Monday, September 21, 2015

World Meeting of Families 2015: What You Need to Know

Even before Pope Francis' arrival in Philadelphia on Saturday, more than fifteen thousand registrants will have the opportunity to listen to an elite cadre of speakers at the World Meeting of Families beginning tomorrow. Well-known speakers include Bishop Robert Barron, Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Christopher West, the crew from CatholicMatch, Prof. Robert George, Simcha Fisher, and other popular non-Catholic personalities like Pastor Rick Warren. Together, they represent a veritable who's who of dynamic voices on marriage and the family today.

In the 21st century, the family wears many more faces than it did in the past, encompassing not only traditional families, but also single parents, divorced parents, and stepparents, all searching consciously or subconsciously for God's guidance through a troubled world. We all want family love to last forever, but making it happen sometimes seems ever more out of our grasp.

The impact of the World Meeting of Families is meant to endure far longer than these few days in September 2015. The organizers hope to make this a teaching moment in the life of the Church, and they've asked even people who aren't attending to help spread the message.

To aid in that mission, the organizers have circulated a preparatory catechesis to explain "how all of Catholic teaching about sex, marriage and the family flows from our basic beliefs about Jesus." The organizers have issued this urgent plea:
"We encourage everyone to study this catechesis, to discuss it with others, particularly in parishes, and to pray about how the Church can serve families, and how families can serve the Church."
In response, our parish of St. Joseph in Garden City, New York, has inaugurated a year-long series of morning retreats focused on the main points of this catechesis and their practical application to our daily lives. We hope that many other parishes and individuals will join in answering the call and promulgating the good news, in ways large and small.

As a stepping-off point, here are ten things World Meeting of Family organizers think you need to know.

I. We are Created for Joy 

"We are more than an accident of evolution. We are greater than the sum of our biology. God exists. He is good. He loves us."

II. Our Mission is Love 

"We are in the world for a purpose -- to receive God's love and to show God's love to others."

III. Our Sexuality Has Deep Meaning 

"Our sexuality has purpose. Our bodies are not simply shells for the soul or sensory machines for the brain. Nor are they raw material we can freely abuse or reprogram. For Christians, body and spirit are profoundly integrated."

IV. Marriage is a Uniquely Intimate Form of Friendship 

"No marriage founded on mere sexual chemistry endures. Erotic partners focused mainly on possessing each other lack the interior skill of stepping back and making space for self-criticism, reconciliation, and growth."

V. Families Create the Future

"Children reared with love and guidance are the foundation for a loving future. Wounded children portend a wounded future." 

VI. All Love Bears Fruit 

"Not everyone is called to marriage. But every life is meant to be fertile. Every life has the power and the need to nurture new life -- if not through bearing and raising children, then through other vital forms of self-giving, building, and service."

VII. Marriage is More than Erotic Companionship

"In separating sex and procreation, contraception encourages a culture to premise marriage on emotional and erotic companionship. This reductionist, disordered view feeds much of today's confusion about what marriage really is." 

VIII. Faithful Families are Not Alone 

"Jesus taught many things about sex and marriage which were difficult to live in both ancient times and today. But we are not alone as we face these difficulties." 

 IX. The Church Will Always Preach the Gospel

"Despite her many failures, the Church cannot shirk the responsibility to preach the Gospel, and so we carry forward her mission of love."

X. We Can Fulfill Our Mission of Love 

"Catholic families will sometimes live as minorities, with different values from their surrounding culture. Our mission of love will require courage and fortitude. Jesus is calling, and we can respond."

Image: "Pope Francis at Vargihna" by Tânia Rêgo/ABr - Agência Brasil. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 br via Commons 

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