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Bishop Brian Dunn and Debbie Aker, catechetical consultant for our diocese, are in Ireland this week participating in the World Meeting of Families 2018.
Following are their dispatches from Dublin:

Sunday, Aug 26

From Debbie Aker:

WMFMassCrowdA sense of Pilgrimage...

After walking 5 km to attend Mass, standing for an hour and a half during Mass, then walking another 5 km back to the bus stop gives you a lot of time to pray, reflect and chat. Often times praying for the strength to take one more step. And the strength comes. Someone will smile at you, you will see a man guiding his elderly mom in a wheelchair or a tandem stroller with three kids happily rolling along. Surrounded by all the love shown by these people to their loved ones; you are also carried along.

It was a blessing to be one of the motley crew making their way to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis. The on-again off-again rain did not dampen the spirits of the folks around me. We were not a solemn procession of pious Christians, rather a jovial and reverential crowd going to Mass with their beloved leader.

In my corral F14 C, (a corral is a cordoned off area in which a group of people were assigned) intermingled with the gestures and prayers durning Mass were water bottles being passed around and hot dogs eaten ... something you don’t see every Sunday at Mass. For the most part the people in my corral were from Ireland and I never felt their actions as being disrespectful to the Mass but rather an integration of their spiritual and physical needs.

For me the most moving part of the Mass was the Penitential Rite * where Pope Francis went off script and asked for pardon and forgiveness for the abuses suffered by many at the hands of priests, bishops and religions orders and institutions. Taking many of the concerns he heard while meeting with victims of abuse in Dublin, Pope Francis carried them into prayer and acknowledging the damage to the victims.

From the Pentential Rite given by Pope Francis at the closing Mass
(source: zenit.org)

“Yesterday, I met people who are victims of abuse of power, conscience and sexuality. By putting together what they have told me, I would like to put these crimes before the mercy of God and ask forgiveness.

“We ask for forgiveness for the abuses in Ireland, for the abuse of power and conscience, for the sexual abuse perpetrated by qualified members of the Church. In a special way, we apologize for the abuses committed in different types of institutions run by religious men and women and other members of the Church. And we ask forgiveness for the cases of exploitation at work to which, many minors have been subjected. ”

“We ask forgiveness for those times where, as a Church, we have not looked at victims of various types of abuse seeking justice and truth, and with concrete actions. We ask forgiveness.”

“We ask forgiveness for some members of the hierarchy who did not take care of these painful situations and who remained silent. We ask forgiveness.”

“We ask forgiveness for the children who were torn from their mothers and for all the times that single mothers who sought to find their children who had been taken away from them, or children who were looking for their mothers, were told that was a ‘mortal sin.’ It is not a mortal sin, it is the Fourth Commandment. We ask forgiveness.”

“May the Lord preserve and grow this state of shame and repentance, and give us the strength to commit ourselves to work so that it never happens again and for justice to be done.
Amen!”

 

As we were leaving Mass, a saw a person with a placard stating they had been a victim of sexual abuse by a priest.

And who knows what other hurts, disappointments, or fears came to Mass with all these pilgrims. What words of comfort and reassurance they received from hearing the Word, Pope Francis’ Homily and in Eucharist. And the witness of loving strangers along the way.

Homily of Pope Francis for the closing of the World Meeting of Families

WMFPopeFlag"You have the words of eternal life!” (Jn 6:68)
At the end of this World Meeting of Families, we gather as a family around the table of the Lord. We thank God for the many blessings we have received in our families. And we want to commit ourselves to living fully our vocation to be, in the touching words of Saint Therese, “love in the heart of the Church”.
In this precious moment of communion with one another and with the Lord, it is good to pause and consider the source of all the good things we have received. Jesus reveals the origin of these blessings in today’s Gospel, when he speaks to his disciples. Many of them were upset, confused or even angry, struggling to accept his “hard sayings”, so contrary to the wisdom of this world. In response, the Lord tells them directly: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Jn 6:63).

