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World Meeting of Families: Creating the future

Part 5 in a series on the World Meeting of Families 2015 by Mark Mann
Read the entire series at this link.
 
Marriage is a partnership for the whole of life, a response to the desire for the unity of spouses and the procreation of children, a desire planted in the human heart by God. When a man and a woman marry by taking the step of freely  consenting to mutual promises of fidelity and permanence, marriage places procreation in the context of a new dignity and freedom.
 
In talking about when to have children, there are “physical, economic, psychological and social conditions to be considered.” (ref. Humanae Vitae, 10) But  discernment about becoming parents is given the greater consideration and always set in the same context as having discerned getting married: love. As described in previous articles, this is a love in the shape of service, sacrifice, trust and openness to God. When we become parents, whether by birth or adoption, this same sacrificial love orients us toward our children’s spiritual education and formation.
 
Having children is not merely to continue the species or for the betterment of society. It is that the whole family participates in answering the universal call to holiness. It is the enterprise of forming
citizens not only of an earthly society, but the heavenly society. Parenting is a spiritual vocation.
 
Parenting is also demanding. It has a way of deflating our pretenses. To grow in holiness and to foster the holiness of our children implies a necessary humility and conversion, an openness to self-criticism and openness to how God is at work in our life and the life of our family. It implies patience and generosity with our self and our children.
 
We are reminded in the Book of Deuteronomy, when Moses is exhorting the Hebrew people about the kind of life they are to now live, of how to foster the faith of our family:
 
“Hear, O Israel! The Lords is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them on your arm as a sign and let
them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your  gates.” (Dt. 6: 4-9)
 
Teaching our children about how God loves us and our response in love is something we do daily. The way a family responds to sickness, or gathers for meals and devotions, or makes financial decisions and sets priorities, or the way a family makes choices about leisure, parents’ jobs, children’s education, or even bedtime routines—these and many other daily aspects of home life shape the imaginations and future of our children. When these choices and actions are intentionally made—prayerfully and with an attitude of gentleness, peace, patience, generosity (Gal. 5: 22-23)—then these seemingly ordinary daily aspects of home become the very places where the Spirit shines through. The passage in Deuteronomy exhorts us to find the ordinary ways to remind us to live the great commandment in our daily life as a family.
 
And we are not alone. As parents, we have the help of grandparents and godparents, clergy and the community of faith. When integrated into the life of the larger Church in a parish—into a “family of families”— our own family is strengthened. For the Catholic parish, this also and always includes the families of children who do not have two parents at home—whether because of illness, death, immigration, divorce, war, domestic violence, never having been married, or itinerant work due to poverty. Participating in the sacraments, in service to others and in formation opportunities (both in our
home and in the parish)—all these activities help our family to be formed as a communion of life and
love, rightly called the “domestic church”—to be the Church in the world. (Lumen Gentium, 11)
 
This is why as a diocese we have begun the Strong Catholic Families initiative. Twelve parishes to date have begun the process of building partnerships between experts in the faith (our pastors and parish
leaders) with experts of our children (that’s us as parents) so that together we can discover ways of living our faith “between Sundays.”
 
So, teach your children (no matter their age) how to pray and pray with them. Teach them how to read the Bible and read it with them. Teach them skills of discernment— of discovering how God is calling
them and who God is calling them to be. Monitor mass media and social media to discern what is shaping the landscape of your children’s imagination; protect their innocence and give them an appetite for
life as Christians. Find ways that together as a family you can serve others, especially those most in need of help. And rely on the help of other parents, of your own parents, of godparents and the whole parish community. Thus your family will be the first school of your children’s formation, the community of life and love sharing in the divine life and love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

CONVERSATION STARTER
Use the following questions for further reflection on the theme of this article to grow in faith together as a family. We encourage sharing your reflections with your larger “family” of neighbors and those you see at Mass on Sundays.

How does the parish serve your family?
How does your family serve your parish?
 
GO TO THE MEETING
As you know, Pope Francis has confirmed a visit to the United States, in conjunction with the World Meeting of Families next September in Philadelphia. For families who are interested in attending the Congress, we are asking that they please register now directly through the World Meeting website, worldmeeting2015.org.
 
The diocesan office is recommending that adults purchase the “modified package” or the “full package” registration because it includes a week-long pass to all public transportation (trains and city buses). This will be necessary for attending any of the papal events over the weekend. Within the registration process, there are also options of staying in hotels or in a host family’s home. If you make reservations
through a hotel, please reserve a room from Monday, Sept. 21 to Monday, Sept. 28.
 
The diocese will be coordinating travel by motor coach to Philadelphia. We are still finalizing the details of the bus transportation with the bus company. The cost is estimated at $120/person roundtrip.
 
Visit the World Meeting of Families page on our website.
Mark Mann is the director for family, marriage, youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Grand Rapids. For more information about the World Meeting of Families, visit www.worldmeeting2015.org, or contact Mark at 616-475-1243.