Many of our bishops write pastoral letters to mark today’s Feast of the Holy Family – here we have a round up of their messages and links to the websites where you can read the full texts.
The Vocation of Marriage and Parenthood
Today’s Feast is a moment in which to rejoice again in the vitality and importance of the family. Indeed this is a time in which to speak up for marriage, between a husband and wife, as the heart of the family. Of course there are many different circumstances to family life….. But none of this takes away the importance of having a clear vision of marriage and family, based on human nature itself. This vision of the family is rooted in the faithful love of a man and a woman, publicly expressed and accepted in marriage, responsible for the birth of the next generation and out of love working for the care and upbringing of their children. This is the vocation of marriage and parenthood, rooted in a natural bond, blessed by God and a sure sacrament in the life of the Church. Today I ask for every family the blessing of God that you may be steadfast in your love and loyalty for each other, overcoming life’s difficulties with a firm and trusting faith and great perseverance. I pray too for our country that we will maintain the importance of marriage between a man and a woman as the heart of family life and, while always retaining proper and due respect for all, resist the proposed redefining of marriage with all its likely consequences particularly in schools and in how children are taught about the true nature of marriage. Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Read more…
Thank You to Every Mother, Father.
Thank you to every mother, father, for leading your children to receive the Holy Spirit and welcome Our Lord in the First Communion. Thank you to grandparents, to catechists for encouraging parents to fulfil the blessing poured on them on the day their baby was baptised: to be the first and best teachers in the ways of Jesus our Lord. As Mary and Joseph introduced Jesus to the Passover Feast you are introducing your children to the feasts of Our Lord. Our Lord is with us in the Scriptures and in the breaking of bread. In recent weeks, leading up to our celebration of Christmas you introduced your children to the wonderful gift Our Lord’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sins were confessed in the atmosphere of the Saviour born for us. In this you declared: Jesus is our Saviour and Our Lord. As Mary and Joseph taught Jesus to pray, you are teaching your children to pray. I am certain what they will remember is that Our Lord meant so much to you that you did your best to help them to know him more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly day by day. Archbishop Patrick Kelly. Read more…
The Wisdom of Christ is Good News for Every Age and for All People.
The Christmas story bears a profound message that is meant not only for Christian believers but for all men and women who are open to the truth. It is a message that is presented to us in the simple life of a humble family beginning at Bethlehem and continuing in Nazareth. This Holy Family can help us to understand God’s inner life of love and self-giving and can show us some of the values that underpin the gift of human life itself. Our faith teaches us, through the insights of Holy Scripture that we have been created in the image and likeness of God. In ourselves we reflect something of the goodness, beauty and creativity of Almighty God. In our relationships with others we mirror something of the inner life of the Blessed Trinity, the eternally loving relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. … It is God’s will that we should live in loving family relationships in a way that reveals something of the inner life of the Trinity. It is not by chance that Jesus comes to know the love of a human father and mother within his family – it is his heavenly Father’s plan. The complementary love of father and mother is a precious gift that we should wish for every child. …. The Government’s intention to legislate for same-sex marriage would undermine this Christian view of the family. Government policy cannot foresee the full consequences, for the children involved or for wider society, of being brought up by two mothers without a father’s influence or by two fathers without a mother’s influence. We first learn about diversity and acquire a respect for difference through the complementarity of our parents. …Last October the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization reflected on some of the challenges we face in our own society and encouraged us to strengthen our voice in the public forum. In our own country, where the Christian teaching on marriage is accused by a vociferous minority of being behind the times, we must patiently and courteously insist that the wisdom of Christ is good news for every age and for all people. We are not claiming to be better than others, since we have the same struggle as everyone else to live a good life. But we have received in Christ a light to show us the way and a mission to share that light with others. ….On the threshold of a New Year may the Holy Family of Nazareth inspire and encourage us to be true to Christ and to be his faithful witnesses in the world and in our own family homes. Archbishop Bernard Longley. Read more…
Home is the Place We Should First Learn Respect for God.
In the same way that we learn respect for people, for other people’s property, for our own possessions and for ourselves, so the home is the place we should first learn respect for God. How do we do this? How do we do anything to teach children? We don’t simply tell them to keep their rooms tidy if the rest of the house is a mess. We can’t tell them not to be greedy if we indulge ourselves as adults. As the writer of Ecclesiasticus says, “My son, be gentle in carrying out your business, and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.” Treat a child with gentleness and the child will grow up gentle; if a child grows up in a household of conflict and anger, the child will assume that this is how people normally live. … The Feast of the Holy Family today is an opportunity to reflect on how we pass on faith to our children along with all the other things we feel are important for them. It’s a time for us all to think about what explicit lessons we give young people about how faith is lived. If, for instance, Mass is seen to be just one of the many options available on Sunday, then how important will it seem? If adults are unwilling or unable to answer basic questions that children have about God and faith, then why should the children consider the question to have value? How can we talk about faith if we don’t show it, and how can we assume to pass the responsibility on to the school, any more than we would pass on to the school the responsibility to clothe or feed the child? Bishop Kieran Conry.
What Gives Us Hope is the Reality of Loving Relationships
Today’s feast of the Holy Family reminds us of the importance of family life for the wellbeing of society. It is also a reminder of the struggles and challenges which families have to face, especially at a time of financial austerity. We may not have to face the reality of physical violence, but there are many families who are experiencing the stress of economic hardship. What enables them and all of us to live through these hardships and what gives us hope, is the reality of loving relationships. Where there is love there is life. In the Christmas season as we give presents to one another, the greatest gift we can give is the gift of our love. Bishop Declan Lang.
A New Year’s Resolution
We are called to allow God to be God in our family and marriage relationships. God’s business in any family and marriage is that those involved may so experience love that they come to love each other increasingly and that they come to recognise the source of all love, namely God our Father. As St John puts it, “Think of the love that God has lavished on us by letting us be called God’s children and that is what we are.” (1 John 3.1) May I make two requests of parents and older children in our families in this Year of Faith and into the future:
- Find time to come together occasionally in prayer in the home. Family prayers are notoriously difficult to organise and have a propensity to dissolve into mirth! However, try it as a family exercise in 2013 and see what happens. It may be just a short reading from scripture, a silence and an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be, or it may be a decade of the Rosary. Whatever you choose as your prayer, try to involve everyone – even the family pet!
- Share faith with each other. Parents may need to take the lead here, but older children may have important questions to address to the faith of the Church and those questions need to be heard and dealt with. If answers do not readily come to hand, do consider discussing the issue within your parish community. We all work in the Lord’s vineyard.
A family that has made room for prayer and faith enquiry is most certainly busy about God’s work. How about this for a New Year’s resolution! Bishop Christopher Budd
. Read more…
The Church’s Wonderful Vision of Love and Life
Jesus Christ is the way to personal happiness and authentic humanism. Sadly, the teaching of Humanae Vitae about sexual morality and family values has become something of an ‘elephant in the room’ that no-one seems to mention. In this Year of Faith then, I would like to invite everyone to discover again the Church’s wonderful vision of love and life, as expounded in the Catechism. I would also like to ask all families, whatever their form or circumstances, to think about developing a deeper and richer Catholic ethos in the home, so as to give a clearer witness to contemporary culture. For instance, why not spend an evening together as a family, occasionally switch off the computer, make the Sign of the Cross on entering the house, adopt a communal work of justice and charity, or keep special the fast-days and feast-days? I am sure you will think of many other ways of preserving our Catholic distinctiveness. Bishop Philip Egan
. Read more…