Continuing this reflection on the recent papal trip to Latin America, I noticed how Pope Francis made the obvious but important point that simply going to Mass on Sunday isn’t enough for our faith to be fully alive and well. “Remember;” he said, “when a faith doesn’t have solidarity, it’s weak, it’s ill or it’s dead. It’s not the faith of Jesus.”
These are powerful even challenging words. Getting to Mass on a Sunday for a family is often an ordeal just in itself. It can feel like a major expedition sometimes and, when one is there, one is not always disposed to calm and peace and prayefulness. So even Mass can wash over us at times and it is natural for us to sometimes feel disconnected from the Lord. Therefore, the being sent forth at the end of the Mass ‘to glorify the Lord by your lives’ is that invitation to consciously seek out Christ throughout the week and knowingly serve Him in others as best we can.
The Holy Father’s words remind us too that despite the business of family life which is a massive component of the Church’s mission, “Families therefore, either singly or in association, should devote themselves to manifold social service activities, especially in favour of the poor, or at any rate for the benefit of all people and situations that cannot be reached by the public authorities’ welfare organization.”(Familiaris Consortio n 44) St John Paul II goes on to explain in the ‘Magna Carta’ of the family that when children get older they should be encouraged to be actively involved in outreach to those less fortunate than themselves. And even if that is not always possible because the commitments of individual families might be very demanding, nevertheless “opening the door of one’s home and still more of one’s heart to the pleas of one’s brothers and sisters” is of key importance in expressing solidarity of our faith with visitors and callers to the home.
He continues, the” social role of families is called upon to find expression also in the form of political intervention: families should be the first to take steps to see that the laws and institutions of the State not only do not offend but support and positively defend the rights and duties of the family. Along these lines, families should grow in awareness of being “protagonists” of what is known as “family politics” and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.”
Wow! That it is a stark warning. In other words though we might feel powerless on and by our own efforts to defend the Gospel of Life, we still should do what we can to witness to innate human dignity; for example, taking part in pro-life prayer vigils perhaps, or writing to the local MP as a family to plead that they vote against the Assisted Dying Bill in September, or alerting people in Scotland not to allow theNamed Person Law to trample underfoot the inalienable rights of parents. And there are many other issues which directly affect families such as the attempts to force primary schools to provide inappropriate sex education under the guise of mandatory PSHE programmes. Pope Francis has already emphatically stated in April last year that “children are not guinea pigs!” So on these and other issues let’s act now in solidarity of faith for Christian family values.
As school holidays draw near for many, and much deserved time away for rest and recreation descends upon us, let us not forget St. John Paul’s heart-rending words of 1981 which are echoed in his Successor’s words above:
“I consider particularly close to the Heart of Christ …countless people who unfortunately cannot in any sense claim membership of what could be called in the proper sense a family…conditions of extreme poverty, in which promiscuity, lack of housing, the irregular nature and instability of relationships and the extreme lack of education make it impossible in practice to speak of a true family. There are others who, for various reasons, have been left alone in the world. And yet for all of these people there exists a ‘good news of the family.’ On behalf of those living in extreme poverty, I have already spoken of the urgent need to work courageously in order to find solutions, also at the political level, which will make it possible to help them and to overcome this inhuman condition of degradation. It is a task that faces the whole of society but in a special way the authorities, by reason of their position and the responsibilities flowing therefrom, and also families, who must show great understanding and willingness to help. For those who have no natural family the doors of the great family which is the Church – the Church which finds concrete expression in the diocesan and the parish family – must be opened even wider. No one is without a family in this world: the Church is a home and family for everyone, especially those who “labor and are heavy laden.”‘
– Edmund Adamus
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster