“The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” That is the beginning and the heart of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the joy of love.
Amoris Laetitia reflects the results of recent synods on the family as well as other writings of Pope Francis and his predecessors. It speaks of the gifts and joys of families but, also, acknowledges the contemporary challenges which they face.
The pope emphasizes the importance of marriage and family life, writing, “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and the Church.” The family, thus, is a source of strength for the Church, just as the Church is a source of strength for families.
To celebrate, promote, protect and strengthen marriage and families in our world, the Diocese of Portland has launched the Joy of the Family initiative. A specific theme featured in Amoris Laetitia will be highlighted each month and will include opening and closing prayers, a reading, a passage from Amoris Laetitia, a "contemplate and share" section, intercessions, weekly suggestions for practical activities, and a reflection from an individual or individuals who possess a special personal connection to the monthly theme. You will find this month's reflection below.
It is hoped developing these themes will help the faithful understand the teachings in Amoris Laetitia and inspire us all to integrate these teachings in our daily lives.
JANUARY 2019 - THE JOY OF THE FAMILY OF FAMILIES
Most Blessed Trinity,
For all we call mother or father, thank you.
For all we think of as sister or brother, thank you.
For joy in times of celebration, thank you.
For comfort in the times of sorrow, thank you.
For unity in your family, the Church, thank you.
For hope in the midst of division, thank you.
Mighty God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit –
For all you are, we give thanks and praise.
While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.’ But he said in reply to the one who told him, ‘Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples; he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.
“The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church." N.1
The spousal covenant, originating in creation and revealed in the history of salvation, takes on its full meaning in Christ and his Church. Through his Church, Christ bestows on marriage and the family the grace necessary to bear witness to the love of God and to live the life of communion. The Gospel of the family spans the history of the world, from the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God to the fulfilment of the mystery of the covenant in Christ at the end of time with the marriage of the Lamb. (n. 63)
Within the family ‘which could be called a domestic church’ (Lumen Gentium 11), individuals enter upon an ecclesial experience of communion among persons, which reflects through grace, the mystery of the Holy Trinity. (n. 86)
CONTEMPLATE & SHARE
• How would someone coming into our home know we are a “domestic church”? Walk around your house noting all those things that express belief in God and connection with one another as members of the Church. Make sure to include how your interactions as a family reflect the grace of God.
• Think about the people we consider “family.” Name those people and say a prayer of thanks for each.
• Is there anyone who is not related by blood, though still needs the love and care of our family? Ask Jesus to open our eyes to recognize a “brother or sister” in need and invite the Holy Spirit to work through you as witnesses of God’s love and communion as the Body of Christ.
• What do we know about Church history? How might we learn more about our extended family, the Church, in the year ahead? In addition to praying for the saint of the day, search out more information about what was going on in the Church and world when the individual was alive and how he or she acted to reflect the grace of the Holy Trinity.
• Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God - May every child call the Lord “Abba, Father” as did Mary, the Mother of God, we pray to the Lord:
• Solemnity of the Epiphany, January 5/6 - May the visitation of the Magi remind every Christian that all peoples and nations belong to God’s family, we pray to the Lord:
• Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord, January 12/13 - May the Church, which is God’s family of families, celebrate the baptismal dignity of all its members, we pray to the Lord:
• Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 19/20 - May the presence of Jesus at the wedding of Cana reaffirm the unique gift that marriage and family life are to the Church, we pray to the Lord:
• Day of Prayer for the Protection of the Unborn, January 22 - May the gift of human life be protected and celebrated in every family, we pray to the Lord:
• Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25 - May all Christians recommit themselves to ecumenism so that the family of the Church may truly be one, we pray to the Lord:
• Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 26/27 - May the Body of Christ, the Church, celebrate both its diversity and unity in the members of her family, we pray to the Lord:
Prayer to the Holy Family
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour 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,
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.
JOY IN ACTION
Weekly suggestions for the faithful to consider
January 6: As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, share with your children photos or memories from their baptism and why it was such an important day
January 13: Participate as a family in 9 Days for Life, nine days of prayer for the protection of human life. Details may be found at http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/january-roe-events/nine-days-of-prayer-penance-and-pilgrimage.cfm
January 20: As the nation recalls the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight against racism, take time to review and reflect upon the U.S. Bishop’s recent pastoral letter on racism or Bishop Robert Deeley’s column about it in the January 2019 issue of Harvest magazine
January 27: Reflect on how you and your family can become more involved in the life of your church community in the year ahead, whether through learning, volunteer, or social opportunities
The Joy of the Family of Families
By: Father Arokiasamy Santhiyagu, HGN, Chaplain at Maine General Hospital and Parochial Vicar of St. Michael Parish, Augusta
When a child is born in this world, it shows God still loves the world. And when a person is ordained as a priest or consecrated as religious, it shows God continues to sanctify this world. It is the will of God that each child should be born into a family where he or she can truly experience the love of a mother and father, which is a foretaste of a heavenly life. This confirms the biblical truth that God’s love for humankind begins with the family of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and ends with the imagery of Jesus as the bridegroom with the Church as his bride. This is also the story of salvation. This thought gives me immense inspiration to express the joy of Christian families in India, my home country.
