Bishop Liam MacDaid, chair of the Council for Marriage and the Family of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, today said, “I invite the faithful to pray as part of the process and the work leading up to the next Synod on the Family in October 2015. I also wish to encourage prayers for all families, especially those experiencing hardship or difficulty at this time.
“The family setting for Jesus’ birth, development and progress was the loving and trusting relationship between Mary and Joseph in their marriage and family life. It is also true that the Holy Family of Nazareth faced difficult circumstances from the very beginning. God chose them to come into the most ordinary of circumstances where there were challenges and where life wasn’t idealised or unreal. The real story of the Holy Family is full of encouragement for those who struggle in life – especially in their family life – and it helps us to see that true riches lie within our relationships and in how we relate, and not in what we have materially.”
Last October, at the conclusion of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops entitled The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelisation, Pope Francis made public the Relatio Synodi, the document which concluded the work of that Extraordinary Synod. At the same time, the Pope indicated that this document would be the Lineamenta for the upcoming Ordinary Synod, which will take place in the Vatican from 4 to 25 October 2015 on the theme: The Vocation and the Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.
Bishop MacDaid said, “With the recent publication of the Lineamenta the faithful are invited to accompany the synodal process with prayer and celebration for the family. Prayers are encouraged particularly tomorrow, Sunday 28 December, on the Feast of the Holy Family. In addition, the faithful are invited to recite the Holy Father’s Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod (see below and also available on www.catholicbishops.ie). The Lineamenta, as indicated by Pope Francis at the end of his discourse at the Extraordinary Synod in October, are constituted essentially by the Relatio Synodi. The Relatio is accompanied by a series of questions that help to further the Synod’s progress, and to assist in the preparation of the Instrumentum laboris for the Ordinary Synod next October.
Bishop MacDaid continued, “The work of the Synod of Bishops Third Extraordinary General Assembly this year, and the Lineamenta for the Ordinary Synod in October 2015, highlights the significance placed on married love and family life by the Church. The preparation for next year’s Synod of Bishops have again highlighted difficulties faced by contemporary families around the world. The example of the Holy Family – and its experience of misunderstanding and rejection – reminds us of the need for understanding, mercy and compassion. This especially holds true for those who have experienced a break-down of family life or who may have become estranged from their closest relatives, and for those experiencing hardship or difficulty. Over Christmas many families have the joy and blessing to gather or to be in touch with family members. However many others experience a Christmas of isolation and of heart-break.
“The Church must always offer a place of welcome to families in all circumstances, and especially to those who find themselves in difficulties. The Feast of the Holy Family is an ideal opportunity to appreciate the vitality and importance of the family. It also offers us an opportunity to express our support for marriage, which is: the faithful love between a wife and husband, open to and responsible for the birth, care and upbringing of the next generation. At the same time we are acutely aware that there are many different circumstances to family life. Events and experiences reshape the family lives of many people. It is important to acknowledge those who work so hard to maintain family stability in difficulty and isolation.”
Bishop MacDaid concluded, “As a New Year approaches let us allow the Holy Family to embrace us, with all our imperfections. May the Holy Family of Nazareth inspire and encourage us to live and show Jesus’ love and mercy wherever we find ourselves in the coming year and in our own family homes. May we share and pray with one another the Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod by Pope Francis, and pray as well with open and welcoming hearts for all families, especially those experiencing hardship or difficulty at this time.”
Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love,
to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalised
find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer.
Notes for Editors
· Bishop Liam MacDaid, Bishop of Clogher, is chair of the Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family. In 2012 Bishop MacDaid led a delegation to the 7th World Meeting of Families in Milan. Bishop MacDaid also led a group of Irish pilgrims on the occasion of the Pilgrimage with Pope Francis of Families to Rome during the universal ‘Year of Faith’ in October 2013. In March 2014 he participated in the Council of European Catholic Bishops’ Conferences and which focused on family ministry with regard to current social challenges and the legacy of Saint John Paul II, whom Pope Francis has called the ‘Pope of the Family’. Earlier this month, on behalf of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference Bishop MacDaid, along with Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin, launched the pastoral statement The Meaning of Marriage which has been distributed to the 1,350 parishes on the island, and it is also available in the English, Irish and Polish languages on www.catholicbishops.ie.
· Since his election on 13 March 2013 Pope Francis has promoted marriage and the family in the mind and the heart of the Church. This has included the pilgrimage of families for the Year of Faith to join Pope Francis, the Holy Father’s unique initiative and ground breaking conversation with thousands of engaged couples in Saint Peter’s Square on 14 February 2014 (a papal first); his letter to families, February 2014; an extraordinary Consistory in the Vatican, February 2014; Mass with Grandparents and the Elderly in Saint Peters Square, September 2014; the Synod, Third Extraordinary Assembly in October 2014; the next Ordinary General Synod of Bishops, which takes place from 4 to 25 October 2015, on the theme The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world; and the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, USA in which Pope Francis will participate from 22 to 27 September 2015. For further information see www.vatican.va and on www.catholicbishops.ie.
· The Relatio Synodi, which was issued as the Lineamenta, concludes in the following words: “These proposed reflections, the fruit of the synodal work that took place in great freedom and with a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate points of view that will later be developed and clarified through reflection in the local Churches in the intervening year leading to the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops” (Relatio Synodi, n. 62). The ‘Lineamenta’ is the first pre-Synodal preparatory document from the Synod Secretariat, offering a broad outline on the topic for the next Synod of Bishops. It provides a text to foster reflection and prayer on the topic as well as to generate suggestions and observations. A series of questions appears at the end to aid an in-depth examination. The results of the consultation, together with the Relatio Synodi, will serve as the basis for the Instrumentum laboris, the working document of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of 2015.
The Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family has prepared spiritual and pastoral resources for the Christmas Octave including the Feast of the Holy Family for use by parishes and families (follow the Tag : Family on www.catholicbishops.ie)
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678