 

 

 

 

 

 


WMFPopeMassThese words, with their promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, are teeming with life for us who accept them in faith. They point to the ultimate source of all the good that we have experienced and celebrated here in these past few days: the Spirit of God, who constantly breathes new life into our world, into our hearts, into our families, into our homes and parishes. Each new day in the life of our families, and each new generation, brings the promise of a new Pentecost, a domestic Pentecost, a fresh outpouring of the Spirit, the Paraclete, whom Jesus sends as our Advocate, our Consoler and indeed our Encourager.
How much our world needs this encouragement that is God’s gift and promise! As one of the fruits of this celebration of family life, may you go back to your homes and become a source of encouragement to others, to share with them Jesus’ “words of eternal life”. For your families are both a privileged place for, and an important means of, spreading those words as “Good News” for everyone, especially those who long to leave behind the desert and the “house of bondage” (cf. Jos 24:17) for the promised land of hope and freedom.
In today’s second reading, Saint Paul tells us that marriage is a sharing in the mystery of Christ’s undying fidelity to his bride, the Church (cf. Eph 5:32). Yet this teaching, as magnificent as it is, can appear to some as a “hard saying”. Because living in love, even as Christ loved us (cf. Eph 5:2), entails imitating his own self-sacrifice, dying to ourselves in order to be reborn to a greater and more enduring love. The love that alone can save our world from its bondage to sin, selfishness, greed and indifference to the needs of the less fortunate. That is the love we have come to know in Christ Jesus. It became incarnate in our world through a family, and through the witness of Christian families in every age it has the power to break down every barrier in order to reconcile the world to God and to make us what we were always meant to be: a single human family dwelling together in justice, holiness and peace.
The task of bearing witness to this Good News is not easy. Yet the challenges that Christians face today are, in their own way, no less difficult than those faced by the earliest Irish missionaries. I think of Saint Columbanus, who with his small band of companions brought the light of the Gospel to the lands of Europe in an age of darkness and cultural dissolution. Their extraordinary missionary success was not based on tactical methods or strategic plans, but on a humble and liberating docility to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It was their daily witness of fidelity to Christ and to each other that won hearts yearning for a word of grace and helped give birth to the culture of Europe. That witness remains a perennial source of spiritual and missionary renewal for God’s holy and faithful people.
Of course, there will always be people who resist the Good News, who “murmur” at its “hard words”. Yet like Saint Columbanus and his companions, who faced icy waters and stormy seas to follow Jesus, may we never be swayed or discouraged by the icy stare of indifference or the stormy winds of hostility.
But let us also humbly acknowledge that, if we are honest with ourselves, we too can find the teachings of Jesus hard. How difficult it is always to forgive those who hurt us; how challenging always to welcome the migrant and the stranger; how painful joyfully to bear disappointment, rejection or betrayal; how inconvenient to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, the unborn or the elderly, who seem to impinge upon our own sense of freedom.
Yet it is precisely at those times that the Lord asks us: “What about you, do you want to go away too?” With the strength of the Spirit to “encourage” us and with the Lord always at our side, we can answer: “We believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:69). With the people of Israel, we can repeat: “We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God” (Jos 24:18).
Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, each Christian is sent forth to be a missionary, “a missionary disciple” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 120). The Church as a whole is called to “go forth” to bring the words of eternal life to all the peripheries of our world. May our celebration today confirm each of you, parents and grandparents, children and young people, men and women, religious brothers and sisters, contemplatives and missionaries, deacons and priests, to share the joy of the Gospel! Share the Gospel of the family as joy for the world!
As we now prepare to go our separate ways, let us renew our fidelity to the Lord and to the vocation he has given to each of us. Taking up the prayer of Saint Patrick, let each of us repeat with joy: “Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me”. With the joy and strength given by the Holy Spirit, let us say to him with confidence: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). 

