“The family is a place where evangelical holiness is lived out in the most ordinary conditions.”
This was the reflection offered by Pope Francis on the eve of the Synod of Bishops on the Family. The Holy Father presided over a prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square with thousands, many of them of various ecclesial movements in the Church.
Among the movements present were the Neocatechumenal Way, the Focolare Movement, Charismatic Renewal, and Communion and Liberation. The heads of the aforementioned communities and movements addressed those present on the importance of the defending the family prior to the Holy Father’s arrival.
In his address, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray that the Holy Spirit so that “the Synod Fathers might listen attentively to one another, with their gaze fixed on Jesus, the definitive Word of the Father and the criterion by which everything is to be measured.”
Without the Holy Spirit, he said, Church risks becoming just an organization geared towards dominance instead of authority, propaganda instead of mission, and mysticism instead of worship.
“Let us pray that the Synod which opens tomorrow will show how the experience of marriage and family is rich and humanly fulfilling,” he said.
“May the Synod acknowledge, esteem, and proclaim all that is beautiful, good and holy about that experience. May it embrace situations of vulnerability and hardship: war, illness, grief, wounded relationships and brokenness, which create distress, resentment and separation. May it remind these families, and every family, that the Gospel is always ‘good news’ which once again enables us to start over.”
A Light in the Darkness
Continuing his address, Pope Francis compared the family to a light that shines “amid the darkness of this world.” Christ human experience was formed in a family for thirty years, he noted.
“His family was like any number of others, living in an obscure village on the outskirts of the Empire.”
He also cited the example of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, who abandoned his military career and was “attracted by the mystery of the Holy Family.”
“Contemplating the Family of Nazareth, Brother Charles realized how empty the desire for wealth and power really is,” he said.
“Through his apostolate of charity, he became everything to everyone. Attracted by the life of a hermit, he came to understand that we do not grow in the love of God by avoiding the entanglement of human relations. For in loving others, we learn to love God, in stooping down to help our neighbour, we are lifted up to God. Through his fraternal closeness and his solidarity with the poor and the abandoned, he came to understand that it is they who evangelize us, they who help us to grow in humanity.”
Like Blessed Charles de Foucauld, the Pope stressed that the Church is also called to enter into the mystery of the Holy Family, a life marked by patience in adversity and fraternity “rooted in the sense that we are all members of one body.”
The family, he noted, “is a place where evangelical holiness is lived out in the most ordinary conditions.”
Finally, the Pope said that the Synod was an opportunity not only to speak about the family, but to learn from them. In this way, the faithful can rediscover in the Church the nourishing care of a mother, the love of a father and and the fraternal bond of children.
This Church, Pope Francis concluded, “can indeed light up the darkness felt by so many men and women. She can credibly point them towards the goal and walk at their side, precisely because she herself first experienced what it is to be endlessly reborn in the merciful heart of the Father.”
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On ZENIT’s website:
For the full address, go to: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-address-at-prayer-vigil-for-general-assembly-of-synod-of-bishops