There are nearly 20 million Catholics in India, which represents around 1.55% of the total population. The Catholic Church is the largest Christian Church within the country. The seed of Christianity was first planted in India by St. Thomas the Apostle. Later, there were many missionaries from different parts of the world who nourished the faith there. Notable among them were missionaries from Portugal, France, England, Italy, and Macedonia. They included saints and martyrs such St. Francis Xavier, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. John De Britto.
St. Anthony of Padua is the most famous saint in my province of India. We visit the nearby Shrine of St. Anthony on his feast day, June 13, and fulfill our pledges and prayers.
My mission church is named after St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, the second patron saint for the missionaries. On October 1, we celebrate her feast day in such grand style that it becomes the feast of every family and the whole town. The feast is solemnized by a holy eucharistic celebration and a car procession, followed by a family reunion by every family.
People in India mostly live as part of extended families, irrespective of any religion. To this day, most marriages are arranged with the guidance of parents and relatives, a custom that significantly reduces the number of interfaith marriages. This results in the children of Catholic parents being brought up in the Catholic faith.
Most parents, regardless of their religion, enroll their children in Catholic schools, where priests and religious are very much involved in teaching. Catholic education in India is highly regarded for its quality and discipline and is credited with greatly increasing literacy in the country. In the daily curriculum, an hour is set aside for faith and morals, during which the Catholic students study the catechism and other children learn morality. Such valuable religious education motivates many young people to pursue vocations. Forty priests and 47 nuns from my town now serve in different parts of India. I am the 27th priest from my parish, and I am very privileged to come as the first missionary from my parish to the U.S.A., in Maine.
I come from a traditional Catholic town. My parish is named after the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and has five mission churches. Pretty much all our families are part of small-scale farming communities.
I am the fourth of seven children. I have three brothers and three sisters. My parents have 10 grandchildren and one great grandchild. My brothers and I used to help our parents on the farm in our spare time from the school. My sisters always help our mom in preparing meals after coming from school. We always used to enjoy working together on the farm and having a meal together. In the evenings, when the angelus bell rings out from the church at 6 p.m., most families gather for the family rosary.
We have Legion of Mary and St. Vincent de Paul organizations which support the Church very much. Members of the Legion of Mary visit Catholic families on a regular basis and lead the families in praying the rosary together.
The families live very simple and mostly happy lives. When there is an issue in the family life or a misunderstanding between the spouses, they first approach the parish council. After Sunday Mass, the pastor and members of the council sit to talk and solve the problems (Mt. 18:15-17). This creates less room for divorce or broken families and expresses the whole parish as one family.
This is also expressed when somebody dies. A funeral takes place within 24 hours, and the whole town participates in the funeral to show love and sympathy.
Christian families in any part of the world can be joyful, despite many challenges, if they follow the footsteps of the family of Nazareth. The family of Nazareth is raised to the realm of the holy family and stands as the role model for all families in the world because St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and our Lord Jesus only did the will of God throughout their lives.
Our loving bishop, Most. Rev. Robert Deeley, always reminds us that families are the domestic church, and if families are strong, the Church is strong. Parents, especially those whom God has blessed with more than three children, should encourage a minimum of one child to choose a vocation to religious life. All parents should guide and inspire their children as they discern their vocations to married or religious life. The Church needs more vocations.
In 2016, on March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, our beloved Holy Father, Pope Francis, gave us the post synod apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia - “The Joy of Love in the Family.” It is time for all of us to examine the strength of our family relationships. People said of St. Monica that she was twice mother of St. Augustine, since she not only gave birth to him but also won for him the Catholic faith and Christian life. Thus, all Christian parents are called to be procreators of their children twice over - as far as their natural life is concerned and with respect to their spiritual vitality in Christ. They will receive a double reward from the Lord and twice the joy in heaven.
I conclude with the prayer of Pope St. John Paul II at the sanctuary of Loreto: “Accept O Blessed Mother of Loreto my pilgrimage and that of all of us.” This could be the common prayer for family life of all men and women of our age. We pray for the well-being of these homes, that they may prepare the sons and daughters to enter the dwelling place of our heavenly Father. May our family life be a foretaste of heaven, an anticipation of eternal life.