Family Built on the Rock

What a wonderful time to be Catholic in the US! As I write this column, our Holy Father, Pope Francis is getting ready to come to our country. I wish he would come to Chicago just as Pope John Paul II (now a saint) did in 1979. I can only imagine the excitement that filled the air during that visit. I am hoping and praying that everything on this trip will go just right and produce the desired results. Please join me in praying for our Holy Father that he will be safe and that his visit will re-charge Catholics all over our great land.

The principal reason the Pope is coming to America is to participate in the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families that is taking place in Philadelphia. Saint John Paul II, known as the Pope of the Family, began the World Meeting of Families in 1994 in Rome to celebrate the critical role of the family in society and to give families opportunities to discuss the challenges and blessings of family life. The document of the Vatican Council on the Church calls the family “the domestic Church” where the faith of children is nourished. As the baptismal rite states, the parents are the first and the best teachers of the faith.

All of us can emphatically declare that many social problems in our society can be traced back to the breakdown of the family. When the comfort of a secure home is taken away from children, they grow up fearful and uncertain. In spite of the Church’s teachings on marriage and family life, Catholics are facing the same problems that couples and families are dealing with in the larger society. Mother Church cannot pretend that these problems do not exist. Hopefully this meeting in Philadelphia and more importantly, the Synod in Rome will help those Catholics who are hurting because of divorce. 

All of us belong to families of one type or another. How do we keep ourselves healthy and strong? How do we build good, faith-filled families? When I write my columns, I draw my inspiration from several sources. This week I am drawing from the homily that our Deacon Bob delivered during our Sunday Masses. Based on the Pope’s talks and writings, he offered four suggestions to build our families on the Rock that is Christ.

  1. Be a family of love. If love is what nurtures and nourishes us, children must find it in the home. I often say that the family is the first school of love. We feel safe within the family because we know that we will not be rejected or abandoned, no matter what we do. The first task of husband and wife is to make real the very love of God for their children. Pope Francis writes: “In the family we learn how to love, to forgive, to be generous and open, not closed and selfish.”  Once a mother held up the new iPad for the family and said, “In our home this is not called iPad, but our Pad.” Within the family “I” disappears to make room for “we”.
  2. Be a family of forgiveness. As a priest I have celebrated certain funerals where the father or mother is in the casket but the children are not speaking to one another. If we cannot find forgiveness within the family where else can we hope to find it? I jokingly tell couples that people get married so that they don’t have to fight with strangers. We hurt the people we love. That is why we need forgiveness. Our Holy Father is very realistic as he acknowledges the tensions and strains of family life. He writes: “Sometimes plates fly. But we shouldn’t be sad about this, it is human nature. The secret is this: love is stronger than an argument. Don’t end your day without making peace. Always make peace.”
  3. Be a family of care. It is because of the family that a house becomes a home. We feel safe in it because we experience care and concern within its walls. Around the dinner table the family gathers everyday to heal its wounds, to share the stories and to forge stronger bonds. When everyone is cared for within the home, family members extend their concern towards those outside the family. Grateful for all that they have been blessed with, they seek to alleviate the pain of others. Once again Pope Francis challenges us with these words: “None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice. The family provides a living opportunity to practice care for others.”
  4. Be a family of prayer. Growing up in India I was fortunate that both my parents were deeply prayerful. Not a day went by when our dad did not make us kneel down for family prayer that often lasted thirty minutes. In order to be able to be a family of love, forgiveness and care, we need to be a family of prayer. Pope Francis says, “Take care of your spiritual life, your relationship with God, because this is the backbone of everything we do and everything we are.” The Servant of God, Father Patrick Peyton, the apostle of the Family Rosary Crusade, used to say: “The family that prays together, stays together.” Those words are absolutely true.

May the Holy Family watch over all our families! May we build our families on the Rock, on the teachings and example of Jesus Christ!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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