By Sarah Mac Donald - 11 April, 2017
The World Meeting of Families in 2018 cannot just be a fleeting celebration for a few days – it has to be a moment in which the entire Church, especially families themselves, deepen the reflection on the teaching of Amoris Laetitia,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has said.
In his homily on Saturday at a Mass in Knock to pray for the success of the major international Church gathering which the Irish Church hosts in August 2018, Archbishop Martin, who is president of WMF2018, told the congregation, “It must be a moment in which the daily love of husbands and wives and the daily love of parents for their children can be recognised as a fundamental resource of renewal for the Church and society.”
He also stressed that the Church must be a place where “those who have failed can experience, not harsh judgment, but the strong embrace of the Lord who can lift them up and help them to begin their dream again.”
Referring to Pope Francis’ letter of convocation for the world gathering next year, Archbishop Martin said what was innovative and new in it was the emphasis the Pope places on the central role that the family is called to play in realising that great dream of renewal of the Church.
“The mission of the Christian family is to be a place where people encounter that divine mercy which heals and liberates and frees.”
He said marriage must be a place where spouses love each other, not in vague romantic terms, but in terms of the everyday realities and difficulties of life.
“The Pope’s teaching on family doesn’t attempt to hide the fact that families experience challenges, weakness, fragility and even breakdown. Families, therefore, need a Church that is with them and accompanying them” and leading them to say yes to divine love.
“The essence of the Christian message is about a God who loves us. We talk about passing on the faith in families. Passing on the Christian message isn’t just an intellectual process in which information about Jesus is learned. The Christian message of love is transmitted through loving parents passing on their faith not just through teaching the catechism but through their love for each other and their love for their children.
“It is in loving and experiencing human love that we can begin to open ourselves to the understanding of God’s love. And it is in understanding God’s love that Christians can witness to love in a different way in our world.”
He stressed that it was “very important that we pray for the success of the World Meeting of Families – not as an event but as a moment of renewal of love especially within families”.
At the start of Mass, Archbishop Martin described Knock as a place where faith is transmitted from one generation to the next.
“The image of families here in Knock – of two or three generations – reflects that extraordinary reality, that it is within the family that most of us had our first experiences of faith, our first knowledge of Jesus, our first encounter with the protection of our Blessed Lady.”
He prayed that the World Meeting of Families would be an occasion of renewal of family life and of support for families in difficulties and of helping families to understand their particular way of passing on the faith.
Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam noted that Knock is a family shrine and “on that August evening in 1879, in the apparition, Mary brought her family with her – her son Jesus, the Lamb on the altar of sacrifice, her husband St Joseph, and St John, representing the extended family”.
Archbishop Neary said that “Knock is also a place which draws families together. One of the most beautiful sights at Knock is to see mothers and fathers with their little children accompanied by their grandparents.”
Speaking to catholicireland.net, Fr Timothy Bartlett, Secretary General of the World Meeting of Families 2018, said that though there was “lots to be done”, he was “delighted” with the general reaction he was getting in dioceses and parishes.
“There is genuine enthusiasm for the whole event,” he said.
“There has been universal enthusiasm and a real desire to reflect together and joyfully and actively on this great document that Pope Francis has offered to the Church – to reflect on the beauty of God’s plan for marriage and the importance of family for the future of the Church and the future of the world itself.
“We are focusing on preparing a programme of events for families as families, for parishes with families and in particular, a programme of reflection in parishes.”
He explained that online resources will be made available which people can access individually on Amoris Laetita – Pope Francis’ “beautiful exposition of all dimensions of family and marriage”.