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Families volunteering with Our Lady of Good Counsel PB&J Ministry to feed the homeless on the streets of Detroit

If we allow the love of Christ to change our heart, then we can change the world.[1] Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

The family is the bedrock of our society. It is where children learn love and virtues. When families are healthy and whole, a society is healthy and whole. When family breaks down, civil society breaks down. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelization in the Modern World), Pope St. Paul VI reiterated the church’s mission to evangelize. He stressed the importance of the family in carrying out this mission …

One cannot fail to stress the evangelizing action of the family in the evangelizing apostolate of the laity… In a family which is conscious of this mission, all the members evangelize and are evangelized. The parents not only communicate the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can themselves receive the same Gospel as deeply lived by them. And such a family becomes the evangelizer of many other families, and of the neighborhood of which it forms part.[2]

In the midst of division and strife in our country and world, the family plays a critical role in restoring society. And it begins with just one family, your family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “the role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute” (2221).

The Second Vatican Council detailed the important role the family has in shaping the culture around them…

The family is a kind of school of deeper humanity. But if it is to achieve the full flowering of its life and mission, it needs the kindly communion of minds and the joint deliberation of spouses, as well as the painstaking cooperation of parents in the education of their children…the family, in which the various generations come together and help one another grow wiser and harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life, is the foundation of society.[3]

One diocese in the United States is mobilizing the family to evangelize their neighborhoods and metropolitan area. In 2017, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit issued a pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel. This letter is the game plan for the transformation of the Archdiocese into a “joyful band of missionary disciples.”

Archbishop Vigneron emphasized that families are “the very heart of our archdiocesan efforts to unleash the Gospel, because they are the first and most important setting in which evangelization takes place.” Further, Archbishop Vigneron said “the family today is in crisis” and families “face unprecedented challenges, highlighting the importance of the witness of the family in the culture.” Archbishop Vigneron stated “a joyful family life rooted in the Gospel can be a spiritual oasis for people in the contemporary society,” explaining that “many have never experienced a family life characterized by warmth, mutual affection, honor, forgiveness, and peace.”

In the letter, Archbishop Vigneron offered the following vision for families:

Families who, having embraced their role as the domestic church and in connection with other families and single persons, actively seek the spiritual and social renewal of their neighborhoods, schools and places of work. Such families and individuals would display a strikingly counter-cultural way of living: grounded in prayer, Sacraments and attention to Scripture; unusually gracious hospitality; a capacity to include those on the margins of society; and joyful confidence in the providence of God even in difficult and stressful times.[4]

Archbishop Vigneron underscored that families can be powerful witnesses to Christ “when unchurched families–including relatives-come to your home” and see “prayer before meals, or simple words of thanksgiving to God.”

Pope St. John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae (Catechesis in Our Time) emphasized the need for Christians to be catechized in the faith so that through the ardent proclamation of the Gospel kerygma, a person is overwhelmed and brought to the decision to entrust himself to Jesus Christ by faith.”[5] As joyful missionary disciples, we are called to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Pt 3:15), reflecting the love of Christ to a culture that is without hope.

The well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.[6]

You are called to the mission of sharing the Gospel, starting first with your family. St. Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth emphasizes the importance of this task.

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 1 Corinthians 9:16c

We are all in need of a savior. Jesus is the answer to every problem that we face in our families and our society. Souls are at stake. God is asking families to take to the lead in bringing the Gospel message to the world. You are the hands and feet of Jesus. Proclaim the Gospel boldly and without fear. God is with you. Will you be the light in the darkness?

May you be torches that burn in the middle of the world: where there is a night of unbelief, may the light of your faith cast a strong light; where there is the soot of hatred and despair, may the glow of your optimism and hope shine in; where there is darkness of selfishness and violence, let the fire of your love burn bright.[7] St. John Paul II

As Advent began, we embarked on a journey toward Bethlehem to find the Christ child. Along the way, we discovered the importance of encountering Jesus personally, and  making Jesus the center of our marriages and the center of our families. Today, we discovered that this journey was preparing us for the mission of embracing Jesus and taking Him into our neighborhoods and the world. We encourage you to share with us ways that you and your family are sharing the Gospel of Jesus in your neighborhood.

[1] Benedict XVI, Apostolic Journey to Mexico and the Republic of Cuba (March 23-29, 2012); internet: https://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2012/march/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20120324_bambini-guanajuato.html (accessed December 15, 2018).

[2] Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (December 8, 1975), §71; internet: http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_p-vi_exh_19751208_evangelii-nuntiandi.html (accessed December 15, 2018).

[3] Paul VI, Vatican II Council Gaudium et Spes (December 7, 1965), §52; internet: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html (accessed December 15, 2018).

[4] Allen H. Vigneron, Pastor Letter Unleash the Gospel (June 3, 2017), p. 52; internet: https://aod.app.box.com/s/qbz5y1dclaus60293uxuvkdbarizsg2b (accessed December 15, 2018).

[5] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae (October 16, 1979), §25; internet: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_16101979_catechesi-tradendae.html (accessed November 30, 2018).

[6] Gaudium et Spes, §47.

[7] John Paul II, Speech to Youth, Imola Italy (May 9, 1986); internet: https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/it/speeches/1986/may/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19860509_giovani-fiaccolata.html (accessed December 17, 2018).