An estimated 100,000 pilgrims traveled to Rome to celebrate the World Day of Families with Pope Francis this weekend. In his address to the participants, Pope Francis asked “how is it possible to live the joy which comes from faith, in the family, today? But I ask you also: is it possible to live this joy or is it not possible?” It is by coming to Jesus, the Pope said, that we are able to find joy. He explained that when a man and woman marry, “the couple does not know what will happen, nor what joys and pains await them.” Spouses are not naïve, Pope Francis explained. Marriage is a difficult vocation.
“That is why we need the grace, the grace that comes from the sacrament! The sacraments are not decorations in life – what a beautiful marriage, what a beautiful ceremony, what a beautiful banquet…But that is not the sacrament of marriage. That is a decoration! Grace is not given to decorate life but rather to make us strong in life, giving us courage to go forwards!…Christians celebrate the sacrament of marriage because they know they need it! They need it to stay together and to carry out their mission as parents. ..it is a long journey, not for a brief spell but for an entire life! And they need Jesus’ help to walk beside one another in trust, to accept one another each day, and daily to forgive one another. And this is important!”
In his homily on Sunday, Pope Francis reflected on some “basic features of the Christian family.” He explained that the family prays, the family keeps the faith, and the family experiences joy. “God alone knows how to create harmony from differences. But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.”
-World Pilgrimage of Families, Rome (October 26-27, 2013), (bold added)