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Bishop urges families to pray grace at mealtimes

By Sarah Mac Donald - 17 August, 2015

“It can be very difficult for parents to provide for the material needs of their children" and there are children who live and sleep in very inadequate situations.

Bishop Kevin Doran. Photo Clare Frances Photography

Bishop Kevin Doran. Photo Clare Frances Photography

Bishop Kevin Doran has described families as “schools for prayer” and he has urged them to rediscover the tradition of praying grace before and after meals.

In his homily at Knock on Sunday, the Bishop of Elphin said that it is in the family that children first learn to bless themselves.

Speaking on the theme, ‘Always and Everywhere Giving Thanks – The Gift of the Family’, he explained why it was appropriate to reflect on why we might give thanks to God for the gift of the family.

Drawing on an address made by Pope Francis on the richness and diversity of marriage founded on the committed relationship of man and woman at a conference in Rome last November he said recalled that the Pontiff had said that complementarity lies at the foundation of marriage and the family, which is the first school where we learn to appreciate our talents and those of others, and where we begin to acquire the art of living together.

For most of us, the family is the principal place in which we begin to “breathe” values and ideals, as we develop our full capacity for virtue and charity.

At the same time, as we know, in families tensions arise: between egoism and altruism, between reason and passion, between immediate desires and long-term goals, and so on. But families also provide the environment in which these tensions are resolved: this is important.

Bishop Doran said that these days many couples can be very casual about “moving in together”, but that it can be quite challenging to share a home and a life with another person, however much you love them, because their habits and routines and expectations will be formed by their own experience, just as yours are formed by your experience.

“So today we give thanks to God for the energy of first love and for the reliability of mature love and for the way in which his Spirit supports men and women in their journey of love and commitment.”

He said it was part of God’s plan that children are born into a family in which the love of a mother and father will give them confidence that they too are loved.

When Pope Francis talks about how we are challenged in the context of family to “develop our full capacity for virtue and charity”, he is talking about very practical things like sharing, helping, caring and forgiving, which children learn from their parents and also from one another.

“In the face of economic difficulties, it can be very difficult for parents to provide for the material needs of their children and, as we have been reminded in recent days, there are children in our society who live and sleep in very inadequate situations and who go to school hungry in the morning.”

He warned that it should not be beyond our capacity as a developed nation to resolve these challenges and that everyone has a part to play.

“Just as society depends on the family for its coherence, likewise society has a responsibility towards the well-being of families,” Dr Doran said.

Addressing the packed Co Mayo basilica, the Bishop told the congregation that it is a great blessing for children to have parents who love and respect one another; parents who have the gift of listening and responding honestly to the questions their children ask.

“So today we give thanks for both the curiosity of children and for the wisdom and patience of parents, and we pray that, as they journey together, they may all grow together.”

He added that our families are, among other things, schools for prayer. “It is in the family that children first learn to bless themselves. I am reminded, too, of a suggestion made by Pope Francis in his recent encyclical on the environment, that the tradition of praying grace before and after meals.”

Explaining his reason for asking believers to return to “this beautiful and meaningful custom”, he said that the moment of blessing, however brief, “reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labours provide us with these goods; and it reaffirms our solidarity with those in greatest need”.

Acknowledging that there is no such thing as an ideal family, he said every family has its limitations and many families today face particular challenges due to poverty and unemployment, ill-health or disability, the absence of a mother or father for one reason or another.

People sometimes say to me: “It’s not an easy time to be a bishop”. Perhaps not, but this is the only time I have. In much the same way, for all the advantages of modern technology, it is certainly not an easy time to begin married life or to be trying to raise children. Maybe there never was an easy time.”

“Our world needs the example and the encouragement of faithful married love today, as much if not more than it ever did.”

He said the Synod of Bishops which takes place in October, is intended to explore how the Church can support people in living family life in the spirit of the Gospel.

He invited the faithful during these coming weeks to pray particularly that the Spirit of God will guide the bishops and those lay people who will be present with them.

Bishop Doran also gave thanks for the hundreds of young couples all over Ireland who are preparing to make the commitment of Christian Marriage to one another.

“May Louis and Zélie Martin be an example of courage and of faith to them. May their love grow stronger day by day, so that it becomes a visible sign of the love of Christ in the Church and in the world,” he prayed.

Louis and Zélie Martin were the parents of St Thèrese of Lisieux, and they are due to be canonised on 18 October, the first married couple ever to be canonised together in the history of the Church.

They are a real live example of how a normal hard-working man and woman can find the path to holiness in married life and can encourage and support their children following that path in their own lives, Bishop Doran suggested.

He concluded by giving thanks for the hundreds of young couples all over Ireland who are preparing to make the commitment of Christian Marriage to one another.

“May Louis and Zélie Martin be an example of courage and of faith to them. May their love grow stronger day by day, so that it becomes a visible sign of the love of Christ in the Church and in the world,” he prayed.

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