It’s amazing that in our sophisticated, secularized world, global attention has focused on a meeting of Catholic bishops with the Pope in Rome these past two weeks.
The Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which concluded on Sunday, was marked by lively debates and differences in pastoral perspective.
And all the media coverage and commentary show us again that the people of our times are looking to the Church for truth, guidance and meaning.
The popular interest in the synod is also a sign that marriage and family remain crucial subjects — even in our individualistic culture.
These past two weeks have shown us that millions of people, all over the world, continue to believe that being married and having a family are the keys to finding personal happiness, a sense of belonging and love.
So this “extraordinary” synod served the purposes Pope Francis wanted. It started a wide-open conversation among the Church’s pastors and the lay faithful that will better prepare the Church for the “ordinary” Synod on the Family that Francis has called for October 2015.
This coming year leading up to that ordinary synod promises to be an exciting and challenging time in the Church.
These past two weeks have made all of us in the Church more aware of the challenges facing married couples and families in the world today.
We see more clearly now that the world needs to hear the Gospel of the family!
We need to be missionaries of the family. We need to go out into our society and help people to discover the sanctity and beauty of sexuality and marriage in God’s loving plan for humanity.
In fact, more and more I believe that the Gospel of the family is an essential “message” that we need to share in the new evangelization of our culture.
And our evangelization can start from the solid foundations that we have — in the many good and healthy families we have in our parishes and schools.
In my many years as a priest and bishop, I have ministered to so many good families!
Good families where the husband and wife are really seeking to live the Church’s teachings with faithfulness and joy. Families where the spouses are united by the sacrament of matrimony and the Eucharist in a true communion of life that seeks to be faithful forever and open to the gift of life. Families where children learn the joy of the Gospel through their parents’ daily example of loving forgiveness, generosity and care.
These families are a beautiful witness and a living testimony to the truth and power of the Church’s teaching.
But no marriage is perfect and no family is perfect, either. Every marriage and every family faces challenges. Marriage takes hard work and so does parenting. It takes courage, patience, faith and love. Every day.
So spouses and families need our love and support. In the Church, we need to keep looking for new ways and new ministries to support married couples — to encourage and strengthen them as they journey together, seeking to grow in holiness and love.
We need to strengthen good families and lift them up as a model to others, especially to young people. We need to show our young people how beautiful it is to be married and to start a family — how beautiful it is to share in God’s plan for humanity. And we need to strengthen marriage preparation, looking for new ways to prepare people to be good husbands, wives and parents.
Also in this coming year, we need to intensify our efforts to reach out in mercy and understanding to care for those who are struggling in family situations that are complicated.
In everything, our Holy Father and the synod are trying to help us to be more aware of the challenges facing the family and the urgency of intensifying our missionary call!
So it is providential that the synod concluded with the beatification of Pope Paul VI.
Blessed Paul VI was a prophetic voice in the Church and in society. He called each of us in the Church to make a new commitment to our duty of evangelization. He also called us to a deeper awareness — that through marriage and family we cooperate in God’s plans for creation.
So this week, let’s pray hard for one another — and for married couples and families.
And let us ask the Holy Family of Nazareth — Jesus, Mary and Joseph — to accompany us and guide us, and to help us to work to promote marriage and care for families!