There are two immediate things which the Catholic families of America can do to strengthen home-life. The first is prayer: both personal and family prayer. Prayer raises our minds and hearts to God to thank him for his blessings, to ask him for his help. It brings the saving power of Jesus Christ into the decisions and actions of everyday life.
One prayer in particular I recommend to families: the one we have just been praying, the Rosary. And especially the Joyful Mysteries, which help us to meditate on the Holy Family of Nazareth. Uniting her will with the will of God, Mary conceived the Christ Child, and became the model of every mother carrying her unborn child. By visiting her cousin Elizabeth, Mary took to another family the healing presence of Jesus. Mary gave birth to the Infant Jesus in the humblest of circumstances and presented him to Simeon in the Temple, as every baby may be presented to God in Baptism. Mary and Joseph worried over the lost Child before they found him in the Temple, so that parents of all generations would know that the trials and sorrows of family life are the road to closer union with Jesus. To use a phrase made famous by the late Father Patrick Peyton: The family that prays together, stays together!
The second suggestion I make to families is to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn about the faith and to answer the questions that come up, especially the moral questions which confront everyone today. Dear Parents, you are educators because you are parents. I exhort and encourage the Bishops and the whole Church in the United States to help parents to fulfill their vocation to be the first and most important teachers of the faith to their children. And I wish to say a special word of thanks to all those who make sacrifices, sometimes heroic sacrifices, to ensure that Catholic children receive formation in the faith either through the Catholic School system or through Religious Education Programs in your parishes. I know that the Archdiocese of New York is proud of its Catholic schools and its Religious Education Programs. Immense effort goes into these undertakings, in the face of great odds. May God reward everyone involved!
Families in difficulties or couples in irregular situations also have a claim on the Church’s pastoral care. Other stronger and spiritually mature families can play a wonderful role in bringing encouragement and help to such couples and families. Every strengthening of family bonds is a victory for society. I appeal to all of you to promote respect for the mystery of life and love which God has entrusted in a special way to families.
And to Religious, I appeal to you to be, in the heart of the Church in the United States, what the Second Vatican Council called you: “a blazing emblem of the heavenly kingdom” (Perfectae Caritatis, 1).
God bless you all!
God bless the Church in New York!
– From the pope’s homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, October 7, 1995