Married couples are called to be “instruments of the mercy of Christ and of the Church” especially “towards persons whose marriages have failed.”
These were the sentiments expressed by Pope Francis to the Équipes Notre Dame [Teams of Our Lady] at an audience today at the Vatican. Founded in 1938, Équipes Notre Dame is a lay movement with a “conjugal spirituality.” It’s spread throughout 70 countries with over 137,000 members. The group is in Rome for their annual international meeting.
The Holy Father welcomed the members of the lay movement, noting the importance of their meeting prior to next month’s Synod of Bishops on the family. The Synod, he said, is a time “for the Church to reflect with ever greater attention on what families live, vital cells of our societies and of the Church, and which find themselves, as you know, threatened in the present difficult cultural context.”
Reflecting on the movement’s relationship to the family and married life, the Pope reminded the members of their missionary role within the Church.
“Christian couples and families,” he said, “are often in better conditions to proclaim Jesus Christ to other families, to support, fortify and encourage them. What you live as a couple and as a family – supported by the charism itself of your Movement — the profound and irreplaceable joy that the Lord makes you feel in your domestic intimacy between the joys and sorrows, in the happiness of the presence of your spouse, in the growth of your children, in the human and spiritual fruitfulness that He grants you, all this is witnessed, proclaimed and communicated outside so that others, in turn, will put themselves on this path.”
The 78-year-old Pontiff encouraged the members to follow the spirituality of their movement, that he said would allow couples to go forward in their conjugal life according to the Gospel.
He also highlighted the importance of prayer within the family that is “unfortunately abandoned in so many regions of the world.”
“I am thinking also of the time of monthly dialogue proposed between spouses – the famous and demanding ‘duty to sit down,’ which goes so against the current in relation to the habits of the frenetic and agitated world impregnated by individualism — moment of exchange lived in truth under the gaze of the Lord, which is a precious time of thanksgiving, of forgiveness, of mutual respect and attention to the other,” he said.
The Jesuit Pope encouraged the group to accompany young couples, and those who are wounded by poverty, health, death, abandonment or violence.
“We must have the courage to come into contact with these families, in a discreet but generous way, materially, humanly or spiritually, in those circumstances where they find themselves vulnerable,” he said.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis called on the members of Équipes Notre Dame to help those suffering from a failed marriage, saying that their testimony would help the Christian community in helping them to “walk in faith and truth.”