Bishop's Message

 

The Year of the Family

 

Following the amazing Synod on the Family in Rome in October of 2015 and the subsequent release of the Post Synodal document, ‘The Joy of Loving’, by Pope Francis, our diocese has decided that the focus for our prayer, learning and discernment this year will be ‘The Family’.

 

The beautiful thing about this title for the year is that it applies to each and every one of us; we are each part of a family, whatever that family may look like. This year can be a special, once in a lifetime opportunity, to discover the incredible love of God experienced through our families.

 

Having had the great privilege of attending the Synod, I am excited about the possibilities of this year for the whole diocese. It is a moment of special grace, following immediately upon the Year of Mercy, which we have just concluded.

 

Mercy needs to continue to be the centrepiece of our work together as a diocesan family.

 

As Pope Francis says, “Many people feel that the Church’s message on marriage and the family does not clearly reflect the preaching and the attitudes of Jesus, who set forth a demanding ideal yet never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of the individuals like the Samaritan woman caught in adultery.” [Par.38.]

 

He goes on to say, “The problems faced by poor households are often more trying. In such difficult situations of need, the Church must be particularly concerned to offer understanding, comfort and acceptance, rather than straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned by the very Mother called to show them God’s mercy.” [Par.49.]

 

Each and every parish must engage fully with this extraordinary opportunity to renew the church through our families.

 

This does not need to be a time of ‘talking at’ families or ‘telling families’ but rather a chance to listen with an open heart and a discerning spirit to the reality of the lives our families live. It will be a time for us to be inspired by the goodness of our families, as they struggle to live a holy life. Sometimes the circumstances in which our families struggle can be foreign to us, unless we genuinely engage in empathetic listening.

 

This year provides each of us with a chance to reflect on the way we judge others and their families.

 

As Pope Francis says, “We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people, has helped to create today’s problematic situation. We need a healthy dose of self-criticism.” {Par.36.}

 

Pope Francis reminds us that, “We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.”[Par.37.]

 

There is an urgency about this matter.

 

The year has already begun and soon schools will be back and in full swing. Whilst this is exciting, we can be distracted and find that, with all the other things happening, we have missed the opportunity of a life time, to honour the unique spirituality and gift of our families.

 

Sometimes we can be seen to be half-hearted when we refer to the family as the ‘domestic church’. This is the year for us to take this seriously.

 

The essential resources are ‘Amoris Laetitia’[ ‘The Joy of Loving’] which is the Pope’s document, and the various summaries, such as the discussion guide from the Office for Evangelisation in the Diocese of Broken Bay. These resources are easily available from St. Paul’s at www.stpauls.com.au or evangelisation@dbb.org.au

 

This is an exciting and rare opportunity for our diocesan family

 

On behalf of the Diocese I commit our efforts to the guidance and the blessing of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family.


 

+ Eugene Hurley