Factories of hope

Among the topics and issues Pope Francis has tackled during the short time he has occupied the Seat of Peter, nothing comes closer to Pope Francis’ heart than the family. In his recent visit to the United States, before a crowd of thousands, an animated Pope Francis rallied the faithful to focus on family in an impassioned homily on love and faith: referring to the family, he exclaimed “All that is beautiful leads us to God.”

In Philadelphia, in the Festival of Families, Pope Francis had a fantastic description of  families: they are factories of hope, of life, of resurrection. He did quip: “Father, you speak like that because you’re not married,” a skeptic might say, he said. “Families have difficulties. In families we quarrel. In a light tone he also said: Sometimes, plates can fly. Children cause headaches. I won’t speak of mothers-in-law... When one doesn’t live as a family, one will strengthen the part that always says: I, me, my, with me, for me. One totally centers around these things and doesn’t know solidarity or fraternity.”

As he has done many times, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of caring for children and for grandparents: “Children and young people are the future; they are our strength; they are what keep us moving forward. They are the ones in whom we put our hope. Grandparents are a family’s memory. They are the ones who gave us the faith, they passed the faith on to us. Taking care of grandparents and taking care of children is the sign of love—I’m not sure if it is the greatest, but for the family I would say that it is the most promising— because it promises the future. A people incapable of caring for children and caring for the elderly is a people without a future, because it lacks the strength and the memory needed to move forward.”

Pope Francis warned that perfect families do not exist but this should not discourage us. According to him: “Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is “forged” by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences. Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows. Love can flourish in men and women who try not to make conflict the last word, but rather a new opportunity. An opportunity to seek help, an opportunity to question how we need to improve, an opportunity to discover the God who is with us and never abandons us. This is a great legacy that we can give to our children, a very good lesson: we make mistakes, yes; we have problems, yes. But we know that that is not really what counts. We know that mistakes, problems and conflicts are an opportunity to draw closer to others, to draw closer to God.”

Patience in marriage has been a consistent message of this Pope who also once reflected on this sacrament, observing: “Those who celebrate the sacrament say, “I promise to be true to you, in joy and in sadness, in sickness and in health; I will love you and honor you all the days of my life”. At that moment, the couple does not know what will happen, nor what joys and pains await them. They are setting out, like Abraham, on a journey together. And that is what marriage is. Setting out and walking together, hand in hand, putting yourselves in the Lord’s powerful hands. Hand in hand, always and for the rest of your lives. And do not pay attention to this makeshift culture, which can shatter our lives.”

Wrapping up his US visit in a big open-air Mass, Francis told the gathered faithful that their presence itself was “a kind of miracle in today’s world,” an affirmation of the family and the power of love. “Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world.” Extolling the virtues of the family, calling families as the factory of love, Francis said: “God made this marvelous world in which we live, and because sometimes we are a bit confused, we are destroying it... But the most beautiful thing that God did, says the Bible, was the family.” In this connection he urged the crowd to especially care for the young as well as the old. “To look after grandparents, to look after children, is the expression of love”. The pontiff also gave this advice: “Never let the day end without making peace,” Francis said. “In a family, you can’t finish the day off not being at peace.”


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