Much writing about the family, for example in letters of the Pope and bishops, emphasizes the mission or tasks of the family – what the family should do, and what we expect of families.
But the intention of this month shifts a bit to what we should do for the family to make their mission possible. This is important because we know the many challenges facing the family today. We see photos of children separated from parents, homeless and refugee children, and the tyranny of the cellphone which interrupts family conversation.
So it is appropriate and indispensable that we pray in accord with the Pope’s intention that today’s families may be accompanied with love, respect, and guidance. To accompany means to support, encourage, walk with and stand up with and for families.
Who can do this? I think of Church and civil authorities, but first of all, I look to the family itself and to other families. It starts there, with grandparents, relatives and friends. In accepting the sacrament of matrimony, every Christian family pledges to be a sign, witness, model and encouragement to accompany to other families. The sacrament gives grace and power to do this in imitating the Holy Family.
-With love by reaching out, helping if there is need, by sharing wisdom and experience.
-With respect, not interfering, but assisting; not replacing, but honoring. The Catholic Catechism (#2219) speaks of respect IN the family for the old and young, the weak and the strong.
-With guidance, by setting a good example for other families, and by praying for God’s Spirit to guide their members.
Indeed, in this month let us all pray that today’s families may be accompanied with love, respect and guidance.
- Peter Schineller, SJ
Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (USA & Canada)