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. Here is the third quote in our series, from the meeting with bishops in Philadelphia.
“The family is the fundamental locus of the covenant between the Church and God’s creation.”
“Locus” is not a word that is often used in conversation. According to the Merriam- Webster Dictionary, locus means: “the place where something is situated or occurs; a center of activity, attention, or concentration.” You could say that Philadelphia was a the locus of the pope’s trip to the United States; despite the other cities included in the trip, the Mass at the end of the World Meeting of Families was its main focus.
“Covenant” is a word with a long tradition in the Church. It means the exchange of persons; not a contract in which each person agrees to do something, but a promise to be someone. “I will be your God and you will be my people.” “I take you to be my wife” or “I take you to be my husband.” God makes a covenant with his people in creating them, and renews this covenant throughout the Old Testament as he chooses a people (the Jews) to be his own. The definitive covenant occurs when Jesus Christ offers himself for the sins of the world.
Now, looking at this quote from Pope Francis’s meeting with the Bishops in Philadelphia, we could read it as: the family is the primary place where God and the Church meet and give themselves to each other. This underscores the vital importance of the family. It is the ordinary means by which God enters into a person’s life. A strong family that brings children up to know, love, and serve the Lord is so important for the life of the Church that it is “fundamental.” While God’s grace can reach persons anywhere and anytime, it is the family that He ordained for that purpose. As the Holy Father said in his speech at the festival of families, “God always knocks at the door of hearts. He likes to do this. It comes from His heart. But, do you know what He likes best? To knock on the doors of families and find families that are united, to find families that love each other, to find the families that bring up their children and educate them and help them to keep going forward and that create a society of goodness, of truth, and of beauty.”
God desires to give his life and his grace to every human person, from the very beginning of their existence, which occurs within another human person. In the womb, God blesses a child (c.f. Ps 139:13). The Holy Spirit is present all along the way— He brings a man and a woman together in love, unites them in marriage, gives life through their act of love, strengthens a woman to give birth, and animates the continued growth of the family. He is a continual source of life for a man and woman united in sacramental marriage.
The family is also the place of the cross: how could it be otherwise, if it is the “locus of the covenant” which was wrought in the blood of Jesus? Infertility, disease, tragedy, pain and sin also enter into human experience through the family. God and the family meet and give themselves to each other through suffering as well as joy. This is a fundamental truth proclaimed by the Holy Father in September.