By Susan Gately - 28 February, 2014
In his message, the Pontiff also appealed for prayers for the upcoming synod of bishops.
Next October, the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is being convened to discuss the theme of ‘pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation’.
In his message, Pope Francis refers to the beautiful image of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple – Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus with the elderly Simeon and Anna witnessing the event.
“It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness.”
Families share beautiful moments in their journeys as family – meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support, writes Pope Francis.
But if there is no love, he continues, “then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.”
The Pope writes that the important meeting in October is dedicated to families – to their vocation and mission in the Church and in society; the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church.
“I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task.”
He also appealed for prayers for himself so that he might “serve the People of God in truth and in love”.
Pope Francis concluded his message invoking the blessing of Our Lady and St Joseph on families, and asking them to help families to “to walk united in love and in caring for one another”.
Bishop Liam MacDaid, Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family, has warmly welcomed Pope Francis’ Letter to Families.
Bishop MacDaid particularly welcomed Pope Francis’ request to families – who make up the majority within the Church community – to help by their prayers this October’s Synod.
In terms of supporting families in this task, the bishop recommended The Family Prayer Book published by Veritas which was published by the Bishops’ Council just 18 weeks ago.
The Family Prayer Book is now going to reprint following the sale of 3,000 copies. It is available from www.veritas.ie
“In the words of Pope Francis in his letter, ‘If there were no families, then Jesus’ Word – the word of the Church, the word of the Pope – on the married love which is able to open us up to God’s unconditional love for all, would appear abstract, unrealistic and ineffectual’,” said Bishop MacDaid.
In his message to families, released on Tuesday 25 February, the Pope said there would be another synod on the family in 2015, and a World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September of that year.
“May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.”