“We each are a story of reversal. And this reversal happens in the family through Christ.” – Cardinal Robert Sarah
This is how Wednesday began, a keynote address by Cardinal Robert Sarah from Guinea. I cannot understate nor truly put words to the feeling I have in seeing so many high profile Cardinal’s and Bishops from the Church, from around the world who have come to Philly for this conference. This is not just some conference that the organizers put together every 3 years and get an appearance from the Pope, like a presidential campaign stop. The Holy See and the Catholic Church is fully invested in this meeting of families, and this is made extremely apparent by the sheer number of high-level clergy who are here – and fully engaged. I truly feel that Philadelphia is the center of the Catholic Church for a week, and that the Vatican has come here for us, for families across the globe. And you know what? It has. And this will be even more apparent in the coming days with the arrival of Pope Francis. This meeting of families is why he is coming to America!
Everything obviously is about the family, but it’s interesting how the keynote and all the sessions we attended today meshed together, as if they were one story. Cardinal Sarah gave a great address on the deep presence of sin in our soul due to the fall of Adam and Eve, and in paraphrasing Pope Francis stated that “sin is within, that we are each capable of any evil” because it is written into our very being through original sin. But he mentioned that God showed us the way to fight this capability through the family, because it’s through the family where we can achieve “peace, and hope, and a wellspring of love.” The family is the key, and God tells us this point blank because He came to us through a family, and that Holy Family became the model. And in a measure again of how God twists something evil such as our capability of sin into something good, through Jesus and the family, we are now capable of something much greater – peace, hope and eternal life.
And I loved this quote from Cardinal Sarah, where he said “we are all a story of reversal… Every single one of us are trying to revert from our original course of sin. Some more than others. It’s through a deep faith in Christ and deep family relationships – the Sacrament of Marriage, openness to life, and self-giving sacrifice where this reversal happens.”
Truly a memorable address, especially when he tied the story of a family affected by 9/11 and how through God’s grace and a deep faith, God twisted an evil event into something amazing. You could see that this story meant a great deal to him. An example of God bringing light to the dark world through the family.
Later on we attended a session by Greg and Lisa Popcak, who have written numerous books and various other radio programs and the like on parenting the Catholic family. Their talk, along with a session later on in the day on Rebuilding the Domestic Church really took the problems in the world outlined by Cardinal Sarah and brought them closer to home. But they also provided details how we as Catholic parents can truly build that domestic church within our families. Really it comes to worshiping together, praying together, having intimate family time away from distractions and putting our family first. One quote I liked is that “Family life is it’s own ministry.” We fit extra-curriculars around the family, which is centered around God. Extra-curricular’s and actives are good for our kids, but only if in the right perspective. We must focus on our family and our family relationship with God first.
And it’s OK to “waste time with your family.” Spend time together, have fun, and it doesn’t have to be through organized activities or events or programs you sign your kids up for. Just waste time – together. Be together. Thats all that’s needed. So often we forget about the children, and we use activities to keep them busy and out of trouble.
This was the point in the final session by Dr. Timothy O’Donnell. Numerous accounts of how tough it is as parents and families in todays world, but families need to be together, and have a faithful father and mother working together, and praying together to make it happen. “Families need to become what we are…” We need to become what God intends us to be, what is already been given to us through the God’s grace and through the Sacramental bond of Marriage. So many times families do not achieve this and do not become what we are meant to be. When it all comes down to it, Dr. O’Donnell said, “The father is the head of the family, and the mother is the heart.” So many families don’t have this union, the world is showing the results.
This is just a sampling of another grace filled day at this meeting of families. The sites and sounds continue to be electric. You can tell the time is getting closer to when Pope Francis will be here. More people are arriving. Tomorrow, we move from my Aunt’s house in the suburbs to our hotel downtown, just a few black away from where the Papal Mass will be and in the center of all the excitement. In the coming days, we’ll get out into the City more, and experience this excitement first hand. There is a buzz, like something great and unbelievable is about to occur. But it’s no secret – the Catholic world has come to Philly this week. It’s like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. All eyes are on us, and the rest of this week and over the weekend, it sure will be a site to see!