by Roger Carr-Jones,
Marriage and Family Life Coordinator
One of the joys of being the Marriage and Family Life Coordinator is that, despite my not being physically able to join others at the World Meeting of Families (WMF), I can share in its joy and success. Together, we can experience its transformative effect through listening to the testimonies of those who were there and through making its messages our own. So, whether we were attendees, or looked on from afar, we are jointly commissioned in communicating the Church’s teaching on the Family: a ‘gift to the world’, as Archbishop Eamon Martin so beautifully said. Now that the venues in Dublin have been restored to normality, the fruits remain to be savoured and the real work begun. Each one of us, as family members of the Church, is now being called to proclaim The Gospel of the Family – Joy for the World!
My prayer is that those who were lucky enough to attend from our diocese are already sharing with others the ways in which this occasion has been transformative to them on a personal level, and how they are now better able to understand their individual family unit in its wider context of the family of the Church. The more voices that are heard in the coming weeks the greater the transformative effect on ourselves and the lives of our parishes.
To assist this process, I suggest that a useful image is to think about the effect of casting a single stone onto the surface of a pond: the resulting ripples change the nature and structure of the water. If a single stone has this effect on the nature of the pond, then each of our participants, in their different ways, will become a pebble in their local church, in the church-based organisations they belong to and in the wider world. Combined they will stir us all up just as the ripples of the World Meeting of Families are now lapping on many shores, and making changes to many lives. In the same way we now need to do our bit.
Pope Francis, as ever, put it very succinctly in his homily at Phoenix Park when he instructed his listeners, that mean you and me, to ‘share the Gospel of the family as joy for the world!’ This theme of encountering joy is wonderfully expressed in Bishop Nicholas’ personal account. For him, the pearl from the WMF was joy, which underpinned every single aspect of this occasion. This is a message worth sharing.
Joy is a commodity much needed in our lives and in our world. Joy as we know from experience is best enjoyed when it is shared. The Joy of the Christian understanding of the family is therefore not something to keep silent about; we need to get out and celebrate it! The Church tells us that the family is ‘the principal cell or building block of human society’. It is our offering to the world and one that exposes the false notions of family being cultivated by those who fail to fully comprehend its depth and substance.