The Church is celebrating the Amoris Laetitia Family Year in the run up to the World Meeting of Families set for 26 June 2022. As part of that event, and in the midst of the Christmas Season, Pope Francis released a letter for married couples across the globe on Sunday 26 December, the Feast of the Holy Family.
The Pope first expressed his desire that families feel his “affection and closeness at this very special time,” which has been marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and recurring lockdowns.
God’s unconditional love for couples
Pope Francis focused his letter to couples on the constant presence of Jesus in the day-to-day situations of family life.
Yet, he added, our Christian faith reminds us that we are not alone in the challenges of married life, since Jesus is present as time passes, children are born and grow up, and work and illness ebb and flow.
Married couples “set out towards the land that God promises: to be two in Christ, two in one,” said the Pope. “Your lives become a single life; you become a ‘we’ in loving communion with Jesus, alive and present at every moment of your existence.”
Children thirsting for a sign of God’s love
The Holy Father then turned his thoughts to couples with children. He urged parents to live Christ’s love in every interaction, since children are always paying attention and soaking up everything.
The Pope admitted that raising children is no easy task, but that children also “raise” their parents, helping them grow in authority that gives children a sense of security and confidence.
Jesus always in our storm-rocked boat
Pope Francis also urged couples to be active members in their parishes, assisting the Church in her mission of accompanying other families less aware of God’s presence.
“You have the mission of transforming society by your presence in the workplace and ensuring that the needs of families are taken into due account,” he added.
He called marriage a vocation and likened it to a boat on a sometimes-story sea. Jesus, said the Pope, is always either in the boat to calm the sea or walking nearby and awaiting our invitation to climb aboard.
Marriage ‘refuge in pandemic storms’
The Pope went on to reflect on the difficulties and opportunities facing families during the pandemic.
He said recurring lockdowns have forced many families to work, study, recreate, and rest in the same house, a situation he said may be difficult at times.
“The time you spend together, far from being a penance, will be become a refuge amid the storms,” he said. “May every family be a place of acceptance and understanding.”
Pope Francis also recalled his invitation to say “please, thanks, sorry”, while avoiding going to bed without making peace.
Couples, added the Pope, can also kneel together before the Eucharist and say a small prayer each evening.
The Holy Father noted that some couples have found the pandemic unbearable and sought separation, a situation he lamented as causing great pain to children. But he assured separated couples of his “closeness and affection”.
Creative courage and a smile
Finally, Pope Francis encouraged couples preparing for marriage to have “creative courage” as they make the more-difficult-than-ever journey toward married life.
And he sent a word of greeting to grandparents, many of whom have felt more alone during lockdowns, and called them “humanity’s living memory.”
The Pope wrapped up his letter to married couples with an encouragement to always live their vocation with a smile and enthusiasm, never letting their faces “grow sad or gloomy”.