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Father Muench Says...

Finding much ‘Joy of Love’ in family life

Nov. 15, 2017

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I know I should not be surprised – but I always am –  to see that people have already begun putting up their Christmas decorations on their homes.  It isn’t even Thanksgiving. 

I love Thanksgiving.  I enjoy the meal and I enjoy spending time with family and friends.  I enjoy the football; when we were younger, there was always a touch football game. 

Thanksgiving is about family so today I would like to take a moment to talk about family.  I want to offer a prayer of gratitude to God for my family. I continue to find great happiness in  being able to spend time with my family.  As a priest, I have become a member of many families and I have discovered the love and peace that can only come through a family. 

Thinking of family and family life, I went back to Pope Francis’ letter, “The Joy of Love” (Amoris Laetitia).  As you may remember, this book, an Apostolic Exhortation, is a summary, written by Pope Francis, of the discussions and concerns that came up in the two synods on the Family and Marriage.  These Synods were meetings of Bishops called by the Holy Father each fall that were called for by the Second Vatican Council.  Also, attending these Synods were priests, Sisters and lay men and women. 

In rereading Pope Francis’ Exhortation, I went immediately to the final chapter which is entitled, “The Spirituality of Marriage and the Family.”  This chapter speaks of the presence of God in the lives of all Christians that is influenced profoundly through their family.

Pope Francis writes: “The Lord’s presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes.  The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures.  In that variety of gifts and encounters which deepen communion, God has his dwelling place.”

Personally, I remember as a child discovering God through my own parents – through my own family.  Through so many little and ordinary things God was able to enter into my life.  I was able to discover faith and a belief in God.  There were so many times that now seem so small, so ordinary that God became part of my life. 

As a priest and pastor, I have been blessed to become a part of many families.  It was not difficult to realize how God became a part of family life.  I recognized often how this spirit of faith united each family and gave them the blessing to meet the challenges of life and also to celebrate the many joys that come their way.

I have stood with families during very difficult times, like in the hospital at a crisis time.  I have seen families going though just terrible times but then have a successful result.  I have also been with parents when something has gone dreadfully wrong. 

Afterwards in talking with them, I have acknowledged how difficult this all was and asked how did you do it? how did you make it? And the answer that came back to me was usually “Father, if it had not been for my faith I would not have made it.”

Family life:  thousands of ordinary things, small things but real parts of life.  These small things are gifts from the Lord.  I have discovered that every day in every family, the Lord brings so many opportunities that draw families closer together.  These experiences bring a true communion into family life.  They seem like ordinary experiences yet, they make the family God’s dwelling place.

I like to think that each one of you can remember such experiences, something that just sort of happened but resulted in something special that became a loving moment, a special experience. I believe that it was the Lord who comes with this loving touch into that family.

I finish with something written by Catherine Doherty: “Marriage is a vocation, a call of God to two people to become one, found a home, beget, bear and raise children; and, in this glorious and very hard vocation to become saints themselves, and do all that is in their power to make saints of their children.”  

“Once we understand this, a change will take place in our hearts, and the ultimate goal of life will stand out more and more clearly.  We shall know, and understand well, that we have been created to love.  We shall understand that all vocations we may embrace including marriage, are vocations to love.

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