 

Saturday, Aug 25

From Bishop Brian Dunn:

WMFFestofFamFestival of Families

This gathering of 82,500 people at Croke Park in Dublin included Irish dancing, classical music, children’s choirs as well as testimonies given by families from across the globe.

A long touching program preceded the arrival of the Pope. The music, dancing, participation by professionals and locals was spectacular. One highlight for me was the presentation by Riverdance, with moving photography in the background and the coordinated participation of 500 other children from dance schools around Ireland encompassing the entire stadium.

Some of the singers included Daniel O’Donnell, Andrea Bocelli and Nathan Carter, all accompanied by the Orchestra of Ireland. Particularly touching performances came from a choir of homeless people from Dublin, Cork and Waterford as well as from a choir of children including those who were signing for the deaf. Testimonies from families spoke of the influence of social media on families, the importance of grandparents and the hope and support engendered and experienced in families. The program was a “once-in-a-lifetime theatrical experience”!!

Pope Francis received an enthusiastic welcome as he arrived in the stadium and drove around the whole area. His address focused on the importance of the family and was very practical including acknowledging the importance of the words, “Please”, “Thank you”, and “I’m sorry”. 

As our Holy Father tweeted: “Our world needs a revolution of love! Let that revolution begin with you and your families!”

 

Friday, Aug 24

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Rainbow after a heavy rain during Mass. "The rain is never very far away in Dublin. It tends to sneak up on you." - Debbie Aker

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Bishop Dunn in procession at Mass (Photo by Debbie Aker)

Friday, Aug 24

From Bishop Brian Dunn:

Topic: Pope Francis on the Gospel of the Family: What is Jesus Calling our Families to be?
Presenter: Bishop Robert E. Barron, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, USA

Bishop Barron spoke on Chapters 7-9 of Amoris Latitiae (AL)

Chapter 7
Bishop Barron said that the Pope stands in the tradition of a virtue ethic as opposed to a rules ethic; if we present the moral life only to rules than it is impoverished
- virtue is an inner disposition toward the good; it occurs by repeated habits; the family is the place for the formation of virtue
- Bishop Barron said that learning the moral life is like laying bricks; through daily long steady process; must be a lived experience;
- Bishop Barron used the example of baseball and said that the rules of baseball are learned through experience; It is virtue that makes us free; when virtue is found in us, you can live a moral life very freely; the rules of the moral life are learned through living a life of virtue. You learn the rules of baseball by playing the game;
- Bishop Barron said that freedom is the result of virtue; the virtuous life builds freedom;
- Pope Francis says that moral formation happens in the family; courage, prudent, self sacrifice are fostered by siblings and led by parents; there will be tensions, because it involves correction; in learning the game of baseball, there are many corrections necessary.
- in the moral life lots of correction is needed; children need to know their right AND their responsibilities
- Bishop Barron noted that masters, heros and models are necessary to learn the moral life: find the good person and imitate them; saints play a decisive role;
- AL 274 - the family is the first school of human values where we learn the wise use of virtue
- chapter 7 has a section on communication technology; this is really a miracle of grace; but there are problems; Pope Francis deals with these under hope; Bishop Barron noted that the best things come after a time of waiting; technology gives us an illusion of instant gratification; this is a problem for we become impatient; need to provide an education in hope; technology is undermining our capacity for real communication: The book I, Gen describes some of the issues with technology: people are compromised in their capacity to relate, to pick up social cues, to form relationship; they grow up more slowly; uncomfortable with socialization; the solution is that they need to have more personal relationships; parents need to know what is coming through these devices;
- AL 280 – education in sexuality: sex education was called for by Vatican II; we need to use sciences to understand our sexuality; Bishop Barron says that the proper moral training must come through love; to love is to will the good of the other; love is the break out of self and want to be concerned for others; purpose of sexuality is for love, meant to offer our self for others;
- modesty: the natural means to protect privacy; sexuality as self gift; need to surrender ourselves to God, not protect ourselves; learn the language of the body: language of love; how to train our bodies in self gift; Bishop Barron spoke of the culture of neo gnosticism where a person define themselves; I determine the values of my life;
- AL 56 – ideology of gender; this is an effort to replace the creator; culture of self invention; instead we need to be aware of the “great power that is already at work in you” (Ephesians)
Chapter 8 deals with the formation in the moral life; the church is calling people to heroism; however people obviously struggle to attain this; historically there have been two ways of dealing with those who struggle: casting them off or offering mercy and reinstatement; this chapter deals with the issue of what do we do when people fail

