Less than a week after Pope Francis completed his intensive five-day pastoral visit to the United States, he officially opened the 14th Ordinary Synod on the Family with a beautiful Mass in St. Peter Basilica.
It will take some time to ponder and appreciate the breadth and depth of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. In five short days, he managed to capture the hearts of so many in the public square and in our Church community. In literally minutes, he traveled from addressing the influential in Congress to spending time with the forgotten at a meal for homeless families in Washington, D.C.
So, too, in a space of a few hours he addressed the full assembly of the United Nations, prayed with interfaith leaders at Ground Zero, and mingled with school children and immigrant families in East Harlem. Finally in about the same amount of time he spoke to bishops at St. Charles Seminary Chapel in Philadelphia, met with prisoners at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, and then celebrated Mass with a million plus faithful to conclude the World Meeting of Families.
You and I might take a few days off after all that, but Pope Francis headed back to the Vatican to begin the Synod. This event involves about 270 delegates as well as dozens of observers who seek to pray for and lift up today’s family … all with a firm, loving, and trusting gaze on Jesus, through Whom the family continues to be inspired and through Whom we touch God’s loving plan for each of us.
At Mass on Sunday, with a beautiful icon of the Holy Family presenting the infant Jesus in the temple, Pope Francis led us through a reflection on the beauty of the love of a man and woman for each other, on the attention given to those who are alone and lonely in the world, on the need to be accompanied, and on the Christian family – not as an adolescent utopia – but as God’s dream …God’s plan for humanity.
In opening remarks the next day, our Holy Father summoned the delegates to take on a courage that is apostolic (drawing from the courage of the first apostles who received the Holy Spirit from the Risen Jesus on that first Easter evening), to have evangelical humility (never pointing fingers at persons who instead need help and accompaniment in their struggles through this world) and to have a profound prayerful trust in the Lord Jesus and in God’s plan for marriage and family.
Please pray for all of the delegates and for me and please take a deep interest in this synod. For sure, families – each imperfect – will be the true vehicle for transforming the family. Thus, each family ought not to look passively from a distance but use the occasion of this historic event to renew your families, your family relationships, and your capacity to reach out and witness to the joy of the Gospel of the Family in your daily lives.