FAMILY AT THE SYNOD
Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks with Massimo and Patrizia Paolini
WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: – What does it mean to be a mission family?
MASSIMO AND PATRIZIA PALONI: – It means that we devote our life to God, in the same way as missionaries do it, but we do it with our whole family. In our times the presence of such a family as ours becomes a tool of evangelization. People are struck with the fact that a married couple with so many children, despite their problems, are happy. Others start thinking: ‘Why do these people leave their homes, work, friends, in order to start everything anew in a foreign country?’
– This foreign country for you is Holland. Why did you choose one of the most de-christianized country in Europe?
– We were ready to go for a mission to any place we wanted. However, the Neocatechumenal Road was invited to Holland, to the diocese of Roermond by bishop Franciscus Wiertz. The bishop did it because he had been told that in neo-catechumenal families faith is passed over to children in 95 per cent, whereas in Holland there are families in which faith has not been showed to children throughout 3 generations – if it happens so, what future will the Church have? Today in Holland there are 35 neo-catechumenal communities and over 30 mission families. But the situation is difficult: in Maastricht 4 churches were closed down, one of them was changed into a night club, and others into hotels or gyms.
– Conducting mission in the country which is so dechristanized is not easy, is it?
– Preaching the Gospel and catechesis in such a society as the Dutch one is not easy. Every day we deal with difficult situations – dramatic divorces, abortion, people’s loneliness, but thanks to God’s help we can also note many examples of ‘renewal’, because God itself has a word for us.
– Many problems in the life of baptized people appears because of the lack of faith or ‘religious illiteracy’…
– Therefore we think that our basic task as parents is passing over faith to children. And I thank God that He allowed us to receive faith from our parents. Regarding ‘religious illiteracy’, Neo-catechumenate promotes a road of Catholic formation in parishes, which leads people to achieving mature faith through re-uncovering great grace of baptism. In this way, inspired by Our Lady, a new essence is created in which the power of the first sin is decreasing, which forces the man to live only for himself, and there appears the man who is ‘heavenly’, giving love to others and who is opened to life and the Church. Facing the dramatic crisis of the family, it is urgent to introduce a Christian initiation in order to achieve radicalism of life with the Gospel which attracts also people who are away from the Church.
– Families of the neo-catechumenical road are open to life. But today this attitude is often criticized as well as the encyclical of Paul VI ‘Humanae vitae’, written in defence of life, is. What is your opinion on it?
– PATRICIA: - We are very grateful to Paul VI for this encyclical, which seems to be hardly known or misinterpreted. For me, as a young girl, it was a good news that we are cooperators in realizing God’s plan. I have never perceived the teaching included in ‘Humanae vitae’ as an unbearable burden but as a free choice and value of a woman, according to the example which brings us closer to Mary. Certainly, families should be supported so that they could recognize the truth included in ‘Humanae vitae’, and, in this way it will be possible to respond to the crisis of the family. Our experience teaches us that the Christian community can save the family, and the family can save the Church.
– Finally, I would like to ask: how do you cope with bringing up your children?
– PATRICIA: - We have 12 children but we live as an ordinary family. We love each other and our children, and they love us and one another. Certainly, similarly as other children, they sometimes shout and quarrel with one another. I am sometimes tired and stressed out, but it is good to live among so many children. On Sunday morning we experience a very special moment because the whole family gather together for a prayer: we read together God’s words, and then we talk, everyone tells us about his/her week, with its difficulties and happiness. As parents we give advice as best as we can, remembering our experiences, sometimes we ask our children for forgiveness if we have made a mistake, and when there were quarrels among them, we ask them to say sorry. And then we sit at the table together for a solemn lunch!
– But in such a big family there is a lot to do…
– That is true, therefore, in such a family like ours, everyone must be helpful as much as he can. For example, older children - the oldest son is already 19 – help the younger with their homework. There is no established division of tasks or ‘military’ rigor. We organize every day as much as we can.
– When you arrived at the synod, you expressed your wish it would show the beauty of Christian family. I am sure that thanks to your attendance, synod fathers will be able to see this beautiful family.