Chapter 9 deals with the spirituality of family; Vatican II taught the holiness of the laity; Bishop Barron notes that the trinity is present in the temple of the family;
- If we look at worship, we look at our highest value: we worship our highest value and this organizes our life; Bishop Barron described adoration as being mouth to mouth to God;
- In marriage: everyone in family are together looking to God; the transcendent third (Aristotle) is always necessary; together they fall in love with God;

Topic: Marriage, the Family and the Search for Christian Unity.
Moderator of Panel: Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

- In preparation for Vatican II, Cardinal Bea emphasized three themes: Christian unity, relation with the Jews and religious freedom
- the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity has three responsibilities: to keep the idea of Christian Unity alive in the Catholic Church; to build up relations with all the churches; to provide the organization of the dialogues of unity;
- Over the years, there have been huge successes. Recently in his visit to Geneva, the Pope said that we need to change our mindset: we need to see the whole of baptized world as a fundamental unity; not let difficulties get in the way; Another example is the Day of Prayer for the Middle East in Bari; At this day, serious conversation took place among all the leaders of the area.

Bishop Farrell spoke of two issues connected with marriage as an ecumenical issue: first, there are different viewpoints on marriage as sacrament due to different approaches; Anglican dialogue just finish document on ecclesiology; now moving toward making moral decisions; rich understanding by Orthodox and their understanding of marriage;
- The second issue involves interdenominational marriage and the reception of communion; when there is a special need, couples might receive communion; however how is this need to be identified?

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Fr. John Comiskey, Cardinal Brady and Bishop Dunn

Thursday, Aug 23

From Bishop Brian Dunn:

Fr James Martin S.J., Editor-at-large, Jesuit Magazine America
“Showing Welcome and Respect in our Parishes for LGBT’ People and their Families.”
Fr. James Martin spoke of the challenges connected with how to welcome LGBT and their families into parishes. He noted that this could be an opportunity for grace. He began with many stories about how the Church does not welcome LGBT people. He noted his experience with Out at St Paul Church, NY. He said that how someone is welcomed affects their relationship with God. He wanted to speak about how to help parishes be more welcome.

First he provided some fundamental insights:
- LGBT people are Catholic people and are part of the local Church. We need to welcome them to a church where they belong.
- LGBT people do not choose their orientation or gender.
- LGBT people have often been treated like lepers in our church (and in society). They are 5 times more lightly to be involved in suicide. He noted that the more religious the family, the more possible that they might commit suicide. They often only feel rejection from the church. He mentioned that when a child comes out, then the family goes into closet. They all need to be welcomed by the church.
- LGBT people bring gifts to the church: because they have been marginalized, they seem to be naturally compassionate; they are very forgiving of pastors and others; they are known for perseverance and they must make a conscious decision to be part of church.
- LGBT people long to know God: the Father’s love, the compassion of Jesus, an experience of the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments
- LGBT people are loved by God and so should we love them; knowing that in the complexity of lives

