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A message from the bishop

May God bless our families

(January/February 2018)
 
My dear friends,
 
We have entered the choppy, yet navigable, waters of 2018. I wish you all of God’s blessings in this new year, and pray the Christmas season has filled you with joy and rekindled your love for Jesus! During the holidays, we spent time gathered as family celebrating, reminiscing and generally enjoying ourselves. But there can also be some wistfulness about those who could not join us around the holiday table, perhaps because of death, sickness, distance, poverty or alienation. Our families may be generally happy, but that happiness is not perfect, for any number of reasons.
 
On Dec. 31, we celebrated the feast of the Holy Family. Mary and Joseph had no idea what marriage, family and parenthood would be like. All they knew was that it would be quite different in their case! For them, it began under trying and even dangerous conditions. But they embraced their life as it was. Doing what God wants us to do always brings joy! God makes human hearts resilient, especially the hearts of spouses and parents.
 
The second reading for the feast of the Holy Family reminds us of what family, the “domestic Church,” should be: “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” (Col 3:12-14)
 
These virtues support evangelization, the sharing of the Good News. The family is where we come to know, love and serve God. Parents are the primary educators of their children, teaching them not only their ABCs, but also how to pray, love and share the Catholic faith. Every family has a critical role to play in the mission of the Church, humble though it may seem.
 
In His divine wisdom, God created us for a particular purpose. Our mission is to testify to God’s love, to what He has done and what He continues to do for us. Since God is love, we who resemble God discover that our mission is to love. The family is a school of love and compassion. In the family, love is given, received, shared and made the fabric of domestic life. It can provide a road map for sons and daughters when they leave home.
 
Pope Francis realized these truths when he convoked not one, but two synods on the pastoral care
of the family, resulting in the 2016 apostolic exhortation The Joy of Love: On Love in the Family (Amoris
Laetitia). The opening lines proclaim, “The joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the
Church. …The desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people,
and this is an inspiration to the Church. As a response to that desire, the Christian proclamation on
the family is good news indeed!” (AL 1)
 
In the final paragraph of The Joy of Love, Pope Francis notes, “No family drops down from heaven
perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love. … All of us are called to keep striving towards something greater than ourselves and our families, and every family must feel this constant impulse. …What we have been promised is greater than we can imagine.
 
May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us.” (AL 325) Families must build their lives around God instead of trying to fit God in as best they can. Remember the adage, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Start your meals with a prayer, pray together as a family, attend Mass together, and celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. If God becomes our priority, His graces will become abundant. Our lives will bear a rich harvest for the Lord!
 
May God bless our families to live out their mission with enthusiasm and joy! 
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak

Breakout:
Strong Catholic Families is an ongoing process that engages and strengthens families in growing as a
domestic Church, along with other members of the parish and school community. It helps parents become active in the life and mission of the Church and take ownership as the primary leaders of faith within their families. Learn how your parish or school can participate by visiting
fth.pub/strongCatholicfamiliesGR.