A Family of Faith

We have just completed a worldwide observance of the Year of Faith and are about to enter the Advent season of a new liturgical cycle. Now seems an opportune time to count our blessings, especially during a week in which we gather with family for Thanksgiving. In keeping with the theme of faith, it makes sense to recall those persons who have nourished our faith by word or example and those at times who have questioned it – or, better, challenged our faithfulness.

No doubt Pope Francis is one of the first to come to mind for having dared to do both. His papacy is still young in many ways. He has only just begun to embark upon the arduous expedition of the internal reform of the Church’s central administrative agencies. Already, however, he is building up an enormous reserve of good will that seems to be having a measurable positive impact, not only on Catholics returning to more regular Mass attendance but those inside and outside our worship space who are listening to what the Church has to say.

At the same time, at least according to some reports, Pope Francis has raised levels of concern and even anxiety because of his very direct, unfiltered communication style which ironically leaves him more liable to being misquoted or misunderstood. Yet who can doubt the clarity of the theme he keeps striking, which is at the center of the Gospel: Jesus is Lord, the refuge of sinners, everyone’s Savior.

Many others in our lives, no doubt, have inspired our faith at one time or another. For all their human shortcomings, the many sisters, priests and brothers whose patience we tried and whose wits we tested, witnessed to the enduring love of the Lord himself simply by being there for us. Perhaps through us, as only they may know, God also drew from their hearts the mercy and dedication to serve us. We thank one another.

Parents, godparents and grandparents should be high on our list as models of faith as many of them still may remain. Unfortunately, we are aware, personal experience does not always meet the ideal. We cannot alter the past, but ours is a faith of forgiveness. This is the first step. It is not enough, however. All efforts must go towards strengthening the family, the womb where faith is nurtured in our formative years.

Well aware of this urgency, our Holy Father is convoking an extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family to be convened in October, 2014. He understands that our larger family of faith, the Church, is a family of families, which needs to foster the domestic church of each family unit. The theme will be “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”

Thank God for the leadership of Pope Francis that the voices of the divorced, separated and marginalized whose alienation from the comfort and stability of family are being heard and, God willing, responded to.

It is the power of the Gospel that unites us in building up not only the Body of Christ, our Church family, but also serves as a beacon of light to the world. We do not expect thanks or honors. Our reward is simply to proclaim the Good News and to live the joy it brings to all believers who remember our greatest blessing: Jesus Christ Himself, God’s perfect gift.

As Pope Francis recently tweeted, “Our life must be centered on what is essential, Jesus Christ. Everything else is secondary.”