It has been said that one of the hallmarks of good writers is the ability to connect their audience to a story. If this is true, then one of the gifts of Pope Francis’ ministry is his ability to connect each of us with the story the Lord wants us to write with our lives.
Last October, in launching an Extraordinary Missionary Month, Pope Francis gave a stirring homily in which he spoke about the call each of us has been given to be missionaries. We are missionaries, he wrote, “By living as witnesses: bearing witness by our lives that we have come to know Jesus.”
If bearing witness to Jesus is the story the Lord wants us to write, nowhere is that story more important to tell than to our families, for it is within the framework of family life that we come to learn who God is. Each person is given specific gifts and talents which, according to Pope Francis, “are not something to be stored in a safe, but a true vocation: The Lord calls us to make our talents bear fruit, with boldness and creativity.”
For those of us blessed to be parents and grandparents, our vocation is, in part, to pass on the faith to our children and grandchildren and help them to understand and appreciate that each of us is precious in God’s eyes. And, the Pope asserts, we must do so with boldness and creativity. That is a tall order when the faith that we cherish is not embraced by those within our own families. Perhaps, we have encountered too much resistance in trying to get adult children to return to the church, so rather than rock the boat and upset the status quo we sit back and do nothing. But doing so, says Pope Francis, is to deny our vocation, which is a ‘sin of omission.’
He writes: “We sin against mission when we yield to resignation: ‘I can’t do this: I’m not up to it.’ How can that be? God has given you talents, yet you think yourself so poor that you cannot enrich a single person? We sin against mission when we become slaves to the fears that immobilize us when we let ourselves be paralyzed by thinking that ‘things will never change.’” Perhaps things will not change in our time, but in God’s time all things are possible.
Pope Francis adds, “The Lord is asking you to be a gift wherever you are, and just as you are, with everyone around you.” If you are a person of faith, then don’t deny that faith in front of family members who view religion differently than you. You have been given the gift of faith and the Lord is calling you to be a missionary and share that faith to all you encounter, especially your family.
There are many simple and subtle ways to give witness to your faith. Some of these may include: sacramentalizing your home, prominently displaying a crucifix or statues of the holy family, Mary or saints; letting your children see you praying and encouraging them to pray on their own; sharing your faith experiences; taking family trips to area shrines; having discussions about ways you have experienced God in your life; or creating traditions based on the liturgical seasons.
The Pope recognizes that testifying to our faith may be difficult for some to do, yet he encourages us not to waver and instead to have courage.
“The Lord expects great things from you. The Lord will not leave you alone in bearing witness; you will discover that the Holy Spirit has gone before you and prepared the way for you. Courage, rediscover your fruitfulness in the joy of mission!”
By Mary-Jo McLaughlin
For a copy of Pope Francis’ homily cited in this column
Click on the links below for helpful websites on creating a ‘Domestic Church’ for your family