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The Joy of the Family

“The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.”  That is the beginning and the heart of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the joy of love.

Amoris Laetitia reflects the results of recent synods on the family as well as other writings of Pope Francis and his predecessors.  It speaks of the gifts and joys of families but, also, acknowledges the contemporary challenges which they face.

The pope emphasizes the importance of marriage and family life, writing, “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and the Church.”  The family, thus,  is a source of strength for the Church, just as the Church is a source of strength for families.

To celebrate, promote, protect and strengthen marriage and families in our world, the Diocese of Portland has launched the Joy of the Family initiative. A specific theme featured in Amoris Laetitia will be highlighted each month and will include opening and closing prayers, a reading, a passage from Amoris Laetitia, a "contemplate and share" section, intercessions, weekly suggestions for practical activities, and a reflection from an individual or individuals who possess a special personal connection to the monthly theme. You will find this month's reflection below.

It is hoped developing these themes will help the faithful understand the teachings in Amoris Laetitia and inspire us all to integrate these teachings in our daily lives.  


AUGUST 2017 REFLECTION - THE JOY OF CHILDREN

OPENING PRAYER

God of joy and love, giver of all life,we thank you for the gift of children in our lives,
               whether they come to us through birth, adoption, or fostering,
               as nieces, nephews or neighbors.

Help us to love, nurture, guide, and protect these children.

Guide us as we bring them to the ways of faith.

May we always see them as precious in your eyes
               and bring them to your unconditional love.

We ask this in your holy name, Amen.

READINGS

Isaiah 49:1,5,15-16

Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples.  The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.…For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; And I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength! … Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name.”

AMORIS LAETITIA

“Begetting and raising children, for its part, mirrors God's creative work." (n. 29)

Love always gives life.  (n. 165)

The family is the setting in which a new life is not only born but also welcomed as a gift of God.  Each new life ‘allows us to appreciate the utterly gratuitous dimension of love, which never ceases to amaze us’…The gift of a new child, entrusted by the Lord to a father and a mother, begins with acceptance, continues with lifelong protection, and has as its final goal the joy of eternal life.  By serenely contemplating the ultimate fulfilment of each human person, parents will be even more aware of the precious gift entrusted to them.  For God allows parents to choose the name by which he himself will call their child for all eternity.  (n.166)

Adoption is a very generous way to become parents.  I encourage those who cannot have children to expand their marital love to embrace those who lack a proper family situation.  They will never regret having been generous.  Adopting a child is an act of love, offering the gift of a family to someone who has none.  (n. 179)

CONTEMPLATE & SHARE

How has God revealed himself to me through children?

How do I help the children in my life see God in the everyday moments of their lives?

•  When has a child become my teacher? 

INTERCESSIONS

Solemnity of the Transfiguration of the Lord -That God’s gift of children may be welcomed in all Christian families, we pray to the Lord…

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time -  That the rights and dignity of all children be protected at all times and in all places, we pray to the Lord…

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - That children be formed in the faith, with a hope to be with Mary, our mother, in heaven for all eternity, we pray to the Lord…

Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time -  That all people, regardless of nationality, culture, or ethnicity, be respected as children of God, we pray to the Lord…

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time - That all young people may have the courage to proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, we pray to the Lord…

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Families

We bless your name, O Lord,
for sending your own incarnate Son,
to become part of a family,
so that, as he lived its life,
he would experience its worries and its joys.

We ask you, Lord,
to protect and watch over this family,
so that in the strength of your grace
its members may enjoy prosperity,
possess the priceless gift of your peace,
and, as the Church alive in the home,
bear witness in this world to your glory.

We ask this thought Christ our Lord.
Amen.

(Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers)   

JOY IN ACTION

Weekly suggestions for the faithful to consider

August 6:  Visit a fair or festival as a family. There are many this month including St. Peter’s Italian Bazaar in Portland, the Northern Maine Fair in Presque Isle, the Bangor State Fair, the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, the Monmouth Fair, the Wilton Blueberry Festival, the Great State of Maine Air Show in Brunswick, and more!

August 13:  Make a donation to a teen pregnancy center or to one of Catholic Charities' Child Development Centers.

August 20:  Don't let summer slip away without making the time to enjoy one last summer get-together.

August 27:  Strive to see things through a child’s eyes once again.  Pause to appreciate the beauty of nature around you. Give thanks to God for the gifts in your life.

REFLECTION

Joy of Children
By: Ellen DiNapoli

 In June of 2007, David and I entered into the beautiful sacrament of marriage, hand in hand, knowing our goal is heaven.  We professed our love before God and the whole world.  As we answered the questions of consent on our wedding day, I remembered talking with Dave about one in particular beforehand, “Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”  We discussed that we would be open to whatever God had planned, but we had no idea what he had planned.

After just over a year, we welcomed Abigail. I was flooded with different thoughts and emotions, most of all how amazing God is. I was overjoyed, in awe, overwhelmed, overtired, and scared at the same time, but the joy of having this new little being with us far outweighed everything else.  She is such a loving child, ecstatic about life and always finds beauty in the little things. She is strongheaded, like every first child I have met (I am the youngest of five). Next, Augustine came into the world. I didn't think that my heart could grow to contain any more love for another child, but it certainly did.  He sees when someone is in need and always helps with a pure heart and great understanding. Then, Noah was born, and he has not stopped moving since. He is so observant and enjoys telling me about all of his experiences throughout the day, and he definitely keeps us on our toes.  After Noah, Colette was born. She claimed the princess crown and has not once put it down.  For example, the other day she walked over to me seeing that I was in a moment of stress and said, “Mommy, just put on a dress; you will feel better.” Our youngest, Chloe, also known as “Tiny,” came into the world two years later. She brings so much joy to the people she encounters, whether it is all of us at home or the people who are brave enough to sit behind us at Mass.

Having children thrust me into seeing and experiencing life, day to day, very differently than ever before.  Life is not as comfortable as it once was, but I realize that everything I do for them is an opportunity to offer my life to God, knowing our children are God’s before they are ours.

Every one of our children is a gift from God, and as I watch him create the beautiful tapestry that we are blessed to be a part of, I see a glimpse into heaven. I feel the bliss that awaits us there. I feel the joy that he has for us and see what life is like when we follow his plan.