A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Year of the Family

Fr Kevin Head SM

The Solemnity of St Joseph in 2021 marks five years since the publication of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation* Amoris Laetitiae (The Joy of Love). The exhortation spoke of the joy and beauty of love in the family.

Pope Francis will inaugurate the Year ‘Amoris Laetitiae Family’ on St Joseph’s Solemnity this month, 19 March. It will finish on 26 June 2022, when the 10th World Meeting of Families in Rome with the Pope is scheduled to take place.

There is no doubt that this initiative has been launched because the Church is utterly convinced of the importance of the family; and that the proper functioning of society is dependent on the health of individual families within society; and the current state of chaos and dysfunction in the world mirrors the dysfunction of families in society.

The document published by the Roman Dicastery** for Laity, Family and Life for the Year of the Family notes that “the pandemic experience has highlighted the central role of the family as the domestic Church and the importance of community ties between families. Such ties make the Church an authentic ‘family of families’ (Amoris Laetitiae 87). The family deserves a year of celebrations, so that it can be placed at the centre of commitment and care from every pastoral and ecclesial reality.”

Some years ago I wrote the following and I take the liberty of re-printing it here:

Like all families, the one to which I rejoice to belong is not perfect -- hardly a surprise. As we all know, there is no such thing as a perfect family. Even though we are not perfect, I’m still looking forward to being with and enjoying my family’s company. After all, apart from anything else, they’re the only family I have.

It’s sometimes said that Jesus, Mary and Joseph are not a good model for family life. After all, Joseph was a saint, Mary was sinless, and Jesus is God. There’s only one family like that.

If we truly believe that Jesus was fully human, though, then we must allow for the possibility that he sometimes needed to be told off. And being sinless, as Mary was, and a good and holy man, as Joseph was, does not mean that they did not sometimes feel edgy and irritated.

I remember reading some years ago that the best we can do in family life is to try to continue to speak God’s language – and God’s language is the language of love. Ultimately, the language of love is answered with love. The language of love speaks the truth and deals with the issues as well as possible. It does not sweep the troubles and the problems under the carpet where they will fester away and stink the place up. It deals with them honestly, sensitively, and carefully.

It is not always easy to say we are sorry, nor to acknowledge being hurt. It’s important to do these things, though, because it is through honest, respectful communication that we grow into the families that in our heart of hearts we want to be.

Love also realises that not all problems are able to be solved, and that sometimes, perhaps often, the serenity prayer applies. And as well, it’s good to keep in mind that ‘God’s saving plan evolves, and God is ever-present in providential care of his friends.’

May Jesus, Mary and Joseph protect, and may God bless all the members of our families, always.

* An apostolic exhortation is a magisterial document written by the pope. It is considered third in importance, after apostolic constitutions and encyclicals.
** A department of the Vatican Curia

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