This past weekend, the Vatican hosted a celebration of family life, as part of the Year of Faith celebrations. On Friday, Pope Francis gave an address to the members of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and described marriage as a journey, saying:
“This path is not easy, but it is so beautiful. It’s beautiful. Tell them that.”
He went on to emphasize the important place that children and the elderly have in the family community, describing them as “the most vulnerable and often the most forgotten.” In a departure from this prepared text, the pope shared the advice he gives to young men and women in the confessional:
“When I hear the confession of a young married man or woman, and they refer to their son or daughter, I ask, ‘How many children do you have?’ and they tell me. Maybe they’re expecting another question after that, but I always ask, ‘And tell me, do you play with your children? Do you waste time with your children?’ The free gift of a parent’s time is so important.”
On Sunday, Pope Francis addressed a crowd of more than 100,000 in St. Peter’s Square and again emphasized that the journey of family life is difficult, but that God gives families strength through the sacraments.
“The sacraments are not decorations in life; the sacrament of marriage is not just a pretty ceremony. Christians celebrate the sacrament of marriage because they know they need it.”
The program on Sunday included dozens of people sharing their family’s story – from a young girl telling of her love for her mother’s delicious cutlets to a Syrian couple sharing the story of their flight from their homeland. And once again Pope Francis offered some advice to couples, sharing the three phrases that are essential to a peaceful family life:
“‘May I?’ to make sure you aren’t being intrusive, ‘Thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry.’”