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Defend the Family: Pope Francis at WMOF

Pope serious Antoine Mekary ALETEIA
Photo: Antoine Mekary- Aleteia
Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families: Seven Great Quotes
Pope Francis’s trip to the United States in September centered on his appearance at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. We continue with the second quote in our series.

Festival of Families: “Let us defend the family, because there, there, our future is in play.”

If you’ve ever played a sport like soccer or basketball, you know that defense is critical. In order for your team to get downfield or down court to score, you must first have possession of the ball. Simple, right?  But unless you won the kick off or tip off, getting possession means taking the ball away from the other team through defense.

One of the metaphors Jesus uses to describe His relationship to the Church is that of a shepherd who defends the flock, even with his life: “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 10:14-15). Later, this same image is used to assist bishops and priests in understanding their duty: to care for the flock until the Lord comes. “So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5: 1-4). Thus it should come as no surprise when the pope uses the language of defense, in particular for the family. It is abundantly clear that there are many forces in our culture today that work against the family: consumerism, distraction, overburdened schedules, technology, ideological impositions, separations by circumstance, and the list goes on. Against these movements, the Church must play “defense” even while promoting the truth, goodness, and beauty of marriage on “offense”. (The Subcommittee name itself reflects this two-part strategy: the Promotion and Defense of Marriage)

Pope Francis also references the future. Pope John Paul II wrote that, “The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family” (Familiaris Consortio, no. 75). The place where children come into being and grow is necessarily the place where the future is determined. There are strictly practical ways that this is true. Children are necessary for a society to continue, let alone flourish. No children, no future. No hope. Pope Francis has spoken of this a number of times, in particular when he addresses Europe. “In many quarters,” he said to the European parliament in November of 2014, “we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a ‘grandmother’, no longer fertile and vibrant.” At a general audience in October 2015, Pope Francis asked, “How loyal are we with the promises we make to children, making them come into our world? We make them come into the world and this is a promise — what do we promise them?” One thing that we could promise is to work to help ensure that a child’s right to be born and raised, as far as possible, by their married mother and father, is respected and honored.

In defending the family today, we defend children and make them a promise of a future of hope.

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