Pastoral Letter from Bishop Philip Boyce
Welcoming the World Meeting of Families
17th August 2018
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Last Saturday I gathered among many members of the Diocese to welcome the relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux and of her parents, Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, to Newry Cathedral. I was moved by the sight of the steady stream of people coming to visit this family of saints, to seek their intercession and to draw comfort from their presence in our midst. Here were the remains of three members of a family whose love for each other radiates God’s love to us even today. An ordinary family that shared moments of joy and sorrow, and found peace and mercy in the presence of Jesus. As a Carmelite, I have a close attachment to this family which gave several sisters to the Carmelite family, but I also sensed how many families here in the Diocese of Dromore also share this familial bond. The crowds in Newry made tangible our understanding of the Church as a family of families.
The relics continue to journey around Ireland, inspiring others in these final days of preparation for the World Meeting of Families which will commence in Dublin next Tuesday. Renowned as ‘Ireland of the Welcomes’, we have been preparing to welcome many families from around the world – as we do so often each summer – not simply as tourists or visitors but as part of our family. We are all one family, brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus on account of our baptism in the Holy Spirit. We are adopted sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. And this is a source of great joy for us, a wellspring of hope and confidence for our daily living. The World Meeting of Families has as its theme, The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World. This gathering is an opportunity for all of us to witness the joy of family life in its many forms across the globe and to share that joy among the families of Ireland.
We wish all the participants from our diocese a safe and blessed journey to Dublin. This is a pilgrimage of faith for them and we pray that these days of celebration in Dublin will enrich their faith and strengthen them in their family life. We also pray for those travelling to the final mass in Phoenix Park on Sunday 26th August, to be celebrated by Pope Francis. For those of us remaining at home, we will not only be able to participate in many of the events of the World Meeting of Families on various forms of media, but also by joining in simultaneous events within the Diocese. On the evening of Tuesday 21st August, to mark the launch of the World Meeting of Families, celebrations will take place simultaneously in cathedrals across Ireland, including in Newry Cathedral at 7.00 pm, to pray for God’s blessing on the participants of WMOF and for the success of their many activities. There will also be many similar celebrations across the parishes of our own diocese and I urge you all to take part as members of the family of families, united in the Holy Spirit yet spread across our diocese. You will find full details in your parishes about these events.
What will we learn from the WMOF? The theme directs our attention to Pope Francis’ teachings in The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia) which we have been receiving in various ways since its publication in March 2016. Individually, in small groups, in study sessions and in meditation, I know that many of you have responded to the Pope’s invitation to dip into this document and draw forth words of wisdom and inspiration for the many circumstances you and your families face today. The participants of the WMOF will do the same in an intensive way over the five days of their gathering. Here are the key topics they will explore and a sample of the statements from Amoris Laetitia which will provoke discussion on the topics. As the WMOF progresses you may wish to take these quotations to prompt conversation and reflection in your family. Responding to them, how can your family life be developed? What contribution can you and your family make in your local community? And how can we as a family of families help shape our society to be more human and more family-orientated?
• The role of technology in the Family
“In our own day, dominated by stress and rapid technological advances, one of the most important tasks of families is to provide an education in hope”.
(Amoris Laetitia, 275).
• The impact of conflict on families and children
“Forced migration of families, resulting from situations of war, persecution, poverty and injustice, and marked by the vicissitudes of a journey that often puts lives at risk, traumatises people and destabilises families” (Amoris Laetitia 46).
• Building a more sustainable approach to the economy, work and the environment
“In the family too, we can rethink our habits of consumption and join in caring for the environment as our common home” (Amoris Laetitia 277).
• Faith and family
“The family lives its spirituality precisely by being at one and the same time a domestic church and a vital cell for transforming the world” (Amoris Laetitia 324).
• Women’s leadership roles, globally and locally
“The grandeur of women includes all the rights derived from their inalienable human dignity but also from their feminine genius, which is essential to society.” (Amoris Laetitia 173)
• The role of education in raising families out of poverty
“The task of education is to make us sense that the world and society are also our home; it trains us how to live together in this greater home.” (Amoris Laetitia 276)
It is often too easy to be overwhelmed by the difficulties that we face, to be discouraged by the magnitude of the challenges, and to turn in on ourselves to protect what we have. It is easier to play safe. But that is not the way of the Gospel. Pope Francis calls us to be a missionary church, to move out to the peripheries and to embrace those on the margin. Such ventures are always risky and tough. Love is always ready to take risks as every parent knows as they bring up their children. God so loved the world that he took the risk of giving us his Son so that we may share in the life of God’s family of families. This is the joyful good news at the heart of the gospel of the family.
My prayer for this momentous event is that it will be an opportunity for us, led by the Holy Spirit, to take risks once again. I hope that we can leave aside the insularity of focusing on issues here in Ireland to learn about family life across the globe. I hope that we may open our hearts to embrace the great diversity and joy of our global Church – which I see present in so many of our parishes in the great diversity of families which cross national, ethnic, religious and other identities. I encourage you to take your lead from Pope Francis who comes to Ireland not simply to visit us but to join with and listen to families from across the world.
May the World Meeting of Families be a moment of grace for us, when the gospel of family life shines out to remind us of God’s gift of joy for our world.
+Most Rev Philip Boyce