Reflection on Amoris Laetitia: Love Supported13 April, 2022
Love Supported – A Pastoral Perspective
The Parish Community and the cosmopolitan representation of families that it represents, plays an integral part in the life of every Catholic family. The parish community can help support, encourage, and nourish the growth of the family as the evangelisers they are meant to be.
Our story of Parish has been formed through the personal experience of our family. We have been blessed to have been part of the Capricorn Coast parish from when we were school children, through to now being Grandparents. This wonderful community has been there for us in times of joy and sorrow, births and deaths, marriages and break downs in relationships. Our parish has acted like a huge extended family with so many interested in the life of our family and its welfare. So many concerned with how we are going and what our children are up to. So many, through their own example of family, being that role model for us to learn from and grow from.
We believe parishes, as living and loving communities, must be ever evolving to suit the changing needs of families, couples, singles and religious.
When we were a young family, coping with the challenges of seven children, we drew strength from the encouragement of the Parish to let us know we were doing a good job and that it was okay to have less than perfectly behaved children at Mass. As our children approached teenage years, we relied on the parish to respond with ways to enthuse and invigorate our youth’s faith that supported what we were trying to do at home. We built friendships with other families with similar faith beliefs and as a faith community we supported each other to grow.
Now as empty nesters, we look to our parish community to help us continue to deepen our faith in different ways as we provide a living example of married love to younger families in our midst.
But it cannot all be one way; we can’t expect it all to be given to us without offering something back to our Parish family. Hopefully over the years, Mark and I and our children have been able to give life to the parish with our involvement in our Parish schools, the music ministry, family and youth group initiatives over the years, members of the finance and liturgy groups and finally with our involvement in Diocesan and National committees. As we reflect now, we see our example of family and the love that Mark and I share being a positive example for others in our parish community.
We believe the Parish Community is what will help keep our faith alive and flourishing. We must continue to look at ways to enthuse, invigorate and keep our Parish communities as places that give life to all who are part of it, from our Parish Priest down to our newly baptized. The parish can provide such an important environment for families to shine as the evangelizing agents that Christ intended the family to be. For it is in the love that a parent shows for their child and the love in return, that beams brightly for others to witness and others to model.
When reflecting on Chapter 6 of Amoris Laetitia we draw on three themes. The first recognizes the family as the “joy-filled witness of the Domestic Church” and that much is needed in the formation of the Priests, deacons, clergy as well as other specialist roles such as teachers and counsellors, to assist in the pastoral care of families and enable families to be all that they can be.
The second area of importance is in the preparation for marriage. Mark and I have often commented that couples do more due diligence on the purchase of a car or property than they do on preparing for a life-long commitment to each other. We are strong believers that preparation for marriage starts in schools when students learn to form healthy, life-affirming relationships with friends before taking this a step further as adults to find a life-long marriage partner. Whenever an opportunity presents, Mark and I will go into schools to talk to young people about our marriage vocation and have over the years been part of engagement and marriage mentoring programs. Over our 30 plus years of marriage, we have always considered it important to take time for our relationship by doing enrichment weekends that help deepen our love and encourage positive development of our relationship. Unfortunately, most of this was undertaken outside of our parish community. If supporting engaged, newly-married and long-time married couples is such an important function, we need to look at how we can offer this in our own parishes at regular and frequent intervals.
And probably the third most important area is that of crisis, and breakdowns in relationships. Families are not perfect, but it is often in their imperfections that they can provide the best witness for other families. Every crisis provides a chance for couples and families to actually grow closer together as they surmount the looming challenges in their lives. As the struggles within are not often seen on the face of the family, our Parish communities need to find ways of being there for us and for all who are feeling hurt. As a Parish family we need to be able to provide the comforting embrace to those who are hurting, accepting of those whose situations differ to ours and be a voice for the vulnerable in our community.
However, as parishes provide support for families, one size does not fit all. Each Parish has its own identity, faces its own unique challenges and joys and this in itself, is ever changing as we welcome and farewell new and old members to the parish family. As members of a parish community, we are ever challenged to find new and relevant ways of “enabling families to take up their role as active agents of the family apostolate”. We are all called, as children of God, to make real connections to people’s real situations and real problems.
Yours in Christ
Mark, Ursula(Tink) and all the Boydebunch.