In a few months, thousands of lay people, priests and bishops from around the world will gather in Philadelphia for the triennial World Meeting of Families, initiated twenty years ago by Pope St. John Paul II to highlight the dignity and importance of the family in human culture. The multi-day congress will feature an international line-up of speakers on theological and practical issues that affect family life.
In addition to those sessions, the World Meeting of Families will draw multitudes—some estimate as many as 2 million—to the Papal Mass and “Festival of Families” featuring entertainment, arts, food and activities for all ages.
So, why should we care about what happens in Philadelphia in September? For starters, it is in the family that faith is communicated to children, in word and deed. It is in the family that we first learn about love, value and security. The family is the first teacher of how to treat—or not treat—one another.
Strong families promote good culture. Some studies say that the single greatest impact on the health of a nation is the health of the family, “health” being the overall socio-economic condition of a nation.
A quick scan of the legislation currently monitored by California Catholic Conference staff highlights the intersection of family life, public policy and culture. Issues include assisted suicide, education expenses, homelessness, wages and sick leave, to name a few.
Absent fathers, pornography, substance abuse, and out of wedlock births put stress on family life. The National Center for Family Homelessness ranks California 48th (with 50 being the worst) on a population-adjusted scale for the risk of child homelessness. California is a hub for human trafficking.
Regular church attendance is declining in America. Religious liberty is being pushed to the margins and out of the public square.
Perhaps the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September will shine new light on these issues and start some creative conversations for strengthening family life. Everyone can participate, even those of us on the West Coast who can’t make the trip east: Visit www.worldmeeting2015.org for resources. A preparatory catechesis, Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive is available at low cost in print, as an e-book or to download free in English, Spanish and several other languages. Educational materials for Pre-K through 12 are also available to download.
If you’ve followed the Gospel readings during this Easter season, the theme of the World Meeting of Families should sound familiar. Love—it’s our mission.