Then he offered suggestions for parishes, with the understanding that one size does not fit all:
- He called all to examine our own attitudes toward gay orientation. He asked whether we see family as responsible for gay orientation. Is there discrimination in our hearts, e.g., do we expect more from LGBT people than others, regarding those who are following the teaching on sexuality.
- He invited us to listen to the experience of LGBT people and their families. What was it like to grow up as gay? What is it like to have a gay child? We need to trust that people are growing in their faith
- We need to acknowledge LGBT people as full members of the parish.
- We need to apologize to LGBT people if they have been hurt by the church.
- We must not reduce LGBT people to the issue of sexuality. They lead rich lives and many help the poor and are involved in the community;
- We must include LGBT people in ministries. We need to recognize that we all do not live up to the call of the Lord.
- We need to acknowledge their individual gifts, e.g., good voice, or other gifts.
- We need to invite every person on the parish staff to welcome LGBT: are all people able to welcome, e.g., priest, deacon, catechist, hospitality people?
- We need to sponsor special programs; weekend retreat, speakers, book club, outreach ministries, Fortunate families is a ministry for families with gay children: this can give parents an opportunity to share their experience.
- We need to advocate for LGBT people, to have a moral voice for a persecuted community. In some countries LBGT issues are life issues. Every discrimination must be avoided (Catholic Catechism); 1987 statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says we need to avoid persecution. We need to be prophetic, to be like Jesus who reached out to those who were on the margins.

Father Martin then reflected on two gospel stories where Jesus reached out to those on the margins:
- Roman centurion, whose servant is sick; Jesus says he would visit and the centurion states: “Lord I am not worthy ...”, The story is about the power to heal and how Jesus treats the outsider.
- the story of Zacchaeus: Jesus is making his way toward Jerusalem; large crowds; tax collectors colluding with Roman authorities; symbol of LGBT Catholics; crowd get in the way of encountering Jesus, so Zacchaeus climbs the tree to see who Jesus was. Jesus gives a welcome to Zacchaeus and people grumble. An offer of mercy often calls forth lots of criticism, but he stands his ground. Conversion takes place; he experienced community first and then conversion. Welcome and respect come first: Jesus treats them with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Father Martin concluded by saying that there are two places to stand: those who grumble and those who welcome Zacchaeus.

Father Martin’s talk is a wonderful place to start a dialogue with the LGBT community. He did not mention the issue of gay marriage.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Philippines.
Topic: “Choose Life: Pope Francis on the ‘throw-away’ Culture.
Cardinal Tagle began by considering a history of the concept of a “throw away culture.” In a throw away culture: obsolescence is planned. This began in the 1930s when people were encouraged to buy because this would support the country. It was an effort to make people dissatisfied with a product. Gradually this developed with product design. These thoughts influenced our thoughts on what is or is not expendable. By the 1960s this idea of planned obsolescence is accepted. As a result, the thought was that we need more so that we can throw away more.

We need to ask how do we increase durability. We need to review the business model. We need to throw away the “throw away culture”. This influences how we deal with values, culture and life.

Pope Francis speaks about integral ecology and environment ecology. Human beings must care for humans. We need to take care of the environment and human beings.

1. We need to recover the meaning of “person”. We believe in one God, but three persons. We do not believe in three individuals. “Person” involves relation, while “individual” is alone. Identity comes from relationship. Person means that I have a center outside of self. Focus on individuals will make us throw away people.

2. Utilitarian ethic causes us to link others to their utility or usefulness. We gauge people according to their market value. Pope Francise called us to be aware of the throw away culture as it gets applied to the unborn, refugees, migrants, seniors, etc. The Pope calls us to a personal conversion. We need to focus on goodness, and need to care for people. We are the Body of Christ.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, England.
Theme: Support and Preparation for Marriage in the Light of Amoris Laetitia

We all grow up in a family, with lots of tension; we know our own family experience. God is certainly at work. We need to wonder at God’s call to holiness. Way our lives unfold is the way God calls us. We are made for holiness; the best way to view our lives is to see steps on the journey to God. Pope Francis reminds us to contemplate on the holiness that is seen in parents, old religious, etc. This holiness grows through small actions and this holiness grows through the Holy Spirit.

