25th Marian Family Day at the Shrine of Torreciudad, Spain (September 5, 2015)

My dear brothers and sisters;

most dear families:

1. It gives me great joy to look out on the great number of you taking part in this Marian Day for the Family. Saint Josemaría asked our Lady to shine forth here, obtaining from God many spiritual graces in this place: conversions, vocations of self-giving to God, peace and harmony in families, faithful married love... “Therefore I would like there to be many confessionals,” he said, “so that people can purify themselves in the holy sacrament of Penance and—with their souls renewed—strengthen or renew their Christian life, learning to sanctify and love their work, and bringing into to their homes the peace and joy of Christ.”[1] Almost 50 years later we give thanks to God and our Lady of Torreciudad that those desires have become a happy reality.

Other circumstances have led to making this liturgical celebration especially solemn. First of all, because this Marian Day is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. Also it is taking place in the course of the Marian Year for the Family in the Prelature of Opus Dei, and on the eve of the World Meeting of Families, that the Pope will be presiding over within a few days in Philadelphia.

These coincidences move us to pray with greater intensity for the Synod of Bishops that will be held in Rome this coming October and to accompany all homes with our prayer. Since Pope Francis convoked the Synodal assembly, he has not ceased asking for special prayers from everyone for the results of this Synod. Let us echo this petition by passing it on to many other people. Years ago, St. John Paul II exhorted all Christians: “Family, become what you are.”[2] Let us echo these words, because all of us, individually and collectively, are involved with the Church in the apostolic task of evangelizing. My sisters and brothers, no one should abstain from taking part in this effort: we are the family of God.

2. The present pressure being exerted against the divine plan for the institution of the family is not hidden from anyone. “The family is experiencing,” the Roman Pontiff wrote, “a profound cultural crisis, as are all communities and social bonds. In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children.”[3]

The attacks on the family are nothing new; we can’t let this discourage us, since God’s enemy has always tried to raise obstacles to the divine plan of creation and redemption. But Christ has promised his unfailing assistance to the Church: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). He has sent the Holy Spirit to the Church, and Jesus himself has remained in the Holy Eucharist under the Sacramental Species. Moreover, he has raised marriage between Christians to the dignity of a Sacrament, granting it special graces. Therefore we have no need to fear secular aggression. What we need to do is to pray with optimism and trust, backing up our prayer with the effort to be loyal to the demands of our Christian vocation day after day, each in the state to which God has called us. And to affirm with strength and cordiality the true teaching about marriage, offering parents and children our daily example, fully consistent with the Church’s teachings.

Saint Josemaría gave thanks to God for so many Christian homes that “are a shining witness of the great divine mystery of Christ’s loving union with His Church which St. Paul calls sacramentum magnum, a great sacrament (Eph 5:32).” And he added: “We must strive so that these cells of Christianity may be born and may develop with a desire for holiness, conscious of the fact that the Sacrament of Initiation—Baptism—confers on all Christians a divine mission that each must fulfil in his own walk of life.”[4] Let us unite ourselves to his prayer in heaven, and go to his intercession as well as that of Blessed Alvaro del Portillo, in our constant prayer for the families of the whole world. The happiness of these married couples with their children is very contagious and greatly helps people who come to know this reality; and many conversions and changes of life result: it is the effective apostolate of example.

3. As is evident, the readings of the Mass assure us that the divine plans are always fulfilled, in spite of ourselves. We men can place obstacles due to our lack of correspondence, but our Lord always triumphs. Who would have imagined that the Messiah, born in a small out of the way village like Bethlehem, and living in another practically unknown one, like Nazareth, where he lived for 30 years sanctifying family life, was setting the foundations for the joy of holy homes (see Micah 5:1-4; Mt 1:18-23). God does not view events with our poor human vision; rather, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, he draws good out of evil. But he counts on Christians to spread the fruits of the redemption. Therefore I insist that, in the authentic conduct of those who know they are God’s children, there is no room for omissions or indifference. God and the world are awaiting us each day.

What security is given to us by St. Paul’s words in the second reading: “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). As St. Josemaría said, summing up this teaching of the Apostle: omnia in bonum!—everything, even what might seem most negative, is the seed of a good that God, in his providence, has prepared for those who love him. Thus everything in the life of the home overflows with love and is an opportunity for holiness.

Millions of families all over the world, Christians and non-Christians, live in accord with the divine plan of creation. This doesn’t make the “news,” since the good usually doesn’t create any noise, while contrary behavior unfortunately creates a lot of noise, and even scandal. Nevertheless, as the founder of Opus Dei said, “the normal thing is for the family to be united. There may be friction and differences, but that’s quite normal. In a certain sense it even adds flavor to our daily life. These problems are insignificant; time always takes care of them. What remains firm is love, a true and sincere love which comes from being generous and which brings with it a concern for one another, and which enables the members of the family to sense each other’s difficulties and offer tactful solutions.”[5]

4. What can each one of us do? The Holy Father reminds us that “every Christian family above all can welcome Jesus, listen to him, speak with him, guard him, protect him, grow with him; and thus improve the world. Let us make room in our heart and in our day for the Lord. As Mary and Joseph did … They were not an artificial family, an unreal family. The family of Nazareth urges us to rediscover the vocation and mission of the family, of every family.”[6] That is to say, it challenges us to be people who act normally, and who respect, love and serve others.

In a few minutes, our Lord will make himself present among us under the Sacramental Species. Let us foster the desire that the Eucharist, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote, will influence daily life ever more and more profoundly. “I encourage families in particular,” he said, “to draw inspiration and strength from this sacrament. The love between man and woman, openness to life, and the raising of children are privileged spheres in which the Eucharist can reveal its power to transform life and give it its full meaning.”[7]

My dear sisters and brothers, the Marian feasts during this month are a good opportunity to entrust our petitions to our Lady, above all on the 8th, when we will celebrate liturgically Mary’s birth. Like small children with their mothers on the date of her birthday, let us also ask for a present for ourselves: that she listen to our petitions; that she grant to the Church and the world the joy and peace they so much need. Over the past 25 years, whose anniversary we are celebrating today, so many thousands of happily married couples with their children have passed through this place, through the esplanade of this shrine, who have zealously and joyfully spread, with their daily life, the marvelous reality that what God has joined together man should not separate, because it is the sure path to reach heaven. Amen.

[1] St. Josemaría, Letter to the Regional Vicar of Spain, June 17, 1967.

[2] St. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhort. Familiaris Consortio (November 22, 1981), no. 17.

[3] Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium (November 24, 2013), no. 66.

[4] St. Josemaría, Conversations, no. 91.

[5] St. Josemaría, Conversations, no. 101.

[6] Pope Francis, Audience, December 17, 2014.

[7] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Exhort. Sacramentum Caritatis, February 22, 2007, no. 79.

Romana, n. 61, July-December 2015, p. 260-263.

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