“No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed.” (325) This, I believe, was one of Pope Francis’ key messages in his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love. It’s also one of the reasons the Catholic Bishops of Australia are calling all the faithful to a month of prayer and fasting for marriage and families during the month of October, and why many other Christians are joining in this effort too. Happy families require effort; happy families need prayer.
You see the Pope and the whole Church continue to present the beauty and perfection of God’s plan for marriage and family as a community of life and love that reflects the very life and love of God himself in the Blessed Trinity. But we also know that the everyday lives of families can be rather messy affairs. You don’t need me, or anybody for that matter, to name all the things that can make our family life bumpy and difficult. Each of us just has to think of our own family situation!
But our family life is also beautiful. It’s where we learn to love and to be loved; it’s where we learn to forgive and be forgiven; it’s where we learn to be patient and kind; and it’s where most of us receive the gift of faith. All this doesn’t happen in an instant; it takes time and it requires prayer.
As Pope Francis said in Amoris Laetitia, “I thank God that many families, which are far from considering themselves perfect, live in love, fulfil their calling and keep moving forward, even if they fall many times along the way.” (57)
So please pray and fast for marriages and families, especially during the month of October. We pray for the flourishing of all marriages and families, and we pray for those families that are experiencing particular trials and difficulties.
For some time our society has become more aware and sensitive to the difficulties experienced by members of our families and community who are same-sex attracted or gender uncertain. This increased awareness and sensitivity is a good thing. Love of God and neighbour urge us to be patient and kind to all people, especially when they have greater need of our patience and kindness. Whether this should mean that marriage between a man and a woman must be redefined is another matter. The Catholic Church, along with many other people and organisations, believe that it shouldn’t.
So please also pray for the members of our families and community who experience same-sex attraction or gender uncertainty, and we also pray for a respectful and fair national discussion on marriage with an outcome that will preserve God’s beautiful plan for marriage.
Bishop Michael Kennedy is the Australian Catholic Bishops Delegate for Marriage and Family.