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The Family Fully Alive

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

September 16, 2015

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

At his recent Wednesday General Audiences, Pope Francis has been sharing with theworld meeting of familes faithful reflections on the family in preparation for the Eighth World Meeting of Families which will be held in Philadelphia September 22-27, followed by the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops which is scheduled to take place in Rome October 4-25.

The theme of the World Meeting of Families is “Love is Our Mission:  The Family Fully Alive.” The General Assembly of Bishops will focus on “The Vocation and the Mission of the Family in the Church and the Contemporary World.”

Both events heighten our awareness of the family as the irreplaceable building block of human society.  In his talk on the family on December 17, 2014, the Holy Father reiterated the role of the family in God’s plan for our world and the Church.  He stated:

Each Christian family can first of all — as Mary and Joseph did — welcome Jesus, listen to Him, speak with Him, guard Him, protect Him, grow with Him and in this way improve the world…This is the great mission of the family: to make room for Jesus who is coming, to welcome Jesus in the family, in each member: children, husband, wife, grandparents.... Jesus is there. Welcome him there, in order that He grow spiritually in the family.

At the heart of the Pope’s words and of the agendas of the forthcoming meetings is the call for the family to retrieve its purpose and its meaning as a community of love that manifests the Face of God through the faithful and conjugal love of man and woman and in the relationship of parent and child.

Such a calling emphasizes our ongoing need for conversion through purification of thoughts and hearts, along with challenging the falsehoods spoken these days in the name of “love” and “freedom”. 

These gatherings will remind us that such conversion and the truth it voices comes not from individual interpretation and rulings, but from the Church gathered in prayer and open to the ongoing instruction of Scripture and Tradition as handed on by the Church’s Magisterium, i.e., the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him.

What then is the World Meeting of Families?

It is a week-long international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration that draws participants from around the globe. It seeks to strengthen the bonds between families and witness to the crucial importance of marriage and the family to all of society.

The World Meeting of Families consists of a Theological Adult Congress, and a concurrent Youth Congress, followed by The Festival of Families and the Papal Mass.

Saint John Paul II, in response to the need of families everywhere, asked the Pontifical Council for the Family to organize the first World Meeting of Families held in Rome in 1994.  Others have been held in Rio de Janeiro (1997); Rome (2000); Manila (2003); Valencia (2006); Mexico City (2009); Milan (2012); and now, Philadelphia (2015).

The Diocese of Ogdensburg will have a delegation of ten members in attendance.  Father Douglas Lucia, Episcopal Vicar for Worship and Family Life, and Mr. Stephen Tartaglia, the Director of the Family Life Office, will lead our group.  They will participate in the various liturgies, workshops, and activities of the week and be present for the closing Papal Mass on Sunday, September 27th.

This summer, Stephen Tartaglia and Marika Donders from the Office of Evangelization travelled to different regions of our Diocese to share with interested persons the purpose of the event and its accompanying catechesis.

The following week, selected bishops will gather for the Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops, also referred to as the Synod of Bishops.  A Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution of the Catholic Church. It was established by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1965, shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council, to continue the spirit of collegiality and communion that was present at the Council.

The Synod is a representative assembly of bishops chosen from around the world who assist the Holy Father by providing counsel on important questions facing the Church in a manner that preserves the Church's teaching and strengthens her internal discipline.  The selected delegation of bishops from the United States will be led by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, USCCB President.

Pope Francis, in an April 1st letter to the Synod’s General Secretary, Archbishop Baldisseri made it clear that he desires this synod to have real power to deliberate on major questions, just as it did in the early centuries of Christianity.  After the conclusion of the synod, it is common for the Holy Father to issue a substantive document, called a post-synodal apostolic exhortation, which addresses the themes of the Synod and applies them to the everyday life of the Church.

As noted above, the theme of this encounter of world bishops is the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and World.  The Instrumentum Laboris serves as the "working document" for the Ordinary Synod.

The first section includes an overall summary of the questionnaires that were distributed world-wide for local Conference of Bishops to provide input for the General Assembly of Bishops.  You will recall that these questions were widely distributed in our diocese for parishioner input.

A key theme of this Synod will be evangelization – the sharing of the Gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ.  That really is the whole purpose of these upcoming meetings and Pope Francis’ visit to the United States.

In his September 2nd General Audience, the Holy Father emphasized the urgency of evangelization in today’s world: 
Indeed, the family’s covenant with God is called today to counteract the community desertification of the modern city. But the lack of love and smiling has turned our cities into deserts. So much entertainment, so many things for wasting time, for making laughter, but love is lacking. The smile of a family can overcome this desertification of our cities. This is the victory of family love. No economic and political engineering can substitute this contribution of families. The Babel project builds lifeless skyscrapers. The Spirit of God instead makes the desert fruitful (cf. Is 32:15). We must come out of the towers and from the armoured vaults of the elite, to again spend time in the homes and open spaces of the multitudes, open to the love of families.
I invite all the faithful from throughout the Diocese of Ogdensburg to pray that the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all the pilgrims as they set out to support and to celebrate our families during the week in Philadelphia, as well as those pilgrims taking buses for the Papal Mass on September 27.

Following both the World Meeting of Families and the Synod of Bishops, we will embrace opportunities to bring the fruits of these international gatherings to our individual parishes in the North Country.

Let us make our own this prayer for the upcoming synod and pray it in our families:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we
contemplate the splendor 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, may the approaching Synod of Bishops make
us 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. Amen.

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