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GENERAL AUDIENCE: On the Family and the Christian Community

“A Church that is truly according to the Gospel cannot but have the form of a welcoming home, with the doors always open.”

Here is a ZENIT translation of the Holy Father’s address during his Wednesday General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today I would like to focus our attention on the bond between the family and the Christian community. It is, so to speak, a “natural” bond, because the Church is a spiritual family and the family is a small Church (cf. Lumen gentium, 9). The Christian community is the home of those who believe in Jesus as the source of fraternity among all men. The Church walks in the midst of the peoples, in the history of men and women, of fathers and mothers, of sons and daughters: this is the history that counts for the Lord. The great events of the worldly powers are written in history books, and they remain there. However, the history of human affections is written directly in the heart of God; and it is the history that remains in eternity. This is the place of life and of faith. The family is the place of our initiation – irreplaceable, indelible – to this history, to this history of eternal life that will end with the contemplation of God for all eternity in Heaven. But it begins in the family! Therefore, the family is very important. The Son of God learned human history in this way, and he lived it to the end (cf. Hebrews 2:18; 5:8).

It is good to contemplate Jesus again and the signs of this bond! He was born in a family and there he “learned the world”: a shop, four houses, a nothing village. Yet, by living this experience for thirty years, Jesus assimilated the human condition, gathering it in his communion with his Father and in his very apostolic mission. Then, when he left Nazareth and began his public life, Jesus formed around himself a community, an “assembly,” namely, a convocation of persons. This is the meaning of the word “church.” In the Gospels, Jesus’ assembly has the form of a hospitable family, not of an exclusive sect: we find Peter and John, but also the hungry and thirsty, the stranger and the persecuted, the sinner and the publican, the Pharisees and the crowds. And Jesus does not cease to receive and to talk to all, also to one who no longer expects to encounter God in his life. It is a strong lesson for the Church!

The disciples themselves were chosen to take care of this assembly, of this family of God’s guests. For this reality of Jesus’ assembly to be alive today, it is indispensable to revive the alliance between the family and the Christian community. We can say that the family and the parish are the two places in which that communion of love is realized, which finds its ultimate source in God himself.

A Church that is truly according to the Gospel cannot but have the form of a welcoming home, with the doors always open. Churches, parishes, institutions with closed doors must not be called Churches; they must be called museums! This is a crucial alliance today. “We put our hopes again in these centers of love, against the ‘centers’ of ideological, financial and political ‘power.’ We put our hope in these centers of love, evangelizing centers, rich in human warmth, based on solidarity and participation,” also on forgiveness among us (PONTIFICAL CONSTITUTION FOR THE FAMILY, the Teachings of J.M. Bergoglio – Pope Francis on the Family and Life, 1999-2014, LEV 2014, 189). It is urgent today to reinforce the bond between the family and the Christian community. There is certainly need of a generous faith to rediscover the intelligence and the courage to renew this alliance. Sometimes families draw back, saying that they are not up to the measure: “Father, we are a poor family and also somewhat unhinged,” “We aren’t capable,” “We already have so many problems at home,” “We don’t have the strength.” It’s true, but no one is worthy, no one is up to the measure, no one has the strength! We can do nothing without God’s grace. Everything is given to us – freely given! And the Lord never arrives in a family without doing a miracle. Let us recall what he did at the Wedding of Cana! Yes, if we put ourselves in his hands, the Lord makes us do miracles  — those miracles of every day when the Lord is in that family.

Of course, the Christian community must also do its part. For instance, it must seek to overcome too directive and too functional attitudes, fostering inter-personal dialogue and mutual knowledge and esteem. Families take the initiative and feel the responsibility to take their precious gifts to the community. We must all be aware that the Christian faith is played in the open field of life shared with all; the family and the parish must work the miracle of a more communal life for the whole society. The Mother of Jesus was at Cana, the “Mother of Good Counsel.” Let us listen to her words: “Do whatever he tells you” (cf. John 2:5).

Dear families, dear parish communities, we must let ourselves be inspired by this Mother: let us do everything that Jesus tells us and we will find ourselves before a miracle! – the miracle of every day. Thank you.

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Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  

In our continuing catechesis on the family, we reflect today on the connection between the family and the Christian community.  The Church is the home of those who believe in Jesus Christ as the source of the unity of the entire human family.  Christ chose to enter our history, to become part of a human family, and to form a community which welcomes all who wish to hear his good news of the Father’s love.  There is a close bond, then, between the family and the Church.  Families and parishes are the two places where we encounter, in every age, that communion of love which has its ultimate source in God.  Just as our families are domestic churches, our parishes are called to be welcoming families.  This “covenant” has to be renewed, with the courage and vision born of faith, so that these centres of love, evangelization, and solidarity can, with the help of God’s grace and despite all our limitations, work true miracles for the shaping of a more fraternal and humane world.

Pope Francis (in Italian):

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, China, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States of America.  Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord Jesus.  God bless you all!

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I give a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking faithful. I am happy to receive the pilgrimage of the diocese of Mantua, led by the Bishop, Monsignor Busti; the boys of the profession of faith of the diocese of Chavari, with the Bishop, Monsignor Tanasini and the pilgrimage of the Franciscan youth of Italy. These Franciscan youths are good! I greet the components of the School Office of the diocese of Teggisano-Policastro, with the Bishop, Monsignor De Luca; the Delegation of the World Federation of Neuro-Surgery and the Ferrero Foundation, with the Bishop of Alba, Monsignor Lanzetti.

I greet the Association of Physiotherapists of the Puglia Region as well as the altar boys and the youth choir of the Pastoral Unity of Gallio. May the visit to the Eternal City help you to rediscover the Christian meaning of celebration as a moment of encounter with God and of communion with brothers.

A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today we celebrate the liturgical Memoria of Saint Peter Claver, Patron of the missions of Africa. Dear young people, may his tireless service to the least spur you to choices of solidarity towards the needy; may his spiritual vigor help you, dear sick, to face the cross with courage; may his love for Christ be a model for you, dear newlyweds, so that love is the center of your new family.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

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