I’m looking forward to this Sunday, Feb. 8, at the cathedral, when we celebrate World Marriage Day with a Mass in English at 10 a.m. and Spanish at 12:30 p.m. Couples celebrating significant anniversaries — their 25th, 50th, 60th or more years of marriage — are invited to have their marriages recognized and blessed during these Masses.

Our World Marriage Day celebration is special this year because we are getting ready for Pope Francis to visit Philadelphia in September for the World Meeting of Families. And then in October, the pope will host the Synod of Bishops on the Family.

With the whole universal Church, we are praying for the synod.

Responding to Pope Francis’ call for prayer, a new “novena” has been launched to pray for the synod. People are encouraged to pray an hour of eucharistic adoration on the first Thursday of each of the next nine months. The novena begins this Thursday, Feb. 5 and you can find more information here: adorationforsynod2015.blogspot.it.

As part of the synod preparations, the Vatican has asked Catholics around the world to participate in a consultation on issues related to the family. In order to facilitate that consultation here, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is inviting people to respond to a series of reflection questions provided by the Vatican. The questions are available at our website: http://survey.la-archdiocese.org

Jesus chose to be born from a mother’s womb and to be nurtured and raised in a human family with his mother Mary and Joseph her spouse. He performed his first “sign” at a wedding.

He did this for a reason — to show us that marriage and family are at the heart of God’s plan of love for the world and for history.

Jesus gave his Church the mission of creating what amounts to a worldwide family of families — drawn from every nation and people.    

The Catechism says,, “The Church is nothing other than the ‘family of God.’” And the Church’s mission is to grow God’s family — to create, from out of all the earth’s peoples, one single family.

In God’s plan, the human family is rooted in the permanent and exclusive commitment of man and woman in marriage. The Church Fathers spoke of the family as the “domestic Church.” This is a powerful image of the family’s identity and mission.

As the “domestic Church,” every family is a sign that points to the family that God wants to build in society. And every family is an instrument through which the family of God grows in society and history.

What’s beautiful about God’s plan is that the family fulfills its vocation and high purposes in humble settings and workings of ordinary daily life.

Our families are meant to be natural schools of love and virtue. Places where Jesus is at the center and his example and teachings are lived and passed on in the simple rhythms of every day life. In our families, we learn how to love and how to laugh, and how to share and sacrifice.

In the domestic Church, the love of our parents — experienced in all the ordinary frustrations and joys of daily life — teaches us that we also have a Father in heaven who loves us.

In the family, we learn that our Father has a loving purpose for our lives and that each of us has a “vocation” or calling from God — either to marriage or the priesthood or consecrated life or to live as lay faithful serving our neighbors in the worlds of work and family.

Living as the domestic Church is not easy. It takes love, patience, hard work and grace.

And we need to keep the right perspective. We need to remember the domestic Churches where our families share in the great vocation of the Holy Family. Our vocation is hidden, just as Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived quietly and “behind the scenes” for nearly 30 years in Nazareth.

The “hidden life” of the Holy Family is a message to us. That in the ordinary realities of family life, God’s magnificent plan for history is brought down to earth.

We need to have faith that the little unseen things we do — taking the kids to church and to confession, saying prayers at bedtime, the humble everyday acts of kindness and sacrifice — are all vital to the Church’s mission, are all part of God’s plan.

So let’s keep praying for our families. May our Blessed Mother help all of us to know the holiness and happiness of family life that she experienced with Jesus and St. Joseph.

And may her prayers lead all of us to have greater awareness that marriage and family are a true calling to follow Jesus and to serve God’s plan for the human family.