Family. That the family may increasingly be a place of formation in charity, personal growth, and the transmission of the faith.
This month Pope Benedict XVI asks us to pray for families, that everywhere they may grow in love, truth, and faith. The Pope has in mind the 6th World Meeting of Families convening in Mexico City this month to affirm the family as the best place to learn Christian values. We don’t know much about the childhood years of Jesus, but St. Luke’s Gospel tells us that he was obedient to his parents and “advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2: 51-2). Even Jesus was formed in his values by his upbringing. The Holy Family is a model for all families.
Pope Benedict cites charity as the first value one may learn at home. Children witness their parents’ love for God, each other, all their children, friends, neighbors, and strangers. Children of loving parents emulate them not just because of their good example, but because they themselves have been nourished by love. Children from loving families grow up healthy in body, mind, and spirit. They are formed in such a way that they can be a light to the world.
The Holy Father also mentions the “transmission of faith” in this prayer intention. Faith is always a gift of God, yet God uses families to inculcate children in the faith. Children learn faith when they see their parents acting in faith. They also learn faith when their parents speak about their beliefs. Parents who choose not to speak about faith for fear of hindering a child’s free choice are doing the child no favors. We wouldn’t withhold love from a child — why should we withhold faith?
Recently the parents of the beloved St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus were beatified by the Church in recognition of their formation of their daughters, all five of whom entered religious life and became holy women. St. Monica, the mother of the great St. Augustine was also recognized as a saint for transmitting the faith to her son — doing so, famously, through the power of her prayers! So we pray for families. Good families are the future of the Church, the hope of the world.
Reflection — How have you helped by actions and words to form children in love and faith?
Scripture — Ephesians 6:1-4 Children, obey your parents, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise, “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.
Christian Unity. That Christian denominations may strive for full unity so as to be more credible witnesses of the Gospel to a world in need of a “new evangelization.”
Thinking about evangelization this month, the Holy Father asks us to pray, as he often does, for all Christians, not just for Catholics. The Holy Father recognizes that the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ is being communicated to the world by many Christian denominations. The Pope asks us to work together to witness to the Gospel. So we can preach the Gospel credibly, the Pope asks that we Catholics, we Apostles of Prayer, “strive for full unity” with those of other Christian denominations as we hope and pray that they may also seek unity with us. When non-Christians see that Christians are divided, they understandably doubt the message. Without unity, our message that we are one in the Body of Christ seems hypocritical. But our unity — if only we could achieve it! — would underscore the truth that the Kingdom of God is among us. Pope Benedict understands that we live in a time of profound change. As Christians, we can face these changes because we rely on Jesus’ promise that he will be with us to the end of the world. He said that the gates of hell shall never prevail against his Church.
Those who do not hold to Jesus’ promises, however, are bound to experience anxiety in this time of accelerating change. Traditional belief systems throughout the world are failing as relativism and secularism are spreading, hastened by technologies of instantaneous communication. Rather than fear these changes, we Christians should see an unprecedented opportunity for evangelization. What did Pope John Paul II mean when he called for a “new evangelization”? He meant that we Christians should witness boldly to a world longing more than ever to hear and believe the Good News. And we should employ every possible tool of communication to obey Christ’s commission to “make disciples of all nations.” We pray that Christians may unite in the power of the Holy Spirit and lovingly witness to the truth of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord.
Reflection — How can you work in unity with other Christians to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ?
Scripture — 1 Corinthians 1:10 I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.
Daily Offering Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.
Prayer of the Month
God, indivisible Trinity of love, you created us in your image. May husbands and wives unite and raise children in your loving way. We ask that all families find inspiration in the Holy Family of Nazareth and pass along to their children humane and Christian values, establishing a strong foundation for a more loving society. -Adapted from the prayer for the 6th World Meeting of Families.