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Father Muench Says...

Understanding our church as family

Oct. 14, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Family – our Catholic Church is considering seriously the whole notion of family. 

Pope Francis spoke often about family during his visit to the United States.  In his homily at the World Meeting Of Families in Philadelphia he emphasized often the Church’s concern for the whole idea of family.  His hopes are that the Church will be a source of help and strength and love for all families.  For us, Catholics, there is nothing more important than the family.

Today, many of the Church’s Bishops are meeting in Synod with Pope Francis – a Synod on the Family.  There are many lay married couples there also for these discussions.  We are all anxious to learn of the statements and the decisions of the Synod.  The Synod will concern itself with the Catholic Church’s opportunities to be of help and support to all families. For us, Catholics family begins with our reverence for the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Our Savior chose to come among us as one of us in this world in a family.  This places a great deal of reverence to all families for all times.

Let us start by understanding our Catholic Church as a family.  Every time, we gather for Mass, we do so as a family.  So, the first thing each of us should do at Mass is to look around to notice who is present.  This is our family at this Mass, whether it is the small group at our parish Church or the thousands at a Papal Mass.

As family, we should begin each Mass by praying for all who are there and we should expect them to pray for us.  If there are any strangers in our parish Church at a Mass – a visitor of some sort – we want them to know that at this Mass they are part of our family. We are praying for them; we ask them to pray for us.

By the way, as a parish family at Mass, we are united in prayer with all those in the parish – those who are with us at this Mass – and those who are not.  So, as a parish family – we remember in a special way, the sick, the needy, the lonely of the parish.  We remember those of the whole parish family, even those who have decided to separate themselves from the Catholic Church.

The challenge as Catholics is to make each Mass more like a family with each parish more of a family.  As a pastor, I have joined with many parishes in that adventure of making a parish a family.  I have also noticed, many other pastors, priest friends, who have accomplished so much in making their parish a family with a spirit of concern for each other, a happy spirit of parish life and friendship.

This kind of parish brings peace and love to all the families of the parish.  There is a unique spiritual closeness of God’s love and peace for each family.  However, there is always the challenge for each family to make their house into a home.

I enjoy watching the HGTV channel with its many programs of people redoing houses to meet their family desires. There are other programs when the people are shown two different buildings and possible redoing some things – and they are to choose between them.

People put a lot of effort and money into building a good house and one can understand why.  But perhaps there is a danger of forgetting the more important thing – building a home, which is a family of love. The atmosphere in the home is far more important than the quality and quantity of the furnishings.  The atmosphere is determined by the quality of the relationships.

The family is very fragile in our times.  It is under many stresses and difficulties.  Yet, in spite of everything, many parents make enormous sacrifices for their children.  All such parents can draw inspiration from the example of Mary and Joseph.

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