Never before has the Church discerned so deeply about the pastoral care for the family
The family is one of the main concerns of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church. In October 2014, bishops from around the world gathered with the Holy Father at the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. They reflected on the challenges families are facing in the context of evangelization. Just last month, in September, the Pope traveled to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. This month, Oct. 4–25, bishops are gathering in Rome once again, to attend the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. They will reflect with Pope Francis on the mission of the family in the church and in the contemporary world.
Never before had the church discerned so deeply about the pastoral care of the family. The entire People of God was involved in the process of reflection. The Holy Father has given us guidance through his weekly catechesis on the family during his general audiences. Bishops will share at the synod the main ideas they gathered from the faithful, organizations, universities and research centers.
All aspects of family life will be discussed at the synod: marriage preparation, openness to life, evangelization of children, and the responsibility of parents in their children’s education. Grandparents and their need of special attention, the final stage of life, and mourning in the family. Poverty and social exclusion, consumerism and materialism, the challenge of migration, the impact of war on families …
The big challenges families face today
Nobody would dare to deny that the family is the basic human community. It is terrible, then, that the family is experiencing a cultural and social crisis that provokes great suffering which weakens families and makes them frail — cohabitation, separation, divorce and second unions, their children who suffer abandonment, as well as single mothers, will be subject of the synod fathers’ reflection.
The 2014 synod made it clear that matrimony is reserved for one man and one woman. This time, the pope and bishops will continue with a deeper reflection on the pastoral care for homosexual persons — as well as for the children they adopt. This being a recent phenomenon, thorough pastoral guidelines are needed.
A particular topic of interest for many is pastoral care for the divorced who have civilly remarried. Will they be admitted to Communion? At the 2014 synod, the need for courageous pastoral options that proceed from the reality of family frailty was emphasized — a frailty that is rather “endured” with suffering than “chosen” with freedom. It is fundamental to take care of wounded families, helping them to experience God’s mercy.
Vocation and mission of the Christian family
The Christian family, like yours and mine, is first and foremost a small domestic church. We are called to be a reflection of the image of the Trinity, a community of life and love. In essence, our mission is to bear witness to God’s love: It is in the family where children experience first the protective care of their parents. Hence, the Christian family should be a shrine of peace, where children may discover that Jesus is always present among them.
Let us pray for the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, that our families may truly be places of communion and prayer. That families never again experience violence and division. And that may the Synod of Bishops make us more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.
This is the English translation of the “Semillas de la Palabra” column "Nuestras familias y el importantísimo Sínodo de Obispos en Roma" that appeared in the October 2015 issue of NORTHWEST CATHOLIC.