This year we had the conclusion of the Synod on the Family where the Pope gathered cardinals, bishops, lay men and women from around the world to discuss various issues addressing families and how the Church needs to respond to these needs. This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, so I thought what better time to talk about it then now.
A primary theme that came out of the synod was that of accompaniment. The Lord accompanies a family that is formed when a man and a woman marry, the Church is to accompany a family as they face difficult trials and struggles and to help them to live out their faith. One of the areas that was discussed and received the greatest attention from the press is regarding couples who have divorced and remarried outside of the Church, this is addressed under a chapter titled “Family and pastoral accompaniment”. Also in this chapter is addressed the topic of homosexual unions and civil laws addressing same sex marriages. Many are upset that more definitive teachings for some of these situations were not spelled out, some desiring more restrictive teachings and other desiring more open teachings. But instead the Synod and the document attempt to apply our Church teaching to these conditions that are becoming more common concerns to many families and to encourage accompaniment in each specific situation.
The concept of accompaniment could be said to be what is at the root of the family itself. The family are the people that are with you throughout your life. From your birth to your death they share in your life. When things are good or bad, rich or poor, sick or well, I’m sounding like wedding vows already. And the connection to children is even more obvious in the complete dependence that we all have at the beginning upon our parents. But even after that dependence has diminished, we are meant to accompany one another in our families throughout all of our lives. Not just through good and bad in each of our individual lives, but also in those times when there are disagreements and arguments and hurting of each other. Even when one may appear to turn away from the family in their actions or words, we are still called to be there for them. We try to maintain a relationship, not to affirm or encourage an action that we believe is hurting them, or that is bad for them, but to maintain a relationship because we still care for them, love them, and want to be there to help if they are willing to accept it.
These are the same ways that the Church is encouraged to be with individuals, with families. To be a part of that family. It is of course always easiest when things seem to be going well and there is no conflict or disagreements. But even when there is difficulty, or disagreements, or arguments, even abandonment. Especially in those times is when the Church is being called on to still be there for us. Not to encourage or support any actions that are hurting us, but to be there during our challenges, to keep that relationship of family that was formed in our baptism, to still care and love each of us and to want to be there to help, if we are willing to accept it. May you and your family have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.