My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As we begin Respect Life Month, we can hardly forget the great witness to life that Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, gave on his visit to the United States. In a simple and direct way, he touched the heart of the issue when it comes to preserving life from beginning to end. It is the family that preserves life. It is the family that is responsible for giving life, nurturing life from its beginning to its end. His wonderful talk to families, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia during that Saturday Prayer Vigil for the Festival of Families, was truly remarkable.
Not using his notes, the Holy Father spoke in his native Spanish with great enthusiasm and with great sincerity. Pope Francis began by thanking all those who made the Festival of Families what it was, telling them, “…those who brought us joy through their art, through beauty, which is the way of God. Beauty brings us to God. And a truthful witness brings us to God, because God is also truth. He is beauty and He is truth.”
How important for us to recognize that the beauty of family life must lead us to a truthful way of life. In our society today, commitment and fidelity are two things that are very difficult to find. Perhaps this is because the beauty of a faithful relationship is not witnessed to, especially through our media and the movies and television programs. Well, the beauty of God and the truth of God is to be found in faithful family life.
Our Holy Father went on to say, “All the love God has in Himself, all the beauty God has in Himself, all the truth God has in Himself, He entrusts to the family.”
Yes, the family must mirror the presence of God in the beauty and the truth and the love that make the family a reflection of the communion which exits in the Trinity between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is God’s plan. Pope Francis, says, “The family has a divine identity card.” Which means that where there is truth, love and beauty, then a family can continue to grow and to bring new life into the world and to preserve that life.
Pope Francis gives some very practical examples of what family life is all about when he says, “Grandparents are a family’s memory.” Yes, without memory we repeat the mistakes of the past. Without caring for all the members of the family, care for the younger members also will suffer as well as older members. Our Holy Father clearly states that there is no perfect family. The only perfect family that existed was the family of Nazareth, the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, where they lived in peace. Yet, it was not without problems. How important it is to recognize that the unity of the human beings in the family is subject to all of the difficulties that human life entails.
Another interesting point that Pope Francis makes as he concluded his wonderful talk to families is, “Jesus was not a confirmed bachelor, far from it! He took the Church as His bride, and made her a people of His own. He laid down His life for those He loved, so that His bride, the Church, could always know that He is God with us, His people, His family.”
The love of Jesus Christ reminds us that we must give in order to experience love. I might put it this way, “Love is nurtured by forgiveness.”
I always like to quote the famous line from the book and movie, “Love Story,” that “Love means you never have to say you are sorry.” This is probably the most false statement that ever was made. For it is only when there is forgiveness that love can grow.
Our Holy Father’s method of encouraging family life is truly down to earth, truly coming from his own experience. When he says, “Perfect families do not exist. This must not discourage us. Quite the opposite. Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is ‘forged’ by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences.”
In delving into the heart and the life of the human family, the Holy Father, truly has put out into the deep. As he begins the Synod on the Family, we know that he comes to it with a deep knowledge of family life and a love for the beauty and the truth which can be found in the family, not in any abstract way, but in every human family that exists. Please join me in praying for the success of the Synod on the Family, that we might find ways to support and guide family life into the future.