By Sarah Mac Donald - 29 September, 2013
Bishop Christopher Jones, Chair of the Council for Marriage and the Family, said the gathering was focused on marriage and the family.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to explore and deepen our sense of marriage and family which is at the heart of the Church and society,” he explained.
Renewing our appreciation of how married couples can be a support to each other and how the Christian vision of marriage can become a catalyst for renewal of good neighbourliness and support in local communities could offer something timely and important for us all, he added.
The conference set out to explore family in all its dimensions, including the family in Irish society today, the family in difficulty, and the family under threat.
The conference was designed to (i) introduce publicly the Council for Marriage and Family, (ii) invite a wide network of individuals and groups into collaboration with the Council and (iii) provide opportunity for participants to explore together and at depth the vision of marriage and family in Catholic theology and spirituality today.
Bishop Jones said his hope was that the conference would contribute to a re-imagining of the link between the sacrament of marriage, the call to witness to the faithful love of God for his Church and the renewal of community and good neighbourliness in our society.
“This hope extends to our understanding of the Christian vocation of the family, based on marriage. The family is where the Christian faith is first encountered and lived. It is where we learn, in concrete experience, what it means to love and care for others, what it is to be ‘a good neighbour’, what it is to be a good friend,” he said.
The guest speaker was lay theologian Dr Stijn Van den Bossche of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. Dr Van den Bossche is married with three grown-up children.
He is secretary-general of an Interdiocesan Commission for Catechesis in the Bishops’ Conference of Belgium. He is also involved in theological training of lay people for teaching and pastoral work and a member of the staff of the Ignatian Centre for Spirituality in Drongen (near Ghent).
There, he collaborated last year in a new catechetical-spiritual course on marriage, consisting of ten evenings. The general theme of the course was: how does marriage teach us what being a Christian is about, how does being a Christian teach us what marriage is about?
Dr Van den Bossche’s area of interest is church renewal, theology of the sacraments, and faith initiation. His publications include ‘On the Gift of the Sacrament of Marriage’, in Studies in Liturgy, 89 (4), 238-259. At the Leuven he teaches a course of theology of marriage.
It fell to Cardinal Seán Brady to launch a new hardback prayer book entitled ‘The Family Prayer Book’ which was produced by the Council for Marriage and the Family in conjunction with Veritas.
“We are all familiar with that saying ‘the family that prays together, stays together’ and in launching this new family prayer book I am encouraging families to do just that – to take time out for prayer,” the Cardinal urged.
Describing the prayer book as “a very accessible and user friendly collection of prayers we know, prayers we may have forgotten and new prayers” which were gathered by the members of the Council for Marriage and the Family, the Cardinal congratulated Bishop Jones, all the members of the Council and Veritas on the production.
The prayer book can be used by those preparing for marriage and married couples, by family members and families, by individuals and by those who want to pray for marriage and family life for personal prayer and prayer together.
It offers prayers for daily use or it can be dipped into from time to time, allowing the section and prayer titles to guide the readers towards their choice.
Attendees at the conference included priests and people from dioceses and parishes, as well as other associations who work to support marriage and the family.
Bishop Christopher Jones, Bishop of Elphin and Cardinal Seán Brady, were joined by Bishop Liam Mac Daid, Bishop of Clogher and Bishop Brendan Leahy, Bishop of Limerick.