“Family Love: A Vocation and a Path to Holiness” is the theme Pope Francis chose for the World Meeting of Families that will be held in Rome in 2022. This theme was inspired by the Pope’s exhortations Amoris Laetitia (2016) and Gaudete et Exsultate (2018). It reminds us that family love is a vocation and a way to holiness. We cannot overlook the importance of understanding and sharing the profound and redeeming significance of family relationships in daily life.
As catechists, it’s wise to help our families examine the true meaning of Christian love. The word love is ubiquitous in the common vernacular. After all, how many of us profess to love a song, movie, a beautiful sunset, or even a certain kind of food. Love emojis abound—one count estimated that there were almost two dozen emojis that could describe this single word! Of course, our common usage of the word love does not require the kind of Christlike self-sacrifice, intimacy, and commitment that define the vocation of family love. The natural starting point for talking about the vocation of family love is when catechizing children about the Sacrament of Matrimony.
When teaching about this sacrament, invite couples who were married in the Church to testify to their vocation and how it strengthens their family as missionary disciples. Testimonies from diverse ethnic and generational groups are essential and add to the richness of the experience. I recently asked a gathering of parents and their families to come up with a metaphor for their marriage and its relation to family love and a path to holiness. A couple of Hawaiian ancestry offered to share their delightful response, which was framed in the context of their culture.
For us, a net is a metaphor for our marriage and its relation to family love and path to holiness. We are Hawaiians who were taught how to “throw net”—ka ‘upena—at a young age. A strong marriage is like a strong net. We are woven together in the Sacrament of Matrimony and rely on Jesus to keep us strong. We attend Mass, read Scripture, and keep informed on the teachings of the Church. We pray together, especially when making important decisions as a couple.
Our net of love must be strong, because Jesus sends us to cast it out over others, especially our children. In every situation, we pray this net holds together our family values and our love for one another. Of course, being human, we have trials and difficulties that sometimes unravel us. When this happens, we go to confession where Jesus forgives, restores, and gives us the grace needed as a couple to repair and throw net once again!
In a video message delivered on June 9, 2021, at an online forum on marriage and family, Pope Francis stated that:
the family is “a domestic Church,” the place in which the sacramental presence of Christ acts between spouses and between parents and children. In this sense, “the experience of love in families is a perennial source of strength for the life of the Church,” constantly enriched by the life of all the domestic Churches. Therefore, by virtue of the Sacrament of Marriage, every family becomes to full effect a good for the Church.
And, may I add, the Sacrament of Matrimony also exemplifies a strong net of family love.
Enjoy Year of the Family resources from Loyola Press that honor families and help families grow in faith and love.