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Bishop calls for prayer on Feast of the Holy Family

By Sarah Mac Donald - 28 December, 2014

"Church must always offer a place of welcome to families in all circumstances, especially to those who find themselves in difficulties."

Bishop Liam MacDaid Pic: Catholic Communications Office

Bishop Liam MacDaid Pic: Catholic Communications Office

“The Church must always offer a place of welcome to families in all circumstances, and especially to those who find themselves in difficulties,” the chair of the bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family has said.

In a statement issued for the Feast of the Holy Family, Bishop Liam MacDaid said over Christmas many families have the joy and blessing to gather or to be in touch with family members.

However, many others experience a Christmas of isolation and of heart-break.

He described the Feast of the Holy Family as an ideal opportunity to appreciate the vitality and importance of the family.

The feast, he said, also offers the faithful an opportunity to express their support for marriage, which is the faithful love between a wife and husband, open to and responsible for the birth, care and upbringing of the next generation, he stated.

“At the same time we are acutely aware that there are many different circumstances to family life. Events and experiences reshape the family lives of many people. It is important to acknowledge those who work so hard to maintain family stability in difficulty and isolation,” the Bishop of Clogher commented.

“I invite the faithful to pray as part of the process and the work leading up to the next Synod on the Family in October 2015. I also wish to encourage prayers for all families, especially those experiencing hardship or difficulty at this time.”

“The family setting for Jesus’ birth, development and progress was the loving and trusting relationship between Mary and Joseph in their marriage and family life. It is also true that the Holy Family of Nazareth faced difficult circumstances from the very beginning.”

Bishop MacDaid noted that God chose them to come into the most ordinary of circumstances where there were challenges and where life wasn’t idealised or unreal.

“The real story of the Holy Family is full of encouragement for those who struggle in life – especially in their family life – and it helps us to see that true riches lie within our relationships and in how we relate, and not in what we have materially,” he said.

In his statement, the bishop recalled that Pope Francis made public the Relatio Synodi, the document which concluded the work of that Extraordinary Synod last October entitled The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelisation.

The Pope, he explained, indicated that this document would be the Lineamenta for the upcoming Ordinary Synod, which will take place in the Vatican from 4-25 October 2015 on the theme: ‘The Vocation and the Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.’

“With the recent publication of the Lineamenta the faithful are invited to accompany the synodal process with prayer and celebration for the family,” Bishop MacDaid said.

He added that prayers are encouraged particularly today, Sunday 28 December, on the Feast of the Holy Family.

In addition, the faithful are invited to recite the Holy Father’s Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod (which can be found on www.catholicbishops.ie)

“The work of the Synod of Bishops Third Extraordinary General Assembly this year, and the Lineamenta for the Ordinary Synod in October 2015, highlights the significance placed on married love and family life by the Church,” Bishop MacDaid said.

The preparation for next year’s Synod of Bishops have again highlighted difficulties faced by contemporary families around the world.

The example of the Holy Family – and its experience of misunderstanding and rejection – reminds us of the need for understanding, mercy and compassion according to Bishop MacDaid.

This especially holds true for those who have experienced a break-down of family life or who may have become estranged from their closest relatives, and for those experiencing hardship or difficulty, he added.

Bishop MacDaid concluded, “As a New Year approaches let us allow the Holy Family to embrace us, with all our imperfections. May the Holy Family of Nazareth inspire and encourage us to live and show Jesus’ love and mercy wherever we find ourselves in the coming year and in our own family homes. May we share and pray with one another the Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod by Pope Francis, and pray as well with open and welcoming hearts for all families, especially those experiencing hardship or difficulty at this time.”

Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love,
to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalised
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer.
Amen.

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