Focus on family

Pope Francis has described the Church as a “family of families” (Amoris Laetitia 87). There are many people who, through Baptism, belong to the family of the Church, but who, for one reason or another, have drifted away. Saint Paul wants them to know that they have not been forgotten. “God never takes back His gifts or revokes His choice”. It is the love of God that makes us Christian in the first place, and it is His faithful love that keeps the door open for us, even when we do not see Christ or Christianity in ourselves.
Remember the story of Saint Augustine, who was a very well-educated young man; an expert in philosophy and law, but he was a bit of a playboy in his youth. Although he was a Christian by Baptism, he was well into his adult life before he turned to God. He tells us in his “Confessions” that it happened because God penetrated his darkness. These are his own words: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you…. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. ….now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
You might ask, “Why did God touch Augustine?” Obviously we don’t know the mind of God, but in the tradition of the Church it comes back to the family. Augustine’s mother, Monica, never stopped loving him and never stopped praying for him. I’m sure there are parents and grandparents today who are troubled because their children no longer go to Mass or seem to have lost their way in life. I think Saint Monica is a good example for us to follow. Never stop loving them; never stop praying for them.
There is probably no better way to grow in your own faith than to share it with your children. In that way, you all grow together. If you were to leave it entirely to the school, what message would that be giving them about how important it is to you? Families are all about sharing; sharing food, sharing space, sharing responsibilities, sharing relations and friends. A family becomes Christian through sharing their friendship with Jesus.
They say “faith is caught, not taught”. I think there is a certain truth in that. Pope Francis describes the family as the “first school” where we learn to live a virtuous life. Through their own faithful love, a husband and wife become a visible sign of the love of God and this almost inevitably spills over to touch the lives of their children.
Children learn from their parents and from one another how to be faithful, how to forgive, how to share.
In his earthly life, Jesus gathered people around him and formed them as disciples. Then he sent them out on mission. All who are baptised are entrusted with a mission and this is symbolised by the anointing with Chrism.
It seems to me that, if the family is the environment in which we grow together in faith, it is also the environment in which we are formed for mission. Every family, by being good neighbours, by exercising hospitality, by their outreach to the poor and the neglected and by their sharing in the life of their local community, brings out to others the love of Christ, not in words but in action. In that way “every family, despite its weaknesses, can become a light in the darkness of the world”. (Amoris Laetitia, 67)
Pope Francis has chosen Dublin, Ireland, to host the next World Meeting of Families from August 21-26 this year. This gathering of families will be guided by the theme “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World”.
Held every three years, this major international event brings together families from across the world to celebrate, pray and reflect upon the central importance of marriage and the family as the cornerstone of our lives, of society and of the Church. No doubt we will hear much more about this important gathering later in the year.
Furthermore, as we move into this special Marian month of May, we focus on Mary, the mother of Jesus, who with Jesus and St Joseph, made up the Holy Family at Nazareth.
Amid today’s important and ongoing debates about the definitions and nature of marriage and family, both within the Church and in broader society, again we are reminded of the true vocation of the family: to foster the faith of each of its members and to support them in their search for God and God’s will for them.
We learn from the Gospels that Mary and Joseph instilled in Jesus a love for the traditions and laws of God’s Chosen People at that time. So it follows that families, parishes, and even religious communities, are called to nurture the same values, in their love of our scriptures and traditions, especially through the Gospels.
Finally, I would like to share some words of Mother Teresa, known in the Catholic Church now as Saint Teresa of Calcutta:
‘Let us ask Our Lady and St. Joseph to make our families what their family was for Jesus at Nazareth. Love does not live on words nor can it be explained by words. This is especially true of that love that is in Jesus and comes from Jesus and finds Jesus – touches him, serves him, loves him – in others. Such love is true, burning, pure, and free from fear and doubt. There is no greater love than the love Christ himself has shown us. We must love one another with the same love’.

- Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst