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Saint of the Day: Pope St. Paul VI
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Pope Francis to Married Couples: “Protect Your Families”

Pope Francis Meeting with Families Philippines


Diane Montagna - published on 01/17/15

Pontiff reaffirms Humanae Vitae and encourages families to take St. Joseph as their patron and guide

On the first full day of his visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis said there is an ideological colonization present in today’s world that is seeking to destroy the family.

In a meeting with families Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, the Pope also said the world needs good and strong families to overcome increasing efforts to redefine marriage. And he reaffirmed the Church’s teaching set forth by Blessed Pope Paul VI in Humanae vitae.

“Let us be on guard against colonization by new ideologies,” the Pope said, speaking extemporaneously in Spanish to thousands of families who assembled for the meeting. “There are forms of ideological colonization which are out to destroy the family.

“They are not born of dreams, of prayers, of closeness to God or the mission which God gave us; they come from without, and for that reason I am saying that they are forms of colonization.” 

Pope Francis therefore urged families: “Let’s not lose the freedom of the mission which God has given us, the mission of the family. Just as our peoples, at a certain moment of their history, were mature enough to say ‘no’ to all forms of political colonization, so too in our families we need to be very wise, very shrewd, very strong, in order to say ‘no’ to all attempts at an ideological colonization of our families. We need to ask Saint Joseph, the friend of the angel, to send us the inspiration to know when we can say ‘yes’ and when we have to say ‘no’.”

The Pope also outlined the many pressures on family life today: natural disasters, economic situations that have caused families to be separated by migration, and people living under serious financial constraints or even dire poverty, while others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality. 

“The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” he observed.

Pausing for a moment in unscripted comments, Pope Francis then said: “I think of Blessed Paul VI. At a time when the problem of population growth was being raised, he had the courage to defend openness to life in families." 

“He knew the difficulties that are there in every family, and so in his Encyclical he was very merciful towards particular cases, and he asked confessors to be very merciful and understanding in dealing with particular cases. But he also had a broader vision: he looked at the peoples of the earth and he saw this threat of families being destroyed for lack of children.

“Paul VI was courageous,” he said. “He was a good pastor. He was a good pastor and he warned his flock of the wolves who were coming. From his place in heaven, may he bless us this evening.”

Pope Francis beatified Paul VI on October 19, 2014, following the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family.

“Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself," he added. "The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). So protect your families. Protect your families. See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the Sacraments."

Sleeping St. Joseph

Pope Francis emphasized that the key to building a strong home and family life is prayer. Drawing upon the Gospel image of St. Joseph sleeping as the angel reveals God’s will to him in a dream, the Pope told families that resting in prayer is vital for our spiritual health “so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us.” 

It is especially important for families, he added, since “it is in the family that we first learn how to pray.”

“In the family we learn how to love, to forgive, to be generous and open, not closed and selfish," he continued. "We learn to move beyond our own needs, to encounter others and share our lives with them. That is why it is so important to pray as a family. That is why families are so important in God’s plan for the Church!”

In unscripted remarks to the families assembled, Pope Francis then confided something “very personal” regarding his own devotion to St. Joseph. “I have great love for Saint Joseph," he said, "because he is a man of silence and strength."

He continued: “On my table I have an image of Saint Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church. Yes! We know that he can do that. So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note and I put it underneath Saint Joseph, so that he can dream about it!  In other words I tell him: pray for this problem."

But Pope Francis observed that, like St. Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, "we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act (cf. Rom 13:11)". Faith, he said, does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it with the strength and power of prayer. And what a gift it would be to society, he added, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation."

Pope Francis therefore called on families to be a prophetic voice in the world today. 

He encouraged parents to take up their role as primary educators of their children: “When families bring children into the world, train them in faith and sound values, and teach them to contribute to society, they become a blessing in our world. God’s love becomes present and active by the way we love and by the good works that we do.” 

And he also asked families to show particular concern for those who do not have one, especially the elderly and orphans. “Never let them feel isolated, alone and abandoned,” he said, “but help them to know that God has not forgotten them.”

Following the meeting, three families gave personal testimonies on the difficulties faced by living in poverty, being divided by forced migration, and having family members with a disability.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis made an unscheduled visit to 300 children at a Manila center that helps orphans and children living in the slums. 

On Saturday morning, the Pope will travel to the typhoon-battered island of Leyte, where he will celebrate Mass and have lunch with a group of survivors of the 2013 typhoon Haiyan, and the 7.2 magnitude Bohol earthquake. In the afternoon he will meet with priests, religious, seminarians, and families of the survivors.

On Sunday morning, Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with young people. In the afternoon he will celebrate Holy Mass in Manila. Some estimate that close to 6 million people will attend.

On Monday, Pope Francis returns to Rome.

Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.

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