I am happy to be writing you this week from Los Angeles. It’s great to be back home!
The Synod of Bishops on the family concluded this weekend. As I have been reporting, the Synod Fathers worked hard during these past three weeks. And this weekend we presented a final document that offers our Holy Father Pope Francis some good solid pastoral perspectives on the issues facing the Church and the family in modern society.
I am pleased that the final document was strong in affirming the Church’s traditional teaching — that God’s plan for marriage is intended for one man and one woman to be united in love for life. Throughout the document there is beautiful language, drawn from the Scriptures, that describes God’s plan for the family.
The document also includes strong passages on the importance of families having children, on the sanctity of life and the importance of children as the future of the Church. The Synod Fathers were also strong on the challenges of global immigration and its effects on the family, a reality we see every day here in Los Angeles.
There is also urgent language on the need to defend the elderly and the disabled against the rising movement of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Sadly, this is also a reality that we now have to face in California.
In his final homily closing the Synod, Pope Francis urged us, as pastors, to continue walking with our people, “with our eyes fixed on Jesus and our brothers and sisters, in the search for the paths which the Gospel indicates for our times so that we can proclaim the mystery of family love.”
It was a great blessing for me to have this time to pray and reflect with our Holy Father Pope Francis and with my brother bishops from all over the world.
And I return with a new energy and new ideas about strengthening marriage and family life which, as we know, is one of my five pastoral priorities for the family of God here in Los Angeles.
Prior to the synod, with the help of our Family Life Office and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, we conducted a survey of our family life programs in the archdiocese. Now is the time for us to study those findings and look for fresh approaches and “best practices” for couples and families.
My own sense is that we need to look especially at how we prepare couples for marriage and how we support them in the critical early years of their marriage. I also think we need to look at the challenges families face from poverty, economic circumstances and immigration status.
In this regard, I am more convinced than ever that we need to try to make Catholic schools more accessible to families, especially families in need. I was pleased that the synod’s final document recognized the vital role of Catholic schools in supporting Catholic families and providing training in the virtues and instruction in the faith.
I also believe we need to support families in their spiritual lives. We need to help families feel comfortable praying together and talking about their faith.
Families are so busy and so distracted with everyday work and chores and duties. We need to find ways to bring them together for prayer and friendship and just spending time together.
We need to help them develop family traditions and habits that make their faith more a part of the natural rhythms of their daily life. Just sharing a Sunday meal after Mass would be one example, along with finding more time during the week to eat dinner together.
In our global economy, families are also more and more separated and “on the move.” Children often live and work far away from their parents and grandparents — either across the country or across the ocean or the border.
So we need to find ways to keep families united — and united in their faith. Some families are already using forms of social media — Facebook, Instagram, Google Hangouts, Skype and WhatsApp — to stay connected.
We should encourage this and also find new ways that families can share time and pray together and share their challenges. In my opinion, we have only begun to explore the possibilities of using social media to support marriages and families and to share our faith.
I also think we need to encourage every one in the Church — and every member of every family — in their call to be missionaries. Missionaries of the family.
It is a great time in our society for all of us to be going out and sharing with the people in our society — especially with our young people — the beauty of God’s plan for creation, for marriage, and for the family.
So let’s keep praying for each other this week. And let’s pray for couples who are married and about to be married. And let’s pray for the grace to find new ways to support families and to proclaim the beautiful plan of God for the family.
And may our Blessed Mother Mary, her spouse Joseph and the Child Jesus all watch over and guide our families.