Marriage Enrichment: Preparing for Pope Francis

Diocese is actively engaged in World Meeting of Families as paper visit nears

By Marian Christiana

The Pope is coming! The Pope is coming!

In case you didn’t know, Pope Francis will be coming to the United States in September. He will arrive in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 22. He then heads to New York on Thursday, Sept. 24, and travels to Philadelphia from there, departing the United States on Sunday, Sept. 27.

Some of the highlights of his U.S. trip include a visit with President Barack Obama at the White House, the Mass of Canonization of Blessed Junípero Serra, and his address to a joint session of Congress. Pope Francis will then visit the United Nations in New York on Friday, Sept. 25, and address the United Nations General Assembly. He also will celebrate Mass at Madison Square Garden.

On Saturday, Sept. 26, the pontiff will head to Philadelphia and join more than 1 million pilgrims from all over the world who will be celebrating the last two days of the World Meeting of Families, which will conclude with an outdoor Mass on Sunday afternoon. I am tired just listing this part of his schedule.

Seventy-one pilgrims from our diocese will be attending the last two days of the World Meeting of Families Congress on Thursday and Friday of that week, the Festival of Families on Saturday and the closing Mass on Sunday. We have packed our schedule with additional visits to Philadelphia highlights, but our schedule doesn’t hold a candle to the schedule Pope Francis will be following.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has challenged people all over the world to prepare for this historic World Meeting of Families (whose theme is “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive”) by praying for the event and studying the catechism specifically developed for families.

Archbishop Chaput has emphasized the need to be ready to receive the graces that will be poured down on our country. We can be ready through reconciliation, prayer and study. The prayer specific to this event and the catechism mentioned above can be found on the World Meeting of Families website,

On the diocesan front, we prepared for the World Meeting of Families by offering our own version of a Festival of Families on June 6 at St. John Neumann Parish along with two presentations on the World Meeting of Families and the preparatory catechism on the family on July 9 at the Chancery.

Our speaker on June 6 was Father Leo Patalinghug, who discussed the theology of the domestic Church. He highlighted the home as our first teacher of the faith. He also discussed the messiness of family life along with its many blessings while he treated us to a cooking demonstration.

He encouraged us to keep our lives full of P,B&J – a recipe consisting of patience (with ourselves and others), balance (through prayer), and joy (the joy that will bring others to Christ through our witness). It sounded to me like a pretty good recipe for successfully dealing with family issues. I have been consciously working on my own recipe of P,B&J since I heard Father Leo speak.

Joe Trechter, a trained speaker for the World Meeting of Families, spoke in our diocese on July 9. Joe presented two brief overviews of the WMOF and its catechism on the family. He reviewed the 10 themes present in the catechism, but emphasized two of them. The first theme he spoke in detail about was “Created for Joy.”

This theme stresses that God created us in His image to share in His joy and that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to lead us home to Him. At times it can be very difficult to remember that God loves us, pure and simple. It is always uplifting to remember that God created us to receive His love.

Joe then discussed the theme “Mission of Love,” focusing on how God works through us. God has created us to receive His love and to show His love to others. Our “mission of love” is to be God’s witness in a broken world and be co-workers in His vineyard to heal the broken hearted, always beginning with our own families.

As Father Leo said, “family life is messy.” All of us, family members and friends, are in need of God’s healing touch. It is our responsibility as people of faith to be the hands and feet of Jesus and reflect His love starting with our own circle of influence.

While these speakers were wonderful, they only touched a small percentage of our diocesan family. I encourage you to go to the World Meeting of Families website and check out all the resources available to learn more about the Meeting of Families and the catechism on the family.

The information on the website calls the material a “preparation” for the WMOF. It also can be used as a wonderful follow-up to Pope Francis’ visit. Let’s use his visit as a springboard to enrich our family relationships along with enriching the relationships within our parishes and our communities. Please begin with prayer, prayer for our families, for the families traveling to attend the WMOF and for the papal visit to our country. ■

Mrs. Christiana is coordinator of the diocesan Marriage Preparation and Enrichment Office.

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