The year of the family

Isabelle Gagnon

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Image by magdiel-lacoquis from Pixabay
March 19 will be the fifth anniversary of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis' encyclical on the family. For the occasion, the pope is entrusting all the faithful to the Holy Family, in particular to St. Joseph, as part of a year for the "Amoris Laetitia Family". One of the consequences of this will be that many pastoral tools will be provided to parishes and the faithful to talk about forgiveness in the family and to deepen preparation for family life. Many reflections on the content of Amoris Laetitia will also be shared throughout the year.
 
The Holy Family as an example of society
For our greatest happiness, and our greatest humility, God chose to make himself known within a family, to be a baby in his mother's arms. There is nothing trivial about this arrival; it shows us by analogy that every family has a place for the Lord. "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). God has chosen the couple as the privileged place for His creation and offers His graces to all married couples and to all families.
In this way, He gives value and a voice to daily family life. Each gesture influences the faith and holiness of its members. The family meal is a classic example of the sharing and acknowledgement of the Lord's gifts through the management of parents. The filial relationship itself can be imbued with divine love, and its destruction has very serious consequences. A parent who remains indifferent to their child, having neglected the essential care that God has entrusted to them, hurts their child throughout his or her life. On the contrary, a parent who is an example of humility, patience, and charitable love will touch the heart of their child forever and help them seek human and divine virtues.
The family is also the basic unit of society, its most essential form. Therefore, it is at the heart of education in the world and in the faith, and it carries its consequences in society on a larger scale. All virtues can be worked on in the family and all vices encountered. It is for this reason that the pope insists so much on the paramount importance of the family in the formation and unity of our societies.
 
The words of the family
The pope mentions three phrases that are essential for the proper functioning of the family: "Please", "Thank you", and "I'm sorry". Instead of insisting on the notions of parental authority, freedom, or individuality, each of which plays an important part in family dynamics, he presents the words that must be guaranteed by everyone. Three short external expressions of a set of great inner virtues: patience and ability to listen, gratitude and openmindedness, humility and forgiveness. Every person in the world who puts these virtues into practice takes a step forward towards holiness, towards acceptance into the Kingdom of Heaven. And every day we have the opportunity to practice them as a family. What an immense joy! In this way, the pope highlights the essential simplicity in the exercise of virtue.
 
Families under pressure in the pandemic
This pandemic affects not only society in general but each and every one of its families as well. The pace of life is changing, children are no longer stimulated by outdoor activities, couples are together 24/7. Tensions have already risen very quickly in several households, and many couples have broken up in recent months. It is for them in particular that the pope is launching this year of the "Amoris Laetitia Family", with the aim of strengthening "the pastoral care of marriage preparation" and supporting "wounded families". He also sends his support to families in the health sector, who experience the fragility of the family in multiple dimensions, mainly that of physical health and loss of hope.
 
A calling to family
The mission of family life is an arduous one in normal times, and it is made even more difficult in times of crisis. Pope Francis' attention and empathy towards families has long been noticeable, especially with the publication of Amoris Laetitia, an encyclical with a clear and direct style that takes into account the practical challenges of family life. In particular, this year dedicated to the family will be an opportunity to integrate families more fully into diocesan and parochial structures so that a constant dialogue between families, priests, and pastoral agents may nourish Church teachings on the family for generations to come. The experience in practical wisdom of families is an invaluable resource not only for pastoral teaching but also for the unity of the Church. We are certainly on a difficult path, but the Holy Family guides our every step, especially this year.
 
The year dedicated to the family proclaimed by Pope Francis will begin on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, and will end on June 26, 2022, with the 10th World Meeting of Families in Rome.
For more information and resources, visit the official "Amoris Laetitia Family" website.


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