Cardinal Nichols reflected on what aspects in the life of Jesus did he experience in the life of his parents: his father was persevering; he was faithful; his mother was different and approached every day as a gift of God; he taught him that “this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” We must never stop loving our family.

Parishes need to make room for new couples. What is this special thing that we can offer: guidelines for preparation for marriage; welcome and solidarity.

Many couples see marriage as a very private thing; as Catholics we want to help couples to see a wider vision of marriage. He suggested the following elements:
1. Your hopes are our hopes. We will journey with you. Be assured that God is with you in your love
2. We need to be humble and realistic. In marriage preparation, the Holy Spirit has been there before us; he has been with couple ; couples come with their own wounds;
3. In marriage preparation we need to find the right language; appeal to their generosity; gap between official church teaching and everyday language; right language is essential; how to get talking; right language for their relation.
4. We can help the couple to understand the vocation they are receiving from God; how did they know that this person was the right person for you.
5. Balance of the gift of love for one another and openness to the gift of fruitfulness; children are a gift and a treasure
6. We can address the gift of sexuality, the gift of the body; began in the womb; infant uses touch; baby uses hands to eat, to touch; hands are precious, channels of mercy; most sacraments have elements of touch; Jesus was nailed to cross through hands; in marriage you live out love through hands and bodies;
7. Marriage preparation is a journey; always preparing; when couple says I do and they are starting a journey; we set out in life deciding to love, but we need to love what we have been given; we need to learn how to sense how God is present; highlight moments of grace must be shared; we grow in an understanding of God’s timetable;
8. Readiness for the wedding liturgy; liturgy gathers together all we believe about marriage; Pope says the liturgy is a lived reality; permanently influences the whole of marriage; marriage becomes liturgical; all elements of marriage invite us to reflect on the lived reality of marriage. Words and gestures of the liturgy come alive in married life;
accompaniment: intentional welcoming; consider ways where marriage is celebrated at Sunday liturgy, to instruct whole community on marriage; celebration of married couples; ways of helping couples to being together; love needs time and space;

There is no such thing as a “normal” marriage; school can be time to meet couples;
love is always a gift of Gd; sacramental preparation done for families with parents and children;

brokenness and fragility: the mercy of god; the name of god is mercy; mercy is the shape that god’s love takes when it comes face to face with our failures;

we may judge ourselves as unworthy, but Pope affirms that family life can be a shepherding of persons.

 

 

Wednesday, Aug 22

From Debbie Aker:

WMFMassDay2
Morning Mass on Wednesday, August 22

Another busy day of queuing for buses, lunch vouchers, tickets for the panel discussions, workshops and lunch. It’s difficult to get 37,000 people to and from the Conference site and have them all fed in two and a half hours.

WMFCardinalI sat in on the Panel Discussion entitled Looking to Jesus: Presenting Commitment to Marriage as a Path to Joy today. This discussion was moderated by our own Cardinal Gerald Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec, who by the way still has fond memories of the time he spent in Cheticamp this summer. Using some lyrics from Celine Dion’s The Power of Love  he expanded on the power of love found in the sacrament of marriage, the relational bonds of family and the power of God’s love for us. Three couples, one from Australia, one from Mexico and one couple of Philippine nationality making their home in Northern Ireland, witnessed to how important their faith is to sustaining their relationships especially in times of uncertainty and suffering. Though highlighting very different ways of embodying their faith, they showed uniformity in the belief that the family is where we first encounter God and where we learn to live out or faith.

As I reflect on todays events, I would like to share a wonderful little prayer - Prayer for Good Humour - given to us in our Conference package. It will help any of us we as we experience the inevitable frustration of being stuck in a lineup and support us in our familial relationships.

