This weekend, more than 150,000 people from across the globe gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Year of Faith Pilgrimage for Families. The pilgrimage, which was titled “Family: Live the Joy of Faith”, was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Before addressing the crowds gathered, the Holy Father listened to the experiences of several couples, both married and engaged. Some recounted the joys and difficulties of raising a family. After greeting the families present, the Holy Father reflected on the theme of the pilgrimage as well as the difficulties that many families go through.
“Life is often wearisome, and many times tragically so,” the Holy Father said. “We have heard this recently… Work is tiring; looking for work is exhausting. And finding work today requires much effort. But what is most burdensome in life is not this: what weighs more than all of these things is a lack of love.”
“Without love, the burden becomes even heavier, intolerable.”
Encouraging the families in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father said that the Lord knows their struggles and burdens and wishes to make their joy complete. The Pope drew his second word from the Rite of Marriage, where newlyweds promise to be true to each other “in joy and in sadness.” Comparing the journey of marriage to that of Abraham, the Holy Father encouraged them to walk together while placing themselves in “the Lord’s powerful hands.”
“Hand in hand, always and for the rest of your lives. And do not pay attention to this makeshift culture, which can shatter our lives. With trust in God’s faithfulness, everything can be faced responsibly and without fear,” the Pope said.
“Christian spouses are not naive; they know life’s problems and temptations. But they are not afraid to be responsible before God and before society. They do not run away, they do not hide, they do not shirk the mission of forming a family and bringing children into the world.”
Three Key Words: Please, Thank You and Sorry
Pope Francis emphasized the importance of forgiveness in the sacrament of marriage, saying that it “is important to have the courage to ask forgiveness when we are at fault in the family.” The Holy Father also reminded of the three essential words that should be used often in family life: please, thank you and sorry.
“We say please so as not to be forceful in family life: “May I please do this? Would you be happy if I did this?”. We do this with a language that seeks agreement,” the Holy Father explained. “We say thank you, thank you for love! But be honest with me, how many times do you say thank you to your wife, and you to your husband? How many days go by without uttering this word, thanks! And the last word: sorry. We all make mistakes and on occasion someone gets offended in the marriage, in the family, and sometimes – I say – plates are smashed, harsh words are spoken but please listen to my advice: don’t ever let the sun set without reconciling.”
Commenting on the icon of Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple, which was chosen by the Pontifical Council for the Family for the event, Pope Francis stated that it represents the journey’s of each person depicted in the image. The Holy Father spoke on the figures of the aged Simeon as well as the elderly prophetess Anna who went to the Temple led by the Holy Spirit.
“These two elderly persons represent faith as memory. But let me ask you: Do you listen to your grandparents?” the Pope asked. “Grandparents are like the wisdom of the family, they are the wisdom of a people. And a people that does not listen to grandparents is one that dies!”
“Like the Holy Family of Nazareth, every family is part of the history of a people; it cannot exist without the generations who have gone before it. Therefore, today we have grandparents and children. The children learn from their grandparents, from the previous generation.”
Concluding his address, the Holy Father called on families to remain close to Christ so as to bear witness to Him through their family life, and thus, “live the joy of faith.”