August 1, 2014

Rejoice in the Lord

How can the Holy Spirit help us strengthen marriage and family life?

Archbishop Joseph W. TobinI have been asking the question: Where is the Holy Spirit calling us to open doors here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis?

When I ask this, I don’t mean to suggest that our problems are unique to this part of the world—or that solutions to the problems we face would be qualitatively different here than elsewhere.

Especially when the subject of concern is marriage and family life, we are dealing with the most basic institution of human society whose fundamental importance crosses all racial, ethnic, political, cultural, geographic and economic lines.

In a letter dated Feb. 2, 2014, Pope Francis asked all the families in the world to pray for the next Synod of Bishops, which will take place in Rome from Oct. 5-19, 2014. The theme of this Extraordinary Synod is “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization.” This Extraordinary Synod will be followed a year later by the Ordinary Assembly, which will also have the family as its theme. In addition, there will also be the Church-sponsored World Meeting of Families due to take place in Philadelphia in September 2015.

In his letter, Pope Francis said: “Indeed, in our day the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel by confronting the new and urgent pastoral needs facing the family.”

He wrote that this “important meeting” will involve not only bishops and priests, but also consecrated men and women, “and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world.” Because the synod is dedicated to the topic of marriage and family, the Holy Father wrote to families, “I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task.”

Note that the Holy Father asks us to pray to the Holy Spirit. We believe that the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, is the source of life and love, courage and hope, wisdom and fidelity to God’s loving plan for us. It is the Holy Spirit who unites men and women in marriage. It is the Spirit who guides families, and helps them stay together during hard times.

In his letter to families, Pope Francis says that by the power of the Holy Spirit, “Jesus is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support. … Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.”

It is the grace of the Holy Spirit that makes Jesus present to us in the sacraments—including the sacrament of marriage—and who fills our hearts with the profound love and joy that alone can sustain us as families journeying together on the rough roads we often have to travel during our daily lives. The pope urges us to turn to the Holy Spirit for guidance, strength and hope.

Where is the Holy Spirit opening a door for us here in our archdiocese? Lots of attention is paid today to the changing face of families, which frequently look and act differently than in previous generations.

All of us are challenged now to welcome and accept “blended families” and “stepfamilies” resulting from divorce and remarriage or from other forms of civil union. We should not allow this very real cultural dynamic to cause us to forget where the real crisis is today.

Traditional marriage, and the resulting “nuclear” family, are threatened today as never before. Surely this is an area that the Holy Spirit is calling us to pay close attention to in our pastoral planning. Surely here is a “door” that we must open with courage, compassion and deep confidence in the power of God’s love.

With Pope Francis, I urge all families in central and southern Indiana to pray that the Holy Spirit will guide us in our pastoral planning and in our outreach to families throughout this region.

In the words of the Holy Father to families, “May the protection of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph always accompany all of you and help you to walk united in love and in caring for one another.” †

Local site Links: