Wednesday, October 8, 2014
As I write, the Sixth General Congregation of the synod, the Wednesday afternoon session, is underway and participants are treating the theme, “Difficult Pastoral Situations: Family Situations/unions between persons of the same sex.”
Below you will find a report on today’s weekly general audience as well as the wonderful speech given yesterday afternoon by an American couple present as auditors at the synod. I will be interviewing Jeff and Alice Heinzen tomorrow and we will talk about their synod presentation, among other things. They are from the diocese of La Crosse in Wisconsin. Alice is director of the diocesan Office for Marriage and Family Life, and Jeff is president of McDonell Catholic Schools in Chippewa Falls.
I would love to know how many of you see yourselves – either as parents now or in your growing up years – in the paragraph that starts, “In our reflection we realized that the witness of our parents, revealed in their daily actions God’s plan for marriage and family life…” I thought for a monent they were talking about my childhood!
I met Jeff and Alice this afternoon at the North American College, and will be returning to NAC very shortly for another event.
To help you follow, understand and enjoy the synod, remember that:
– Written texts – summaries as well as full texts – of speeches at the synod can be found here in different languages: http://www.news.va
– You can follow synod events, the Pope’s general audience and press conferences and briefings with video here: http://www.radiovaticana.va/player/index_fb.asp?language=en&visualizzazione=VaticanTic&Tic=VA_D15HC74C
– You can find some extras, including photos, on my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/joansrome
POPE FRANCIS: 70 YEARS AGO TODAY I RECEIVED MY FIRST COMMUNION
Another sunny day in Rome and another large and very happy crowd in St. Peter’s Square to participate in Pope Francis’ general audience. The audience began with the Holy Father’s usual ride around the square in the open jeep and then his unexpected invitation to two young boys to join him in the ride!
The Pope told the faithful that his catechesis would be on the “many brothers and sisters who share with us our faith in Christ, but who belong to other confessions or to traditions different from ours.” Noting the lack of full unity among Christians, he asked: “What is our current attitude to this situation? Are we indifferent or do we firmly believe that we can and must walk towards reconciliation and full communion?”
He appealed for Christian unity and pointed out that divisions between Christians of different denominations are hurtful for the Church and for Christ. He was also quick to point out that “many of us, even within our Catholic Church, have resigned ourselves to this division that has often been cause of conflict, suffering and even wars – yes, wars! – throughout the course of history.”
“Now,” asked the Pope, “faced with this, is there anything that we as members of Holy Mother Church, can and should do? Without doubt there must be no lack of prayer, in continuity and in communion with Jesus. And together with prayer, the Lord asks of us a renewed openness: He asks us not to close ourselves against dialogue and encounter, but rather to accept all that is valid and positive that is offered to us even from those who think differently to us or who adopt different positions. Let us not focus on what divides us, but rather on that which unites us, seeking to know and love Christ better and to share the richness of His love. … We are divided against ourselves. However, we all have something in common: we believe in Jesus Christ, the Lord … in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We walk together, we are on the same path … let us help each other! Let us receive communion on the way. This is spiritual ecumenism: walking the path of life together in our faith in Jesus Christ the Lord.”
Above all, stressed Francis, “we know that it was Christ‘s deep desire that His disciples remain united in His love, that they be one.”
The Holy Father then said, “I cannot resist the temptation to share personal memories and sentiments. We have been talking about communion… communion among us. And today I am so grateful to the Lord because today it is 70 years since my own First Communion. And to take First Communion means to enter into communion with others,” with all those who belong to different communities but believe in Jesus Christ.
He concluded thanking the Lord for the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion and urged all Christians to go forward towards full Christian Unity. “And when our goal appears too distant and we are discouraged, we can find comfort in the fact that God will always listen to his Son’s prayer that all Christians be one.”
