Rumours are rife that our Vincent – who is already cutting something of a dash in the Vatican – is to become the head of the new dicastery on the family. Streetwise observers will already have been scanning the available obiter dicta to discern the shape of things to come. The shape (as so often with these things) is not entirely clear; but, as this excerpt shows, the flavour is saccharin:
Last Sunday I joined thousands of people in St Peter’s Square waiting to receive the blessing of Pope Francis. I was surrounded by families: babies asleep in prams, young children crawling on the cobbles, older children entertaining each other, teenagers looking studiously bored, fathers surveying the scene protectively, mothers holding up their children and pointing to the Holy Father, groups of families on holiday together, uncles and aunts, three or four generations.
I looked at them with fresh eyes, having just come from the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the Vocation and Mission of the Family. There we had been fashioning fresh ways of thinking about the family in the plan of God. We had agreed that the family is an ‘image and likeness of the Blessed Trinity’, a reflection of the mystery of love which is the life of God. In the families around me I could contemplate that love being expressed in everyday ways, a love which strives so hard to be faithful, to overcome rows and difficulties with forgiveness, a love which gives energy for the day and rest in weariness. In the Synod we had talked of the family as ‘a blessing for the Church’: the place where we learn and share how to live by faith, where we teach and practice family prayer, and the place from which we reach out to others in their need.
All of this was summed up for me in a phrase: the family is the flesh of the Church. In St Peter’s Square, and in every parish, I see in the families around me the very flesh of the Church, the life of Christ taking place before my eyes. It is they who so often show most clearly the work of the Beatitudes….
Our final document of the Synod, which we presented to Pope Francis for his consideration, speaks often of this ‘pathway of accompaniment’, of that ‘reverential listening’, which is the first act of mercy, of the work of ‘discernment’, of wanting to come close to the reality of so many lives in their difficulties and trials. During the Synod discussions, many wanted us to express, humbly, a word of regret and apology that this often has not been the path we have taken. I am glad to do so now.
Trust Vincent – always relentlessly on message!