Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I want to thank you for your enthusiastic response to our “church signing” last weekend. It was a true privilege to watch as so many of you literally made your mark on the church floor. Please know that the mark you made there is made a thousand times over by your presence as a member of this community of faith! After Masses, before writing the names of my own departed grandparents and a special prayer intention, I spent some time walking through the church looking at the names, remembrances, and prayer intentions you left. I can testify that your prayerful witness in what you wrote was not only extremely moving, it inspired my prayer for the rest of the day. Thank you for your faithfulness and your love for our Lord and this parish!
Many, if not most of the prayer intentions that will forever be “in stone,” as it were, focused on the family. Once again, I was reminded of how essential the family is for the life of any parish. Our natural families, united by baptism in the great family of the Church, are truly foundational in order for the Catholic faith to come alive in human hearts. I’d like, then, to share the words of a few popes, as an encouragement in your own family life.
Pope St. Paul VI said “May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family’s holy and enduring character and exemplifying its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings; in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children—and for this there is no substitute.”
In his masterful exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, Pope St. John Paul II wrote “In matrimony and in the family a complex of interpersonal relationships is set up-married life, fatherhood and motherhood, filiation and fraternity-through which each human person is introduced into the “human family” and into the “family of God,” which is the Church…Christian marriage and the Christian family build up the Church: for in the family the human person is not only brought into being and progressively introduced by means of education into the human community, but by means of the rebirth of baptism and education in the faith the child is also introduced into God’s family, which is the Church…The human family, disunited by sin, is reconstituted in its unity by the redemptive power of the death and Resurrection of Christ. Christian marriage, by participating in the salvific efficacy of this event, constitutes the natural setting in which the human person is introduced into the great family of the Church…The commandment to grow and multiply, given to man and woman in the beginning, in this way reaches its whole truth and full realization…The Church thus finds in the family, born from the sacrament, the cradle and the setting in which she can enter the human generations, and where these in their turn can enter the Church.”
At the World Meeting of Families in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to families in these words: “Together with passing on the faith and the love of God, one of the greatest responsibilities of families is that of training free and responsible persons. For this reason the parents need gradually to give their children greater freedom, while remaining for some time the guardians of that freedom. If children see that their parents – and, more generally, all the adults around them – live life with joy and enthusiasm, despite all difficulties, they will themselves develop that profound “joy of life” which can help them to overcome wisely the inevitable obstacles and problems which are part of life. Furthermore, when families are not closed in on themselves, children come to learn that every person is worthy of love, and that there is a basic, universal brotherhood which embraces every human being…To hand down the faith to children, with the help of individuals and institutions like the parish, the school or Catholic associations, is a responsibility which parents cannot overlook, neglect or completely delegate to others…The Christian family is called the domestic church because the family manifests and lives out the communal and familiar nature of the Church as the family of God. Each family member, in accord with his or her own role, exercises the baptismal priesthood and contributes towards making the family a community of grace and of prayer, a school of human and Christian virtues, and the place where the faith is first proclaimed to children.” And what is more: “Parents, in virtue of their participation in the fatherhood of God, have the first responsibility for the education of their children and they are the first heralds of the faith for them. They have the duty to love and respect their children as persons and as children of God… in particular, they have the mission of educating their children in the Christian faith.”
In 2014, in an address at a conference, Pope Francis said “The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation. Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.” More recently, at the World Meeting of Families in 2018, he said “The love of Christ that renews all things is what makes possible marriage and a conjugal love marked by fidelity, indissolubility, unity, and openness to life…Families everywhere are challenged to keep growing, to keep moving forward, even amid difficulties and limitations, just as past generations did…All of us are part of a great chain of families stretching back to the beginning of time. Our families are a treasury of living memory, as children become parents and grandparents in turn…A society that does not value grandparents is a society that has no future. A Church that is not mindful of the covenant between generations will end up lacking the thing that really matters, which is love. Our grandparents teach us the meaning of conjugal and parental love.”