By Sarah Mac Donald - 20 August, 2013
In his homily on Sunday at Knock Shrine, Bishop Christopher Jones also revealed that many of these children haven’t learnt any prayers at home and never get to see the inside of a church.
Nostalgically recalling his own happy pre-1960s childhood in rural Ireland, the Bishop said teachers today had told him that they were seeing children from homes where relationships have broken down and where sadness rather than happiness was commonplace.
He expressed concern that these were homes where the complexity of relationships and the demands of day to day life meant that the children would “never experience the love and security I found day in and day out during my childhood at home.”
Since the arrival of the 1960s, faith and family life had experienced rapid social change and huge challenges, he commented.
For so many people, God and faith in God were pushed from the centre of hearts and homes to the sidelines. “Once people give up on personal and family prayer and on the Sunday Mass, their faith becomes weakened and even dies,” he warned.
Attendance as a family at Sunday Mass when the Bishop was growing up was the day which each week strengthened the collective sense of belonging to God, to family and to each other.
“It really saddens me that so many of our young people will never have the rich experiences of faith, family and community on Sunday mornings that I had in my early years,” the Bishop of Elphin said.
“That sense of belonging and of being wanted was so important especially for young people,” he added.
He told the pilgrims gathered in Knock on Sunday that he believed that with the loss of faith and the breakdown in family life, many people and especially young people “are experiencing a great sense of loneliness and of not belonging.”
He warned that they were “finding it difficult to find meaning or purpose in life.”
“The family in our day was in a very real sense what Blessed John Paul called in Familiaris Consortio: ‘A Domestic Church’,” he said.
But today, there were homes without faith and a weakening of marriage and the family.
Describing marriage as a unique union, Bishop Jones said the catholic tradition offered wisdom and guidance on this.
“Marriage is a unique union different from all others. In it, a woman and man promise fidelity to each other for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health as long as they both shall live.”
He underlined that this committed married love provided “a uniquely stable and
nurturing environment for children.”
“It is here that children receive the most important and lasting education of all. It is in the family that our basic attitudes to love, caring, forgiveness, sexuality and community living are acquired. It is here that we learn how to be responsible, ethically conscious, members of society,” he said.
He also remarked that marriage is not a private institution and that when marriage and families break down the whole of society suffers.
He prayed that schools would continue to promote faith and family by “fostering prayer and love for God in the hearts of our children.”