Pope at Angelus: sustain, defend and safeguard the family

Greeting pilgrims in St. Peter's Square on the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Pope Francis calls on us to remember our family roots and to realise that each day we learn how to be a family. He also announces his publication today of a letter addressed to married couples for the "Amoris Laetitia Family" Year 2021-2022.

By Vatican News staff writer

Before leading the recitation of the midday Angelus on the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Pope Francis reflected on how God chose a humble and simple family to come into our midst. He cited two concrete dimensions of this reality that can regard our own families.

Our family roots

The first aspect concerns how the family is the story from which our own lives originate and have roots, the Pope explained, illustrating how today's Gospel reminds us that Jesus is also the son of a family story. The episode recounted speaks about when Jesus, Mary and Joseph travelled to the Jerusalem for the Passover, and lost track of him when returning home, only to find him after three days of anxious searching. The Pope described this episode as a touching example of the concrete reality in which Jesus lived, surrounded by the family affection in which he was born and grew up under the loving care of his parents. 

It would be helpful for us also to remember the context from which we originate, the Pope added, noting that who we are today comes primarily from "the love that we have received", not from how much we had or whether our families had problems or not. In any case, he noted, we need to acknowledge our story, our roots, but if we reject them then "life dries up."  "God thinks about us and wants us together," and we should pray for our families so that we can be "grateful, united, capable of preserving our roots." 

Learning to be a family, day by day

The second aspect the Pope described regards the need for openness, day by day, to learn how to be a family, since every day presents new challenges and opportunities that require flexibility and creativity. He pointed out how even the Holy Family faced unexpected problems, anxiety and suffering, and that "the Holy Family on holy cards does not exist." Today's Gospel episode when Mary and Joseph finally find Jesus with the teachers in the Temple, and Jesus responds that he had to be about his Father's business, was something not clear to them at the time, the Pope explained. And also with us, he noted, we need to learn how to listen, walk together, and manage the problems we face, the Pope said, calling it a "daily challenge" that requires a good attitude, simple actions and loving care. This will help dialogue between parents and children and among siblings, he added, and lead us to appreciate our family roots that come from our grandparents with whom we should always dialogue.

Before the “I”, comes “you”

Looking at how this walking together can be done in our own families, the Pope suggested that to protect harmony in the family we need to become aware of the "dictatorship of the 'I'”, when instead of listening to each other we only hear ourselves and pass the blame for mistakes on others. He warned that we can have a tendency to fixate only on our own feelings and needs, even isolating ourselves with our mobile phones, whereas dialogue is needed. He added that it is sad to see families at meal time where everyone is looking at their phones rather than speaking to each other.

The Pope repeated a bit of advice he has offered in the past, saying that in the evening, when the day is over, we should always "make peace", never going to sleep without having made peace. Conflicts within the family can fester without this, he warned, even ending up in physical and moral violence that wounds harmony and can break up families. He recommended we focus less on the "I" and more on the "you", not just on ourselves, and always to "pray a little bit together to ask God for the gift of peace." He called on parents, children, Church, and society to renew their commitment "to sustain, defend and safeguard the family,." asking the Blessed Mother, spouse of Joseph and mother of Jesus to "protect our families."

Letter to Married Couples

After leading the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis announced that on today's Feast of the Holy Family he has published a Letter addressed to families around the world. He called it his Christmas gift to married couples and "an encouragement, a sign of my nearness, and also an opportunity for meditation."  He underscored how important it is to reflect upon and "experience God’s goodness and tenderness who, with His fatherly hand, guides the footsteps of spouses on the path of goodness. May the Lord grant to married couples the strength to continue the journey undertaken."

The Pope also recalled that the World Meeting of Families is drawing near. He asked for everyone to prepare for this event especially through prayer and to experience it locally with other families as well. 

In conclusion, the Pope expressed his concern over a demographic winter, especially in Italy, where couples are opting not to have children or only one child. He described the reality as a tragedy and encouraged everyone to raise awareness on the issue and ways to overcome the trend that puts our future at risk. 

Finally, in addition to addressing various groups present in Saint Peter's Square, the Pope expressed his gratitude to all around the world who have sent him Christmas messages, saying that although it is not possible to respond to all of them, he prays for everyone as he is also grateful for their prayers. 

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26 December 2021, 12:16