Pope Francis arrived on his ‘popemobile’ to the “Mall of Asia” Arena this afternoon in Manila for a Meeting of Families, greeting thousands of cheering Filipinos along the way.
As he entered, excited Catholics screamed, “We love you, Papa Francis” and ran up to catch a glimpse of the Argentinian Pontiff. Despite days of travel and events, on his first full day in the Philippines, the Holy Father was in good spirits, stopping every so often to bless the faithful, kiss children and even crowning a statue of the Blessed Mother for someone.
Bishop Gabriel Reyes of Antipolo, president of the Episcopal Commission for the Family, welcomed the Pope saying:”This is your home. We are your children and you are our father.”
“Some of us are fetching water in the heat of the noon sun like the Samaritan woman by the well. Some of us are confused. Some of us are living in guilt and shame because of our dark secret sins. Some of us are weary and lonesome. We seem to have everything and yet we know we have nothing. Speak to us Holy Father and teach us as Jesus did at the well of Jacob.”
The Filipino prelate urged the Holy Father to encourage them in the faith, especially those who have suffered due to poverty, drugs or are victims of natural disasters.
The Pope was also welcomed by a family from Manila, who recalled St. John Paul II’s visit in 1995 for World Youth Day.
We pray that your wonderful visit to our beloved nation may inspire all Filipino families to become a home and a school of new evangelization, bringing Jesus to all the corners of the nation “from Manila to the farthest corners of the world,” they said.
As the Holy Father approached to greet them, a member of the family placed a garland of flowers around the Pope’s neck.
The celebration began with the testimonies of three families with three different issues facing many Filipinos today: poverty, immigration and disability.
Each family offered not only their experience of hardships in their issues, but also the strength that they have found through the Church.
“A Christian family is not a perfect family,” a member of the Dizon family said to the Pope. “We are indeed a big family with 11 siblings, 40 grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren. There are times of misunderstandings, frustrations, differences in principles. But all our experiences in the past brought us here now as a Christian family, living in mercy and compassion. Our family strongly believes that we will surpass life’s challenges as long as we are together and with the help of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”
Resting in the Lord
In his address, Pope Francis began by reflecting on the role of St. Joseph, who although seldom mentioned in Scripture, is shown resting not once but twice.
“Joseph’s rest revealed God’s will to him,” the Pope said to the families. “In this moment of rest in the Lord, as we pause from our many daily obligations and activities, God is also speaking to us. He speaks to us in the reading we have just heard, in our prayer and witness, and in the quiet of our hearts.”
Departing from his prepared remarks, the Holy Father spoke about his devotion to St. Joseph, saying that “he is a strong man of silence.”
“On my desk, I have an image of St. Joseph sleeping. Sleeping he looks after the Church. He can do it. We know! When I have a problem or a difficulty I write it on a piece of paper and put it under the statue so he can dream about it. This means that you pray to St. Joseph for this problem.”
Reflecting on the aspect of resting in the Lord, the 78-year-old Pontiff noted that while the demands of life often make rest difficult to achieve, it was “essential for our spiritual health” in order to hear God’s voice.
“To hear and accept God’s call, to make a home for Jesus,” he said, “you must be able to rest in the Lord.”
“You must make time each day for prayer. But you may say to me: Holy Father, I want to pray, but there is so much work to do! I must care for my children; I have chores in the home; I am too tired even to sleep well. This may be true, but if we do not pray, we will not know the most important thing of all: God’s will for us. And for all our activity, our busy-ness, without prayer we will accomplish very little.”
The Jesuit Pope also acknowledged the many challenges faced by families, especially those suffering the consequences of natural disasters, economic troubles and separation due to migration. He also noted the threats facing the family in today’s society.
“The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” he said.
Speaking to the families through his translator, the Pope warned of an “ideological colonization” that tries to destroy families. “It’s not born of the dream that we have with God from prayer and the mission that God gives us. It comes [from] outside. And that’s why I say it’s a colonization,” he said.
Encouraging them, the Holy Father told the families to “not lose the freedom to take that mission forward that God has given us.”
“Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats! The Philippines needs holy and loving families to protect the beauty and truth of the family in God’s plan and to be a support and example for other families. Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself.”
The Holy Father went on to call on those present to protect their families and to live as examples of love, forgiveness and care. He also called on them to be “sanctuaries of respect for life.”
“What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation!” he exclaimed. “So rise with Jesus and Mary, and set out on the path the Lord traces for each of you.”
Concluding his address to the families, Pope Francis urged the families present to be missionary disciples of Jesus and to help the poor and the suffering know that they have not been forgotten by God.
“Do not hide your faith, do not hide Jesus, but carry him into the world and offer the witness of your family life!” he exclaimed.
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