Respecting Life: Learning from Pope Francis – by Daniel S. Mulhall

Pope Francis

Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States seemed to capture the ears, eyes, hearts, and minds of millions of Americans. While one would expect Catholics to pay especially close attention to the Pope’s words, if news reports can be taken at face value, millions of others not of the Catholic faith were also enthralled by the Pope’s message.

I say message, and not messages, for a reason. The Pope’s comments seemed to be centered on one common theme: God made men and women in the divine image. For that reason alone, every person in the world has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Distilled to its essence, the Holy Father’s message was to respect life because it is sacred.

While it is impossible in a short essay to cover all of the Pope’s amazing words from his many talks, a look at his speech to members of the U.S. Senate, Congress, and the Supreme Court provides us with a series of action steps we can take in order to move respecting life to the top of our agendas. Here are a few of Francis’ marching orders:

  1. Defend and preserve the dignity of others, working tirelessly for the good of all, not only for our own private needs and desires.
  2. Care for the needs of all, helping them to grow for the good of society, especially those who are most vulnerable or at the greatest risk.
  3. Base every decision you make on the care of people other than yourself.
  4. Form bonds of unity across groups, forming communities of love wherever possible.
  5. Strive to lead people directly to God, the only thing greater than human dignity.
  6. Protect the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.
  7. Engage people in conversation, listening carefully to their hopes and dreams, their sorrows and joys. Create a dialogue to help people grow in God’s love.
  8. Recognize and respect the wisdom and dignity of those who are elderly, and the aspirations and promise of the young.
  9. Look for ways to bring hope and healing to a divided community, a divided world.
  10. Work for justice and peace by restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of all.

Daniel S. Mulhall is a catechist. He is the Director of Strategic Markets for RCL Benziger.

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Mission to Love – Chapter 2 – By Lauri Przybysz, D.Min.

When our children got engaged, we experienced both joy and concern. We observed the happy couple’s excitement as the wedding plans developed, and we hoped they were ready for what lay ahead of them.

Most couples begin marriage with confidence and high expectations, yet life together will present them with many challenges and conflicts. Marriage is risky. No couple can know what the future holds in the way of health, children, finances, and careers. They will have so many decisions to make, the most important of which is to decide to love each other and make their marriage and family a priority. We pray that they will turn to God to be their model for self-giving, generous love.

Marriage is the ultimate adventure in which every day offers new challenges and opportunities to grow both as individuals and as a couple. The way we approach the challenges and experiences we encounter determines our level of peace and happiness in our marriage.

A successful couple may say, “Many people tell us we are lucky, but we don’t believe it is luck that has strengthened our relationship over the years.” They have learned that they needed to grow closer to God over the years, to imitate God in faithfulness.

Although every couple is different, successful marriages have similar identifying marks. The fact that family life in the United States gives evidence of serious internal collapse ought to alert betrothed couples that successful marriages need careful and lifelong cultivation. In successful marriages, spouses genuinely enjoy each other’s company. They laugh a lot together. They take pride in each other’s achievements and encourage one another to undertake important life projects. They lovingly seek to meet each other’s sexual needs, and develop closeness in nonsexual ways as well. Successful couples regard marriage as a sacred religious commitment and share a similar vision of life. These couples love and delight in one another like God loves and delights in each one of us.

Consider these qualities of successful spouses and explore ways you can choose to continue to grow together and love one another. Reflect on your own marriage and on the marriages you know. If you sense a personal weakness in certain areas, don’t despair. This is the place to begin a new phase of your adventure with God’s help!

Dr. Lauri Przybsyz is the Coordinator for Marriage and Family Life for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

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The Family Fully Alive – By Daniel S. Mulhall

When I think of family, the image of my parents and siblings comes to mind. One of ten children with seven brothers and two sisters, I come from a prototypical Catholic family of the 1950s. My parents have been married to one another for 65 years and have lived in the same home since 1954. When we gather in the house for family celebrations, more than 75 people attend: children, spouses, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Some have college degrees, but most do not. Some are active Catholics or Protestants while others are not. And from my immediate family, nine are married to their first spouse. While for me this is a “normal” family, I know my understanding varies greatly from most people. But then “normal” is a different experience for every family.

During the week of September 22, 2015, family delegates representing dioceses from around the world will gather in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the Vatican’s World Meeting of Families. Several thousands typically participate in the event, but this year, in response to Pope Francis’ papal visit for the occasion, a million are expected to attend.

The theme for this gathering is: “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” In preparation for the meeting, a corresponding preparatory catechesis book also titled Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive was developed. The catechesis focuses on the ten themes that will strengthen the family unit. Dioceses across the United States are similarly reinforcing the event’s focus by encouraging families to reflect on the same ten themes.

As part of our goal to support the Church’s catechetical mission, RCL Benziger commissioned writers, noted for their expertise in family ministry, to compose brief articles reflecting on the ten themes. The articles’ intent is to provide you, our reader, with a starting place for personal reflection on these themes. The articles offer insights on challenges facing families today as well as valuable ideas to support and nurture those with whom you minister.

During the month of March, we celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph, husband to Mary and earthly father of Jesus. We dedicate this series of articles to St. Joseph and the Holy Family asking for continued guidance in and support for this endeavor.

Daniel S. Mulhall is a catechist. He also serves as the Director of Special Markets for RCL Benziger.

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