By Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ
The World Meeting of Families, which began on August 21 in Dublin Ireland, concluded August 26 evening with a Eucharist presided over by Pope Francis. The meeting had for its theme, ‘The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World,’ underlying the importance of the family in our world today.
The Concluding Eucharist was a moving and joyful experience to the thousands gathered at the massive Phoenix Park there and to the many more across the world who watched the proceedings live on TV. Inclement weather in Dublin did not deter the crowds from this once-in-a-lifetime experience. For it is in joy, we celebrate the family.
In March 2016, following the Synods on the family held in 2014 and 2015, Pope Francis gave to the Church and to the world, his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (‘The Joy of Love’). The Dublin meeting revolved very much around this pathbreaking document.
Prior to the meeting, Pope Francis sent the organizers a preparatory letter, stating among other things, “I wish to underline how important it is for families to ask themselves often if they live based on love, for love and in love. In practice, this means giving oneself, forgiving, not losing patience, anticipating the other, respecting. How much better family life would be if every day we lived according to the words, “please”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry”. Every day we have the experience of fragility and weakness, and therefore we all, families and pastors, are in need of renewed humility that forms the desire to form ourselves, to educate and be educated, to help and be helped, to accompany, discern and integrate all men of good will.” We need to celebrate the fact that it is in the family where one can truly nurture these values.
Faith is always nurtured in the family. This is exactly what the powerful icon of the Holy Family very vividly displayed during the Meeting and Mass, represent. The Icon of the Holy Family, commissioned for the 2018 World Meeting of Families was written by iconographer Mihai Cucu, who comes from Romania. Mihai was assisted by the Redemptoristine Sisters of the Monastery of St Alphonsus, Iona Road, Dublin.
It was truly a work of their prayer and of love. “We were drawn to an image of the Holy Family at table, sharing a meal and sharing their faith, as suggested by the Gospel of Luke chapter 2. An obvious Gospel text reflecting God’s concern for marriage is the Wedding at Cana in the second chapter of the Gospel of John. And finally, the other Gospel that came to mind was the Raising of Jairus’ daughter as found in chapter 5 of Mark’s Gospel. There we see Jesus’ response to a family with a sick child and how he respected that family’s privacy in the midst of emotional turmoil when it came to the moment of healing”.
(https://www.worldmeeting2018.ie/WMOF/media/downloads/WMOF2018-Icon-of-the-Holy-Family.pdf). It is in faith we celebrate family.
During the concluding Eucharist, Pope Francis focused on the ‘Family and Forgiveness’ In his opening prayer( which apparently came straight from his heart) he said, “We ask forgiveness for the abuse in Ireland. Abuses of power, conscience and sexual abuse perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility in the Church.In a special way we ask pardon for all the abuses committed in various institutions run by male or female religious members of the church and we ask for forgiveness for those cases of exploitation through manual work that so many young women and men were subjected to.We ask forgiveness for the times that as a church we did not show survivors of whatever kind of abuse compassion and the seeking of justice and truth through concrete actions. We ask for forgiveness.” A prayer which drew spontaneous applause from the huge crowd. For it is in forgiveness we celebrate the family!
Speaking of forgiveness within the family, one is reminded of Saint Mother Teresa. She once said, “Jesus taught us how to forgive out of love, how to forget out of humility. So let us examine our hearts and see if there is any unforgiven hurt-any unforgotten bitterness!It is not always easy to love those who are right next to us.It is easier to offer food to the hungry than to answer the lonely suffering of someone who lacks love right in one’s own family. The world today is upside down because there is so very little love in the home,and in family life.” Mother Teresa hits the nail on the head. Today is also her 108th birth anniversary. As we celebrate her memory, let us celebrate our own family, by praying to her and asking her to intercede for us!
Our world today is becoming more and more fragmented. A far cry from that of yesteryears when what mattered most was one’s family. In that comfort zone we were nurtured and grew in faith, we found forgiveness and acceptance, warmth, joy and above all, love.
(Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ, is a human rights activist. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)