Cardinal Müller reflects on faith, family

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As prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller works closely with Pope Francis and the College of Cardinals to promote and preserve the heritage of revelation handed down by Jesus Christ.

The cardinal said his own faith was nourished by his parents and the parish priests in his native Finthen, a borough of Mainz in West Germany. 

He was taught to pray when he was very young, first in the evening, before meals and before going to sleep. “We had much contact with our parish priests (at home),” he said, and in school, where he was educated by the priests and sisters. 

“It was natural to partake in the ecclesiastical life,” the cardinal said during a recent visit to the Arlington Diocese, during which he celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More and gave the commencement address at Christendom College in Front Royal. 

“As you become older it is important that what you have received from your parents and the church, you must take it over in your active and objective life,” he said.

“This is a normal change from childhood and then to adulthood, at an age when you become more active, and that all good should come from your personal conviction and your personal engagement for the church and the bishops of the church.”

Cardinal Müller, who was ordained to the priesthood Feb. 11, 1978, said that his priestly vocation was nourished and encouraged by a variety of strong influences, not just one person.

“We had good parish priests and chaplains who helped at the parish,” he said. “There was a monastery at the parish and we had much contact with the sisters.”

At school he said he had good teacher priests who taught him Latin, as well as the teachings of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas and other Church Fathers. “I read the whole Bible three times at various ages,” the cardinal said. “We left the school with a Jerusalem Bible and the commentaries.”

He also was well-versed in the ability to give an intellectual answer to the criticism of religion by people such as Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud during the 19th century.

“It was not a restrictive world, but we were able to give an intellectual answer to these challenges,” he said. “The world today needs hope, which is to stay close to Jesus Christ and His body, which is the church, in communion with the believers.” 

In his recent book The Hope of the Family, Cardinal Müller wrote that marriage and the family are in crisis. He said this crisis has different causes, including sociological, political and technological changes in the development of society. “The reason for this crisis can also be an ideological understanding of human existence, of the sexuality of man or woman. We are convinced that God has created everybody, but with the difference between man and woman.”

The cardinal said we have received this teaching through previous generations and we have the responsibility to pass this along to future generations.

“The answer to this crisis can only be the good family, which exists as father and mother and their own children, and we cannot give another image of the family, which is contrary to the nature of mankind.” 

Although at times the prevailing secular culture can appear to be at odds with the church, “We don’t have problems with secularity, if people are of accepting of their responsibility for politics, the economy and education, if they work with the human reason, which is given by God to resolve the concrete problems,” the cardinal said. 

“But we can never forget that we are created in the end for the supernatural life with God in the full communion in love.”

In reflecting on the impact that Pope Francis has made in the church and the world, Cardinal Müller said, “There are different dimensions, but I can underline one point — that he opened the eyes for the poor people of the world to the solidarity between the so-called rich countries and poor countries.”

He said that “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home,” the second encyclical written by Pope Francis and published in June 2015, has had a great impact on his pontificate and also the pastoral engagement with those outside the church. 

“We don’t restrict our activities to those inside the church,” the cardinal said. “For those who are a certain distance from the church we must show them clearly that we all need the grace of forgiveness and reconciliation. We are a brotherhood.

“We must go to the ends of the church together with an invitation to all to open their hearts and minds and not to follow their prejudices against the church and against God, but to understand at the beginning and the end that the Triune God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, is the only hope for everybody, not the politicians or the money or the power or the prestige.

“All of these created things will disappear,” he said. “In the end, what remains is only God.” 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017