“MARRIAGE, A LIFE JOURNEY OF AUTHENTIC LOVE”
Synod President Delegate Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (of Manila) was on duty Tuesday, and, at the start of the afternoon session, noted that the focus would be on the Second Part of the Instrumentum laboris, namely, The Pastoral Program for the Family in Light of New Challenges. He explained that under this heading is Chapter One entitled, The Pastoral Program for the Family: Various Proposals Underway. “To refresh your mind,” the cardinal told participants, “this chapter treats the following topics: The Responsibility of Bishops and the Clergy and the Charismatic Gifts in the Pastoral Care of the Family (50); Marriage Preparation (51-56); Popular Piety and a Familial Spirituality (57); Support for a Familial Spirituality (58); and Testimony on Behalf of the Beauty of the Family (59-60).”
Cardinal Tagle then introduced the first speakers of the afternoon – Jeff and Alice Heinzen from the diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin U.S. They were asked to address the second part of the Synod’s working document, the Instrumentum laboris, namely, “The Pastoral Program for the Family in Light of New Challenges”. Here is their intervention (from Vatican Radio):
“My husband and I have asked ourselves this question: “How did our parents live their lives as a married couple that has led us to where we are today as faith-filled married Catholics?”
“In our reflection we realized that the witness of our parents, revealed in their daily actions God’s plan for marriage and family life. I have fond memories of participating in neighborhood Corpus Christi processions and my father leaving early for work to attend daily Mass. During the month of May, I remember our family praying the rosary. I remember the frequent tender kisses my parents readily gave each other. We knelt beside our beds each night in prayer to ask for protection and blessings on our family. Every Sunday, we attended Mass as a family, then went from Church to visit our relatives. To all this we can add our mothers who reminded us to always love our siblings, to use our best manners with others, and to save our pennies to help those less fortunate. Our homes were schools of love and virtue and our parents were the primary educators.
“Our parents bore faithful witness to the joy and beauty of God’s plan for love and life. Unfortunately, not only in our evaluation of current culture, but also due to our pastoral experience, we know that many young people do not see the witness of married love that we experienced. So many youth grow up in homes broken by divorce or with no experience of married parents due to out-of-wedlock pregnancies. We have entered, as some social scientists have described, the age of the diminished family structure. This is more than a crisis. To quote Saint John Paul II, “[T]he role of parents as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it.” Sociological research testifies to this problem and information in the Instrumentum Laboris confirms it. Children raised without the blessing of married parents, who have created a home animated by love and faith, will likely struggle to trust in God and their neighbors. How can they create life-long marriages?
“Our diocese in the United States is not unlike those around the world. We have seen the number of marriages decline each year and the rate of cohabitation increase. We have seen a steady drop in the number of baptisms. We have watched our youth fall prey to the confusion of a hedonistic culture. We know countless divorced adults who have joined other faith communities because they do not feel welcomed in the Catholic Church. And, our hearts ache for single parents who struggle to care for their children. Like you, we strive to find simpler, more effective ways, to better share the blessings of God’s plan for marriage and family.
“The Instrumentum documents pastoral programs that attempt to address the negative issues impacting marriage and family life. Sadly, these efforts are not meeting the magnitude of the cultural challenges facing us today. We must develop more robust and creative methods to share the fundamental truth that marriage is a divine gift from God, rather than merely a man-made institution. This will require us to examine the methods by which we teach our children about the nature of human sexuality and the vocation of marriage. When speaking of the call by God to serve, marriage should be included in all programs designed to explore vocations. And, it should compel us to ask how we provide for the aftercare of marriage that can help couples deepen their relationship. We therefore see the issue before us not as a crisis of truth, but rather as a crisis of methodology. How do we as a Church, effectively share what we know to be true in practical, simple and convincing ways, so that all men and women are challenged and supported to live life-long marriages and build homes that reflect the domestic Church?
“In all of our pastoral planning, we must remember that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Solutions to the identified crisis can be found. This Synod has the ability to provide aid to husbands, wives and families. Let us open our minds and hearts to the Holy Spirit so that God’s will may be accomplished.”