Birmingham – United Kingdom (Tuesday, 12/30/2014, Gaudium Press) On the occasion of the Feast of the Holy Family, the Archbishop of Birmingham, UK, Archbishop Bernard Longley, wrote a pastoral letter highlighting the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as models for the will of God and exalting the sacrament of marriage as a divine gift and treasure.
“When we think of the Incarnation, the coming of the Son of God as a human being, we have to do so through the experiences of the family into which He was born” says Archbishop Longley.
“Married life,” the Archbishop says “offers the best setting for children to grow and develop.” It is a place where “we learn how to value our own lives, as God’s gift given through our parents, and to value and respect the lives of others through the loving relationship of father and mother.”
He describes “the complementary love of father and mother” as being “a precious gift that we should wish for every child.”
The Archbishop says that Catholics need to try to communicate the true meaning of marriage with “clarity and confidence” whilst at the same time showing “compassion and understanding for those who struggle with family life or fall short of the ideal.”
All the bishops of England and Wales are asking parish communities to consider how they “can support families as they face the challenges of everyday life and seek to deepen their relationships.”
The Bishops’ Conference has prepared a document entitled The Call, the Journey and the Mission – An Invitation from the Bishops of England and Wales to Reflect on the Gift of Marriage and Family Life designed to help deepen Catholics understanding of the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life and to help prepare for the Synod next October. (GPE/LMI)
From the editors desk, with information from Independent Catholic News
The full text of Archbishop Bernard Longley’s Pastoral Letter for the Feast of the Holy Family, 27/28 follows:
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
During these days of Christmastide we often make a special effort to be with members of our families, to welcome those who come to visit or stay with us and to visit those we may not have seen for some time. Our families are precious to us for they remind us of who we are and where we have come from. They are part of God’s gift of life to us and a reminder that life itself is a gift from God.
When we think of the Incarnation, the coming of the Son of God as a human being, we have to do so through the experiences of the family into which He was born. Mary and Joseph were the first influences in the life of Jesus, the first people from whom He experienced human love. They taught Him what He first learnt as a human being about the love of His heavenly Father and they taught Him how to pray as a child.
St Luke’s Gospel tells us that the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him. In the Temple they met Simeon and Anna who both spoke prophetically about God’s plan for this child. They could see that Jesus would bring the deliverance of Jerusalem and salvation…for all the nations to see. They shared this remarkable message with Mary and Joseph who must have been amazed.
Like all children, our Lord was deeply influenced by the values and attitudes he learnt as a member of his family. Our Lady and St Joseph would have told Him about the remarkable circumstances surrounding His childhood.
Through is parents our Lord would have felt confirmed in the mission He had received from His Father in heaven.
The complementary love of father and mother is a precious gift that we should wish for every child. We know today that many single parents courageously and generously look after their children and often struggle to give them a fine up-bringing. They are often helped in this by grandparents and members of the wider family. Even so, the experience of growing up with both father and mother to teach and guide, to console and love us unconditionally is an invaluable blessing in life.
That is one of the reasons that the Church cherishes the Sacrament of Marriage. Married life offers the best setting for children to grow and develop. We learn how to value our own lives, as God’s gift given through our parents, and to value and respect the lives of others through the loving relationship of father and mother.
As Catholics it is important that we try to communicate to others, with clarity and confidence, the truths that come to us through Jesus Christ and his Church. The teaching of Christ recognises the union of man and woman in marriage as part of God’s plan. It also echoes his own experience of the life he shared with Mary and Joseph at Nazareth.
At the same time Christ shows compassion and understanding for those who struggle with family life or fall short of the ideal. The Church seeks to be a place and a community where we recognise that we all fall short of perfection and where we are called without exception to repentance and forgiveness.
As we prepare for next October’s Synod of Bishops under the title The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World we are again invited to reflect on the lived reality of family life. I would ask you to consider how our parish communities can support families as they face the challenges of everyday life and seek to deepen their relationships.
To help us to do this the Bishops’ Conference has prepared a document entitled The Call, the Journey and the Mission – An Invitation from the Bishops of England and Wales to Reflect on the Gift of Marriage and Family Life. I hope that you will be able to use this document as a way of deepening our understanding of the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life and to help us prepare together for the Synod next October.
In the meantime, I pray that on the threshold of a New Year the Holy Family of Nazareth may inspire and encourage us to be true to Christ and to be his faithful witnesses in the world and in our own family homes.
May you and your family be richly blessed this Christmas season and as the coming year unfolds.
Yours devotedly in Christ
Archbishop of Birmingham