 

Prayer for Good Humour

Grant me, O Lord, good digestion,
And also something to digest.
Grant me a healthy body,
And the necessary good humour to maintain it,
Grant me a simple soul that knows
To treasure al that is good
And that doesn’t frighten easily at the sight of evil,
But rather finds the means to put things
Back in their place.
Grant me a soul that knows no boredom,
Grumbling, sighs, and laments,
Nor excess of stress, because of that
Obstructing thing call “I.”
Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humour.
Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke
To discover in life a bit of joy,
And to be able to share it with others.

St. Thomas More

 

 

Tuesday, Aug 21

From Bishop Brian Dunn:

BishopDunnDublin2018The World Meeting of Families started in 1994 as an international event of prayer, catechesis and celebration that would draw participants from around the globe. It aims to strengthen the bonds between families and bear witness to the crucial importance of marriage and the family to all of society.

The theme for each World Meeting of Families is chosen by the Pope. In choosing The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World, as the theme for the ninth World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland, Pope Francis invites us to reflect on a theme that was central to the recent Synods of Bishops that led to his post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia: On Love in the Family. The World Meeting of Families 2018 will explore each of these dimensions of theme the Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World and what it means for families and the Church today.

Today we had the Opening Evening prayer of the Gathering. It was a wonderful celebration of faith where people from all countries and continents gathered to celebrate the importance of family. A highlight was the message from Pope Francis as he awaits his visit here on Saturday and Sunday.

Part of this event involves a pilgrim walk to various churches. I visited two of these churches today: St. Theresa’s Carmelite Church where many of the early Mercy Sisters were buried and where the famous Sculpture of the “Dead Christ” (similar to the one in St. John’s NL); the other church was Our Lady of Mount Carmel where we were invited to pray for the gift of Love at the heart of the Family.. This is where the relics of St. Valentine are buried and it was a great place to pray for the gift of love for families and for our diocese.

Perhaps we could pray the Official Prayer for the Meeting of Families:

God, our Father, We are brothers and sisters in Jesus your Son, One family, in the Spirit of your love. Bless us with the joy of love. Make us patient and kind, gentle and generous, welcoming to those in need. Help us to live your forgiveness and peace. Protect all families with your loving care, especially those for whom we now pray: [pause and remember family members and others by name]. Increase our faith, strengthen our hope, keep us safe in your love, make us always grateful for the gift of life that we share. This we ask, through Christ our Lord, Amen. Mary, mother and guide, pray for us.Saint Joseph, father and guide, pray for us. Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us. Saint Loius and Marie Zelie Martin, pray for us.

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From Debbie Aker:

dreamstime churchAfter a few troubles along the way; flights being cancelled and luggage arriving just today (only 2 days late!!), I’m taking a little time out to rest and gather myself for evening prayer.

Dublin is such an historic city being settled first by the Vikings. I learned about the Viking settlement during a tour of Christ Church Cathedral. First constructed as a Roman Catholic Church and like many Irish Church’s became Anglican as a result of the Reformation. But it still maintains a side chapel, Chapel of Our Lady. If you ever have the opportunity to tour about with Bishop Brian you’ll be in for a treat. He’s great at expanding on what the tour guides are saying and has his own special places of interest to share. It seems like there are more tourists in Dublin than Dubliners.

I’d like to share a story about my bus ride home tonight. The bus was filled to overflowing. An older lady boarded the bus and she resembled the Irish Washer Woman often portrayed in films. She was petit with a face well aged. The young girl sitting beside me got up and let this woman take her place. We began to chat. She shared with me that she was returning home after spending the evening on O’Connell Street working with the homeless. Commenting she had learned to care for those less fortunate from her parents example. She and a few lady’s also get together and prayer the rosary. She attributed the prayers to giving her the strength and grace to care for those in need. Before I could get her name, she had reached her stop.

As she got up she wished me a safe trip home and blessed me. This tender and compassionate stranger was the face of God for me this evening. And her story relates so much to the importance of the family in passing on the faith.

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