Reflections on the World Meeting of Families

Reflections on the World Meeting of Families

CNS photo/Paul Haring
Pope Francis attends the Festival of Families in Croke Park stadium in Dublin Aug. 25.

Three years ago, Pope Francis came to celebrate the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Thousands of families, from the United States and the entire world, came to our area to reflect on the value of the Christian family in society. On that occasion, my wife Kathia and I had the privilege of being invited as speakers to talk about the spirituality in Catholic families. Time passes quickly and the church continues to develop its family ministry, so as a gift from God we were sent to Dublin, Ireland to participate in the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) 2018.

The theme of the WMOF, which took place Aug. 21-26, was “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World.” From Wednesday to Friday, the Pastoral Congress was held, in which more than 20,000 people from all over the world participated in different moments of prayer, reflection, formation and dialogue to discern the best ways to serve the Catholic family; and at the same time receive the motivation to be a testimony of God in our homes in today’s world. In addition to the keynote presentations and the various workshops with topics of vital importance for family ministry, Eucharistic celebrations took place daily in the arena of the Royal Dublin Center, which is an open field that allowed us to enter in intimacy with God, through prayer and the wonders of His creation. At the same time, a meeting was held for young people and another one for children. Dublin presented a multigenerational event, evangelizing the diverse members of the families in the best way possible according to their age.

I would like to highlight the keynote presentation Cardinal Mario Zenari, apostolic nuncio in Syria, who spoke of the family as a key to peace in a turbulent world. It was shocking to see the images projected on the giant screens of the main arena, which showed families, especially children, affected by the war in Syria. The Gospel invites us not only to love and be attentive to our family, but also to go to the periphery, praying for those who suffer persecution around the world and engaging in social actions to love and welcome those families that suffer desperately.

There were two workshops that caught our attention. The first was with Dr. Mary Aiken, Adjunct Associate Professor Geary Institute for Public Policy, and Academic Advisor for Europol European Cybercrime Centre. This was a great interactive presentation on turning technology to the good in our world and in our homes. Dr. Aiken, a cybernetic psychologist, showed that when technology is not used properly it destroys millions of families. She also warned of the great dangers to which our children are exposed when we do not have a healthy control of the use of the internet. Finally, she spoke of the great importance of technology in today’s society. (The new CSI series: Cyber, is based on her discoveries and writings.)

The second workshop I want to mention was presented by Father Leo Patalinghug, a resident priest in Baltimore, who is also a chef. His presentation, “Spicing Up Our Married Life: Satisfying Couples Hunger for True Love,” was a practical demonstration of the new evangelization. The audience was filled with thousands of people who laughed for an hour watching him cook, while dynamically transmitting the joy of the Gospel to families. At the end of his presentation, many of the participants, crying, renewed their marriage promises and committed themselves to be a witness of holiness in families.

Logically, the focus of the WMOF, was the presence of Pope Francis, who met with hundreds of thousands of people on Saturday night at Croke Park to celebrate the Festival of Families, one of the most beautiful and significant events. It was a celebration of family life with music and dance performances, as well as the testimony of faith of families from different parts of the world. Andrea Bocelli closed the night with a spectacular concert.

Finally, the World Meeting of Families concluded with a Solemn Eucharistic Celebration on Sunday at Phoenix Park, with Pope Francis as the main celebrant.

While we walk as a church to the next WMOF that will take place in the year 2021 in Rome, Italy, we hope to reflect the love of God through our Christian families, remembering every day the words that His Holiness expressed in his final homily in Dublin: “Through the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, each Christian is sent forth to be a missionary, ‘a missionary disciple’ (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 120). The Church as a whole is called to “go forth” to bring the words of eternal life to all the peripheries of our world. May our celebration today confirm each of you, parents and grandparents, children and young people, men and women, religious brothers and sisters, contemplatives and missionaries, deacons, priests and bishops, to share the joy of the Gospel! Share the Gospel of the family as joy for the world!”

Andrés Arango is Bishop’s Delegate for Hispanic Ministry and Director of Evangelization, Diocese of Camden.

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