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June Article for The Rhode Island Catholic

Patricia McCarthy, CND

“No family drops from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love.” Pope Francis writes these words near the end of his document on family. Francis has a keen sense of the ordinary way of God in each of us and in our lives together. He knows we live in a world where we often do less than the perfect and seem to make more bad choices than good ones. Yet we continue to stay the course and try to keep on being hopeful people, loving parents and faithful spouses.

In this paper on the family, “The Joy of  Loving”, Francis addresses every aspect of family life, from  the start to the finish of each day. “Every morning on rising, we reaffirm before God our decision to be faithful, come what may in the course of the day.” “Do not let the day end without making peace in your family.” Francis knows that the family doesn’t go from one major event or crisis to another on its journey. They come certainly. But the essence of strength and harmony and happiness in a family happens in the day to day experience of everyday life. The small gestures, the patient words, the hundreds of times the words, “please, thank you, sorry” are uttered. – “the right words, spoken at the right time, daily protect and nurture love.”

As always, Francis acknowledges the mistakes of the Church with regard to marriage and family life. He says the Church “needs a healthy dose of self-criticism.” He accuses the Church of sacrificing the “unitive meaning of marriage and its call to grow in love and mutual assistance to an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation.”  And with exquisite clarity simply states that “we have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.” “The grace of the sacrament of marriage is intended before all else ‘to perfect the couple’s love.’”

Pope Francis is certainly in touch with reality as it is. He reminds us that “the perfect families proposed by deceptive consumerist propaganda do not exist.” Television, which the Pope refers to as an addiction, shows families where no one grows old or gets sick. There is no sickness, sorrow or death. The stress of economic struggles is rarely seen. This is not reality for a modern family.

But these are the stuff of life. The ability of spouses to share together their love gives them the strength to endure the hard things and enjoy the good ones. The passion and fire of a couple’s love is a gift from God that enriches their relationship. “As a passion sublimated by the love respectful of the dignity of the other, it becomes a pure unadulterated affirmation revealing the marvels of which the human heart is capable. In this way, even momentarily we can feel that life has turned out good and happy.”

“Promising love forever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love.”

When, in this same love, God gives the gift of children, they are to be treated as such, not as  possessions to own. Pope Francis reminds parents, “It matters little whether this new life is convenient for you, whether it has features that please you, or whether it fits into your plans and aspirations. A child is a child. God awaits the birth of each child, accepts that child unconditionally and welcomes him or her freely.” So must we. “Children need the spiritual gift of knowing with certainty that they are loved.” “A child never has to feel that he or she is a mistake, or worthless or abandoned to the four winds and the arrogance of people.”

Since Pope Francis calls the Church a “Family of families,” the Church cannot be fully a Church of love unless families are fully families of love. 

Article first published by the Rhode Island Catholic


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