By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged families to be united in prayer and the Word of God and to go out to serve the poor and the marginalized in charity and fraternity.
“The family is alive if it is united in prayer. The family is strong if it rediscovers the Word of God and the providential value of all its promises. The family is generous and builds history if it remains open to life, if it does not discriminate and serves the most fragile and needy, if it does not stop offering the world the bread of charity and the wine of fraternity.”
This was the heart of the message that the Pope sent to the 14th National Pilgrimage of Families for the Family that is taking place simultaneously on Saturday across 20 shrines of Italy, and also in Switzerland.
Promoted by the National Office for Family Pastoral Care of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), the National Forum of Family Associations and the Renewal in the Holy Spirit movement, the theme of the September 11 event is “In Communion…joy”.
Joy of giving
The Holy Father thanked families for their witness of communion and joy which proclaim in unison that “the family is alive”.
He noted that thousands of pilgrim families, spouses, parents, grandparents and children in prayer were showing “the bright face of faith in Jesus Christ, at a time crushed by so many difficulties, sufferings and new poverties”.
He appreciated their “efforts to go out to meet as many people as possible, to become a living sign of that ‘joy of love’ (Amoris laetitia), which flows from the Gospel of the family”.
Drawing attention to the motto of their pilgrimage – “In Communion…joy” - the Pope said it expresses a fundamental choice of not seeking the "consumerist and individualistic" joy, which "only weighs down the heart".
Instead, it speaks of the choice of a joy that is lived in communion, which is shared and which participates, because "we are more blessed in giving than in receiving", and "God loves a cheerful giver".
“Fraternal love increases our capacity for joy, since it makes us capable of rejoicing in the good of others,” the Pope said, citing his Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et exsultate.
The Holy Father thus encouraged the families to walk together along this path and cooperate in preparing, first of all with prayer, for the celebration of the 10th World Meeting of Families, which is scheduled to take place in Rome from 22 to 26 June 2022. It will also be celebrated simultaneously in diocesan communities throughout the world.
For this reason, Pope Francis invited the families to already begin praying the official prayer for next year's event:
We come before You to praise You
and to thank You for the great gift of the family.
We pray to You for all families
consecrated by the Sacrament of Matrimony.
May they rediscover each day
the grace they have received,
and as small domestic Churches,
may they know how to witness to Your presence
and to the love with which Christ loves the Church.
We pray to You for all families faced with difficulty and suffering
caused by illness or circumstances of which only You know.
Sustain them and make them aware
of the path to holiness upon which You call them,
so that they might experience Your infinite mercy
and find new ways to grow in love.
We pray to You for children and young people:
may they encounter You and respond joyfully
to the vocation You have in mind for them;
We pray for parents and grandparents: may they be aware
that they are signs of the fatherhood and motherhood of God
in caring for the children who, in body and spirit, You entrust to them;
and for the experience of fraternity
that the family can give to the world.
Lord, grant that each family
might live their specific vocation to holiness in the Church
as a call to become missionary disciples,
in the service of life and peace,
in communion with our priests, religious,
and all vocations in the Church.
Bless the World Meeting of Families.