Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Francis -- The Family Pope

 (photo credit: Aleteia Image Department via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Pope Francis has been called, "The People's Pope", and perhaps that is true. He does seem have an appeal among all people, including those of different faiths or no faith whatsoever. Regardless of his overarching appeal, his catechesis is narrowly focused. He has his laser pointer fixed on the family.

In his general audience today, he continued to preach about the value and necessity of family through the lens of forgiveness. This unites his teaching on the family to the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy which begins on the Solemnity of the Immaculate, December 8, 2015, and ends on November 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King.

Pope Francis begins by reminding the world about the Synod that just ended:
 Following the recent Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which reflected on the vocation and mission of the family, today we reflect on the importance of the family as the place where we learn the value of forgiveness. 
In the family "we learn the value of forgiveness". Families live in close quarters, and it is in the home that most often the stress of the world is released in a safe and secure environment. His statement hearkens back to the old adage: "You always hurt the one you love." This isn't a fallacy, it's truth. We tend to lash out at those we know will love us even in our bleakest moments. It reminds me of the song by the same title sung by The Mills Brothers in 1957. The lyrics go: 

You always hurt the one you love
The one you shouldn't hurt at all
You always take the sweetest rose
And crush it till the petals fall

You always break the kindest heart
With a hasty word you can't recall
So if I broke your heart last night
It's because I love you most of a-all 


It sounds harsh and cold, but it is true. It is a common occurrence in the family because there people are truly and naturally the best and worst of ourselves. It is often thoughtlessness, exhaustion, illness, the stress of the day, that pile up and leave us vulnerable to hurt those "with hasty words you can't recall... because I love you most of all".

Holy Father takes it to heart today in his general audience. He reminds us:
Each day, in the words of the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us and to grant us the grace to forgive others.  As difficult as forgiveness may be, it is essential for our personal growth, our capacity to acknowledge our failures and to mend broken relationships.
Pope Francis reminds us each day to pray -- not just reciting the words, but hearing, internalizing and living the words of the Lord's Prayer. He recognizes how hard forgiveness is, but call the faithful nonetheless to reach higher, to draw from the indwelling power to restore broken or strained relationships.

The pope goes on to say:
It is a virtue we learn first in the family.  Forgiveness strengthens families in love and, through them, makes society as a whole more loving and humane.  It is a solid rock on which to build our lives and an eloquent sign of our Christian discipleship and obedience to the Father’s will.
Virtue. Forgiveness is a virtue that all are called to perfect through its practice. It makes man more "loving and humane" and builds up society. So many people are struggling with disordered behaviors and thoughts about family and family life. In many cases, it is not their fault that they can't see past the error of their own judgements and behaviors -- society has given them a false perception of personal dignity and freedom.

The decline of loving witness to living a virtuous life, a witness that first shows charity and compassion and then teaches truth, beauty and goodness, leaves the lost and lonely right where they are, stuck in their own demise. Pope Francis speaks of "Christian discipleship and obedience to the Father's will"; it is the mission of the Church to teach the virtue of forgiveness, but it must first be learned through interaction and socialization within the family. Ite missa est, the Latin words of the Concluding Rite of the Mass, means "Go, she [the Church] has been sent" -- and we are sent first to those to whom we are first responsible -- our family. Within the family exists the domestic church where parents, in good times and bad, teach the faith through living good and holy lives, giving witness to the teachings of the Church, and preparing children to live in and among those who need this example in their lives.

The Holy Father concludes his audience with these words, a prayer of hope and mission:
May the coming Jubilee of Mercy encourage families everywhere to rediscover the power of forgiveness, and enable the great family of the Church to proclaim the power of God’s reconciling love at work in our world.
 Pope Francis' words reach beyond Catholic boundaries. "Families everywhere" are enjoined to rediscover the power of forgiveness, to search their own brokenness, and attempt to heal it with the power of mercy. And, the "family of the Church" is called to be representative witnesses of this powerful mercy within their family and in the world.

He may carry the moniker of "People's Pope", but he truly is the "Family Pope", working and building a body of teaching on the beauty and virtue of the family for all the world to discover and consider in the depths of their hearts.

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