THE HOLY FAMILY
Over the last few days in Rome there has been a meeting of the synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church. This meeting has been called by Pope Francis to look at the all aspects of Catholic Family Life. All of us belong to a Family be it the family that we were born into, the family of Faith or the family which is the community where we live. All of us have ties to a family of brothers and sisters with mum and dad at the head or at least that was the way it was when I was growing up. These days the idea of the family as a specific unit has changed beyond all recognition. In many cases the idea of having a Mother and a Father that is a husband and wife committed to one another in the sacramental bond of marriage has given way to people living together and in recent times we have seen the whole idea of Civil partnerships taking root. But if we look to the Holy Family for our inspiration as Catholic people we won’t go far wrong. The Holy Family was a family with special grace but yet a family with trials. Every family has particular graces and blessings and every family also has many difficulties and crosses. As a matter of fact many families have more than their fair share of crosses to bear and it is as a result of the family members supporting each other the crosses are much easier to bear.
On the day he left Ireland on October 1st 1979 Pope John Paul II much of his homily in Limerick was giving encouragement to families and in particular to parents and at this point in time with the Family unit being under continuing attack it is worth reminding ourselves about what he said in October 1979.The Pope reminded us that the family is primary and has been our greatest resource and due to the particular challenges of today the family unit is more important than ever before.
The Holy Father said the following among many other things:
“To all I say, revere and protect your family and your family life, for the family is the primary field of Christian action for the Irish laity, the place where your ‘royal priesthood’ is chiefly exercised. The Christian family has been in the past Ireland’s greatest spiritual resource. Modern conditions and social changes have created new patterns and new difficulties for family life and for Christian marriage. I want to say to you: do not be discouraged, do not follow the trends where a close-knit family is seen as outdated; the Christian family is more important for the Church and for society today than ever before.”
Ireland must choose. You the present generation of Irish people must decide; your choice must be clear and your decision firm. Let the voice of your forefathers, who suffered so much to maintain their faith in Christ and thus to preserve Ireland’s soul, resound today in your ears through the voice of the Pope when he repeats the words of Christ:
“What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his life?” (Mt 16 :26). What would it profit Ireland to go the easy way of the world and suffer the loss of her own soul?
Your country seems in a sense to be living again the temptations of Christ: Ireland is being asked to prefer the “kingdoms of the world and their splendour” to the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt4 :8). Satan, the Tempter, the Adversary of Christ, will use all his might and all his deceptions to win Ireland for the way of the world. Above all, hold high the esteem for the wonderful dignity and grace of the Sacrament of marriage. Prepare earnestly for it. Believe in the spiritual power which this Sacrament of Jesus Christ gives to strengthen the marriage union, and to overcome all the crises and problems of life together. Married people must believe in the power of the Sacrament to make them holy ; they must believe in their vocation to witness through their marriage to the power of Christ’s love. True love and the grace of God can never let marriage become a self-centred relationship of two individuals, living side by side for their own interests.
(Homily of Pope John Paul II in Limerick, Monday October 1st, 1979)
Today the choice is so very clear for us as Catholics we need to re-establish Family life in its most honest and true form with a father and mother at its head. The Christian family is the world’s greatest spiritual resource. Modern conditions and social changes have created new patterns of life and living and as a result of this new difficulties for family life and for Christian marriage have arisen. All of these problems have to be dealt with head on; the Christian family is more important for the Church and for society today than ever before.” The idea of a family without a mother and a father runs as opposite to what I and so many others believe in. But to believe in something means that you have to stand up and be counted and above all else we need to pray that Family life will be restored.