Prayers for Struggling Families Must Be Animated by Jesus' Compassion
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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has once again issued a call for prayer for the upcoming October Synod on the Family, saying that what is needed is prayer, not chatter and gossip.
Addressing the faithful at his Wednesday general audience in a rainy St. Peter’s Square on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Holy Father reiterated that the Church is like a mother who never abandons her family, even when its members fall into sin.
“She will always do everything to try to care for it and heal it, to invite it to conversion and reconciliation with the Lord,” he said. “And so here is what, together with my collaborators, we have thought to propose today: to renew prayer for the Synod of Bishops on the Family.”
Pope Francis’ call for prayer comes just a day after Cardinal Walter Kasper, who has kept himself out of the public eye since the last synod, also stressed the importance of praying for the synod. “We should all pray for it because a battle is going on,” he said at a book presentation this week.
Cardinal Kasper has argued that the Catholic Church ought to study the Eastern Orthodox Church’s allowance of divorce and remarriage, and has proposed that divorced and civilly remarried Catholics be allowed to receive the Holy Eucharist, after a penitential process in the Catholic Church.
The Pope’s call for prayer also comes one day after some 500 priests from England and Wales signed an open letter stating their “unwavering fidelity” to the Church’s traditional doctrine regarding marriage and human sexuality.
According to reports, following “much confusion” that derived from last October’s Synod, and ahead of next October’s Synod on the Family, the priests said they wished to “commit [themselves] anew” to presenting the Church’s magisterial teaching in its fullness, while reaching out “with the Lord’s compassion” to those who struggle to live the Gospel “in an increasingly secular society.”
The Pope said Wednesday he would like prayers for the synod to be “animated by the compassion of the Good Shepherd for his flock, especially for persons and families who for various reasons are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Animated by the grace of God, he said, the Church will be “even more committed, even more united in the witness to the truth of God’s love and of his mercy for families in the world, no one excluded, either inside or outside the fold.”
Pope Francis invited the faithful at Wednesday’s audience to pray together a special prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod which he offered the Church at his December 29, 2013 Sunday angelus address.
A worldwide Eucharistic adoration novena of prayer for the Synod has already begun under the patronage of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose parents are to be canonized during the October synod. A generous response has already come from around the world, especially in Africa where local bishops have promoted the novena in parishes across their diocese. All the faithful are invited to take part in the Eucharistic adoration novena on the first Thursday of every month until October. For more details, click here.
Here below is a translation of the Pope’s address.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Good morning. On our journey of catecheses on the family, today is a somewhat special step: it will be a pause for prayer.
On March 25, in fact, in the Church we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the beginning of the mystery of the Incarnation. The Archangel Gabriel visits the humble maiden of Nazareth and announces to her that she shall conceive and give birth to the Son of God. With the announcement, the Lord illumines and strengthens Mary’s faith, as he will also do for her husband Joseph, so that Jesus might be born into a human family.
This is very beautiful: it shows us how profoundly the mystery of the Incarnation, as God has willed it, involves not only a conception in the womb of a mother, but also a welcoming into a true family. Today I would like to contemplate with you the beauty of this bond, the beauty of God’s condescension. And we may do so by reciting together the Hail Mary together, which in the first part takes up the very words of the Angel, those he addressed to the Virgin. I invite you to pray together:
“Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
And now a second aspect: March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, is celebrated in many countries as the World Day of Life. Therefore, 20 years ago, St. John Paul II on this date signed the encyclical Evangelium vita. There are many members of the Movement for Life in the Square to commemorate this anniversary today. In Evangelium vita, the family occupies a central place. The word of my venerable predecessor reminds us that the human couple has been blessed by God from the beginning to form a community of love and life, entrusted with the mission of procreation. Christian spouses, in celebrating the Sacrament of Marriage, make themselves available to honor this blessing, with the grace of Christ, for a lifetime. The Church, for her part, solemnly commits herself to taking care for the family that comes from [marriage], as God’s gift for her own life, in good times and in bad: the bond between the Church and the family is sacred and inviolate.
The Church, as mother, never abandons the family, even when it is demeaned, wounded and put down in so many ways. Not even when it falls into sin, or when it is distances itself from the Church. She will always do everything to try to care for it and heal it, to invite it to conversion and reconciliation with the Lord.
Well, if this is the task, it is clear how much prayer the Church needs to be able, at any time, to fulfill this mission. A prayer full of love for the family and for life. A prayer capable of rejoicing and suffering with whoever suffers.
And so here is what, together with my collaborators, we have thought to propose today: to renew prayer for the Synod of Bishops on the Family. Let us relaunch this commitment until next October, when the Ordinary Synodal Assembly dedicated to the family will take place. I would like this prayer, like the entire synodal journey, to be animated by the compassion of the Good Shepherd for his flock, especially for persons and families who for various reasons are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). Thus, sustained and animated by the grace of God, the Church will be able to be even more committed, even more united in the witness to the truth of God’s love and of his mercy for families in the world, no one excluded, either inside or outside the fold.
I ask you please not to neglect your prayer. Everyone — cardinals, bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay faithful — we are all called to pray for the synod. This is what is needed, not chatter and gossip!
I also invite those who feel themselves far away to pray, or those who are no longer used to doing so. This prayer for the Synod on the family is for the good of all. I know that this morning a little prayer card was given to you, which you have in hand. I invite you to keep in and to carry it with you, so that in the coming months you may recite it often, with holy insistence, as Jesus has asked us. Now let us recite it together:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,in you we contemplate the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth, may the approaching Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer. Amen.
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.
[Full disclosure: she is one of the co-founders of the worldwide Eucharistic adoration novena for the Synod on the Family]