The leading Irish prelate says three tools already in use for helping religious vocations could likewise be used to help family vocations.
During this afternoon’s synod briefing in the Vatican press office, the president of the Irish bishops, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, stressed the importance of supporting the vocation of marriage and the family, just as is done for religious vocations. He offered three ways of doing so: prayer, having a clear vision of what that vocation means, and having ways to concretely support those with or considering such a vocation in their pastoral context.
Speaking along with the Irish archbishop were Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and Uruguayan Archbishop, Daniel Fernando Sturla.
After noting that this morning, the next set of reports from the 13 small discussion groups were made available, Fr. Lombardi briefly silenced a media rumor circulated in the Italian press, which claimed that Pope Francis sought treatment for a benign brain tumor. According to the report, a Japanese doctor came to the Vatican to visit the Pope; Fr. Lombardi said this wasn’t true.
Then, Archbishop Martin spoke, explaining that this has been the first synod he’s attended. He described it as a marvelous and very special experience. He said that he asked himself last night: what is going to come out of this synod, remarking: most of you here are probably thinking the same.
Even if it ended right here, with no further documents, the Irish prelate said, he would still say it’s been worthwhile, because they’ve done what Pope Francis has wished for them: finding synergy, building on experiences and learning from each other.
He pointed out that this does not mean bishops do not have differing views in the pastoral settings in which they are, but there’s convergence around Pope Francis.
In the West, he said, we spoke about the decline in vocations, and from this, we consider what we can to do to support the vocation to marriage, like praying for vocations, making sure we have a clear vision of what it is and then working on how to support anyone who believes they have this vocation.
3 tools against secularist tsunami
“The tsunami of secularism has led in many ways to a decline in this sense of vocation to the family, and in marriage being a vocation,” he observed.
Given this, he implored those gathered to realize what can be done to help recover the sense of the vocation.
One, he said, we need to pray for the family, noting this has been a major feature in the last few weeks.
Second, he added, we need to have a vision for the vocation of the family, just as we have for the religious vocation, and have clear: “What do we mean when we speak of marriage and family as a vocation?”
Third, he stated, we need to nourish and support those who are being called to the vocation of marriage and the family, and explore ways we can do this better in our pastoral contexts.
“What are we doing in our own pastoral plans and actions and [how do we] support those who feel they have a mission to the family as called by the Church?” he said.
Already with this three-pronged strategy to support the vocation of marriage and family, he said, whatever else could follow or be generated in this Synod could only enrich what has already been a worthwhile experience.
Still belong to us
Cardinal Marx said that even if Synod 2015 is coming to an end, it will not be the end. … He noted this synod of bishops has opened a door for Pope Francis to do something with the final text.
The synod, the cardinal stressed, is not a council and has no authority to produce a magisterial document, but it’s being held to speak and offer the Pope proposals.
He noted that most of the people agree with the center of the doctrine of the Church, namely that there’s a man and woman who wish to be together forever and get married. They form a family and have children.
The Church is always going to lead people toward this ideal, as it should, the German prelate expressed.
However, the president of the German episcopal conference noted, sometimes if the dream doesn’t go as planned and fails, we need to still show that these people still belong to the Church. The message he said we need to give is: “Your dream is right, but when you fail, we stay with you. You stay with us.”
He stated, “We don’t change the truth, but we find the greater truth. Truth is a person we meet.”
Cardinal Marx said the divorced and remarried question is coming up in discussions, but it is not the only issue. The most important and central point of the synod, Cardinal Marx said, is that the family is first and we need to be there to accompany them.