Europe (FAFCE) in October 2021. This umbrella organisation of family associations from all over Europe wants to speak out from a Catholic perspective in Europe.

Mother of four

I was asked to speak on Families as Protagonists of the Common Good. In this context, I greet you all from the beautiful and demanding trenches of my motherhood.

I am the mother of four daughters aged 7 - 9 months.

I speak to you as a woman deeply grateful for my vocation and aware of the magnificent centrality of my role as Spouse and Mother - a role that is often overlooked, belittled by our society, by the media and sometimes even by those in the Church - a centrality that is essential to the Common Good.

My life is firmly anchored in the very real: in each family member’s bodily, spiritual, educational, and affective needs. In the deep desire for love from every single member of my family. For the moment, their primary need for physical love is directed at my person most of all.

My fundamental role as their mother in these early years is to prepare them to give and receive love. In many ways, I and my husband stand in for God Himself in giving and receiving love. One day, our roles in the lives of our children will diminish but the school of love which is the family, in which my husband and I are head and heart, will have prepared them to go out into the world and themselves become protagonists for the common good in their families and in their communities.

Church herself is mother

Much has been said in recent months in the Catholic Church as we discuss the role of women. We hear from all corners - often from those outside the Church – that women are currently on the periphery, the fringes, and must be brought into the heart of the Church and her governance.

I confess I find this thought utterly ridiculous. Women –one woman, Mary in particular– have always been the heart of the Church and to suggest that a woman must be a priest or bishop to be important in the Church is simply offensive. The Church HERSELF is our mother and the Bride of Christ. Our role as women - physical or spiritual mothers - is of central and foundational importance to the family, the Church, and all of society.

No priest or government institution is as capable as I am - united with my dear husband - of teaching our children compassion. Learning to choose the good for its own sake can be taught in no better place than the home and from no better hands than ours. The reality of right and wrong and the idea of responsibility and selflessness can be learned again, is no better place than at the heart of the family: watching their father sacrifice his wants and needs for the good of us all, watching a mother give herself body and heart to her children and husband, experiencing the reality that is responding to the needs of brother, sister, mother, father, grandparent, neighbour and friends have immediate and evident consequences for good or bad. Solidarity is felt and learned alongside learning to walk, talk, eat and play.

Beautiful opportunity

All these things are integral to the common good and a healthy and functioning society.

In the past three days, our family has welcomed a stranger grieving her father, has cooked for sick neighbours and consoled a friend suffering from a miscarriage. We have also had the beautiful occasion to receive the help of our neighbours and friends in myriad ways - from helping with childcare to responding to our needs in extreme moments of our lives. What a beautiful opportunity we have to act as a united family in our community in giving and receiving help and love.

I find the fulfilment of skills and talents and am challenged to grow in every way, every day. My children have been my most impactful teachers. In Cecilia’s eyes, in her look of love for me, her look of joy and delight in my presence near her from her earliest age has taught me more about the joy of love and the happiness that awaits us in Heaven and in contemplation of God than I have learned in all my years as a Catholic. I pray one day I look at Our Father in Heaven how Cecilia looks at me: in utter joy and abandonment to my love for her.

If I am speaking to you about the common good, it is because I am animated to work for a world in which my children and future generations will flourish. My role as a mother at the heart of a family gives me a direct responsibility and share in the future.

Mothers must have choice

The health and wellbeing of the family are central to our work for sustainable development. This development is impossible if we do not begin and end that work with the family's good as our primary objective. We must work toward a society and an economic model in which mothers, in particular, have the choice to stay at home if they desire. How often do I cross women who must tear their hearts in two every day as they leave their children - but are simply financially unable to sustain their families on one salary.

Indeed while on the one hand, we witness the sad reality of the disintegration of the family and the tragic consequences that disintegration holds for individuals and the societies struggling to replace it with institutions, we are also living at a moment where the family, perhaps in the past taken for granted, can be recognised for its absolute importance for human flourishing.

It is true that many children come into the world in tragic circumstances and are cut off from the family life that is their birthright. Many families are broken, and suffering and the heart of the home can become a place of immense suffering.

For this reason, it is even more fundamentally necessary that families rediscover their importance, that governments recognise the family as the primary cell of society, and that the Church recognise the fundamental role of parents in the integral spiritual and social development of children.

Church and society will illuminate

In doing so, the light that comes from homes and families increasingly supported and sustained by Church and society will illuminate and warm not only those members who are born into the family but even those on the outside who are drawn in. The good of the family, of each family, will become a source of grace, fulfillment and sanctification for individuals, communities and nations - truly protagonists for the common good.

Thank you for allowing me to witness my vocation and the important work I am doing in the heart of my home. May each of us continue to go out into the world proclaiming the mystery of love that is hidden in home and family and yet is paradoxical of the utmost importance to functioning societies and the good of each person.

This speech was held on October 25th, 2021. The text has been edited. You can watch the speech on the YouTube channel of FAFCE.



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