Marriage enrichment: Give the gift of travel to someone you love

The diocese is sponsoring a pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families next year in Dublin, Ireland

By Marion Christiana

As the song says, “It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go…,” and trying to find that perfect gift for your spouse or loved ones can be incredibly frustrating. This year I am going to ask you to think about giving the gift of travel to someone you love. The Diocese of Knoxville has the perfect opportunity for you to blend travel, family time, faith-filled educational experiences, beautiful liturgies experienced with people from all over the world, and, on top of all that, an opportunity to see Pope Francis in person. No wandering through a mall or online shopping site can match all of that!  Before I go off the rails and lose you completely, let me explain what I am talking about. The Diocese of Knoxville is sponsoring a pilgrimage to the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland.

You may be asking yourself what exactly is the World Meeting of Families? The World Meeting of Families 2018 (WMOF 2018) is the continuation of a celebration held every three years that was initially begun by St. John Paul II. This major world event celebrates family as the cornerstone of our spiritual and corporal lives, and the fundamental building block of society and the Church. “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World” is the theme chosen by Pope Francis for the ninth World Meeting of Families in 2018, which will be held Aug. 21-26, 2018, in Dublin.

In preparation for this world event, the WMOF 2018 pastoral planning team has developed companion resources to study Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “The Joy of Love” as we move closer to the event. One resource available is a special WMOF 2018 icon of the Holy Family that has been commissioned for the event. An icon is not like a photograph or a portrait. It is an image that invites us to prayer. This special icon invites people to prayer to prepare their hearts for the World Meeting of Families 2018, and I thought this icon dedicated to the Holy Family could help us all prepare for the birth of Jesus as we progress through the Advent season.

The icon was written by iconographer Mihai Cucu and assisted by the Redemptoristine Sisters of the Monastery of St. Alphonsus in Dublin as part of their ongoing prayer for families. Icons are said to be written instead of painted because they present a visual narrative to us. What I like about this particular icon is that it is in the form of a triptych which looks like a little house with front doors. Here is a very nice description of the icon from the World Meeting of Families 2018 website:

“On these outside doors, we are presented with the Archangels Michael (left) and Gabriel (right), who carry with them the desire of God to protect. Their heads are bowed in adoration and service of God, the Holy One. On the base is the inscription Amoris Laetitia, ‘The Joy of Love,’ the title of Pope Francis’ post-Synodal exhortation on love in the family, the source of our reflections during the World Meeting of Families 2018.

“When the doors of this icon are opened we see in the center the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph seated at table, sharing a meal and sharing their faith. Their faith was celebrated in their home. It is in our home that the reality of God-with-us is communicated and passed on to future generations…”

This icon is a perfect example of the domestic church and reaffirms that families are the first teachers of our faith. With the help of this icon we can bring our family’s hopes, dreams, fears, and frustrations to the table of the Holy Family. They understand what we are going through because they have lived through the same life experiences. I can picture them sharing a meal expressing their sadness at the news that friends are moving to another village to find work, or their excitement that a family member is getting married. I can hear their laughter as Jesus retells a funny anecdote about making a table with Joseph that day. Praying with this icon can help us feel the love of family when we find ourselves alone.

The title “Amoris Laetitia” on the doors reminds us that as Christians we are called to be joyful and bring the gift of God’s love to the world through our relationships. I know that in a family sometimes being joyful is easier said than done. Praying with this icon throughout the Advent season will be a good way to help us focus on the gift of God’s love and the gift of family. We can prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord with the Holy Family as our guide.

You can learn more about the WMOF 2018 icon of the Holy Family, and see an image of it, on theWMOF2018website: If you are interested in joining us in Dublin next August (and I hope you are!), you can find more information about the pilgrimage on our diocesan website at the following location:

This pilgrimage would be a wonderful gift for you and your spouse or loved one, and promises to be a life-changing experience for all of us who take the opportunity to attend.

Thank you in advance for your prayers for a successful World Meeting of Families in 2018, and from my house to yours, may you and your family have a very blessed Christmas and enjoy a happy and peaceful New Year!

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

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