Pope Francis Wrote A Letter to You: Did You Receive It?

The buzz has been out since 2013 that Pope Francis has decided to convoke an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to treat the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. The Synod is less than a month away now. On October 5-19, Pope Francis will bring together key religious leaders from around the world for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.

 So what is a Synod on the Family going to do, you might ask. You may have heard about already in the news and even been somewhat worried or confused by what has been reported.

I believe in getting things straight from the source. As stated by the Holy Father in the Instrumentum Laboris: there are “three main areas under discussion in the Church:

  • how the Gospel of the Family can be preached in the present-day; 
  • how the Church’s pastoral care program for the family might better respond to the new challenges today; 
  • how to assist parents in developing a mentality of openness to life and in upbringing their children.”

Pope Francis’ love and concern for families is a vital part of the support families need in today’s culture. Strengthening families is the key to the evangelization of all peoples.

Last February Pope Francis wrote a short letter directly to families to explain what will happen at the Synod. Did you receive it? The familiarity and kindness we see in pictures and videos of Pope Francis comes across also in this letter written to you:

Dear families,

With this letter, I wish, as it were, to come into your homes to speak about an event which will take place at the Vatican this coming October. It is the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is being convened to discuss the theme of “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization”. Indeed, in our day the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel by confronting the new and urgent pastoral needs facing the family.

This important meeting will involve all the People of God – bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world – all of whom are actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer. Such support on your part, dear families, is especially significant and more necessary than ever. This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church. I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task. As you know, this Extraordinary Synodal Assembly will be followed a year later by the Ordinary Assembly, which will also have the family as its theme. In that context, there will also be the World Meeting of Families due to take place in Philadelphia in September 2015. May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.

I am writing this letter to you on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The evangelist Luke tells us that the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, in keeping with the Law of Moses, took the Baby Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord, and that an elderly man and woman, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, went to meet them and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Lk 2:22-38). Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally “seen” salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigour and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.

Dear families, your prayer for the Synod of Bishops will be a precious treasure which enriches the Church. I thank you, and I ask you to pray also for me, so that I may serve the People of God in truth and in love. May the protection of the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph always accompany all of you and help you to walk united in love and in caring for one another. I willingly invoke on every family the blessing of the Lord.

From the Vatican, 2 February 2014
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord


Unless we ourselves have been invited to a Synod by the Pope, we don’t typically have the time to research what’s going on. If we are interested, we might follow it in the news. If we want to get different opinions on what is happening, we might google it. I just did and got 4,420,000 results, at this point most of them from various Catholic news outlets. When the Synod starts, everyone will be reporting on it. How does one sort through all this for really valid information and commentary on the Synod? Secular news will focus on what sells news: spinning controversy and promoting conflict. The Synod and your family (or ministry to families) is too important to be informed by someone’s agenda.

Since the Extraordinary Synod of the Family is about all of us, as we all belong to a family—and in ministry we serve families—My Discover Hope News Notes wanted to do the research for you. It’s that important to all of us. We will be providing articles through September and October that will give context, offer reflection, provide inspiration, and deliver reports from someone actually at the Synod.

This week-end if you’d like to read an excellent article on the vocation of marriage, Deacon Keith A Fournier offers a wonderful reflection:

The Christian family IS a church, the smallest and most vital cell of the Body of Christ. The extended church community is a family of families. This understanding is more than piety—it is sound ecclesiology, solid anthropology and is meant to become reality for those who are baptized into Christ Jesus.

I woke up in Church this morning. Not in a sanctuary with votive candles, but next to my partner in life, holiness and mission, my beloved wife Laurine. The day burst into a flurry of activity with a unique ritual pattern. To the untrained eye, it would look rather hectic. But with the eyes of domestic faith, my wife Laurine see the deeper purpose.

Over all the years of raising five children, and now trying to help raise six grandchildren, soon to be seven, we have come to comprehend the mystery hidden behind the routine, and the simple beauty of the vocation of Christian marriage and family. We have experienced the suffering built into the vocation and, by offering it to Jesus Crucified, have reaped its fruit and tried to learn its wisdom.

There is almost a liturgical sameness to the pattern that emerges after so many years- by practice, developed spiritual purpose, and just plain ordinary human repetition. But it can all become transformative when lived in Jesus Christ. It is where the "rubber hits the road" for most Christians. It is where the universal call to holiness is lived out. Here, in all of its humanness and ordinariness is found the path to sanctity for those called into it.

Read the whole article here. http://www.catholic.org/news/national/story.php?id=56844

by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

If you could address the Bishops at the Synod about what you most deeply need as a family to fulfill your vocation to love, what would that be?



family, synod, pope francis


Family, How to Share Your Faith, Inspiration


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