It is good to be back with you here at Holy Redeemer parish, and also to be with my Redemptorist Community again. I really had a wonderful time in Scotland with my family. All of them could see that I am very happy here in Cape Town, and send greetings to each of you. In particular, my sister Eileen send her love and thanks you for all your continued prayers for her well-being. She remains physically unwell, but is in very good spirits. There was also the joy for me of having four new babies in the family since my last time at home, so that certainly kept me engaged and amused.
Being at home reminded me of something that I have spoken of a few times in my letters to you: the significance of our family life as the place where we most intimately encounter the love of God. Because of this, I would like to share some recent words of Pope Francis, on how we are all called to be holy families. I think that his words give us an opportunity to reflect on the quality of our family life today.
Pope Francis on the Family — What Makes a Family Holy?
1. First: the family prays.
…I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family? Some of you do, I know. But so many people say to me: But how can we? …But in the family how is this done? After all, prayer seems to be something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace… Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God… all of us! We need his help, his strength, his blessing, his mercy, his forgiveness. And we need simplicity to pray as a family: simplicity is necessary! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary: it’s easy. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength! And also praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents…. praying for each other. This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer.
2. Next, the family keeps the faith.
Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith as a family? Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness? We all know that families, especially young families, are often “racing” from one place to another, with lots to do. But did you ever think that this “racing” could also be the race of faith? Christian families are missionary families. …They are missionary in everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith! Keeping the faith in families and bringing to everyday things the salt and the leaven of faith.
3. And finally: the family experiences joy.
I would like to ask you all a question today. But each of you keep it in your heart and take it home. You can regard it as a kind of “homework”. Only you must answer. How are things when it comes to joy at home? Is there joy in your family? You can answer this question.
Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well… True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey. But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. And above all, a love which is patient: patience is a virtue of God and he teaches us how to cultivate it in family life, how to be patient, and lovingly so, with each other. To be patient among ourselves. A patient love. God alone knows how to create harmony from differences. But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.
Dear families, always live in faith and simplicity, like the Holy Family of Nazareth! The joy and peace of the Lord be always with you!
Fr Gerard, CSsR