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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.  


SEPTEMBER 2017 REFLECTION - THE JOY OF GRANDPARENTS

OPENING PRAYER

God of the ages,
               from generation to generation you have been our strength.
We give you thanks for our grandparents,
               who connect us to our heritage and roots.
We give you thanks for their Christian memory,
               which inspires and enlightens us.
We give you thanks for the example of their faith, for the witness of their lives,
               for the constancy of their love, and for the support of their prayers.
Bless all grandparents and keep them in your care.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

READINGS

Psalm 71:9, 17-29

Cast me not off in my old age; as my strength fails, forsake me not.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
            And till the present, I proclaim your wondrous deeds;
And now that I am old and gray,
               O God, forsake me not
Till I proclaim your strength to every generation that is to come
Your power and your justice,
               O God, reach to heaven.
You have done great things;
               O God who is like you

AMORIS LAETITIA

“A family that fails to respect and cherish its grandparents, who are its living memory, is already in decline, whereas a family that remembers has a future." (n. 193)

We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elderly feel like a living part of the community.  Our elderly are men and women, fathers and mothers, who came before us on our own road, in our own house, in our daily battle for a worthy life. (n. 191)

Saint John Paul II asked us to be attentive to the role of the elderly in our families … The elderly help us to appreciate ‘the continuity of the generations,’ by their ‘charism of bridging the gap.’  Very often, it is grandparents who ensure that the most important values are passed down to their grandchildren, and ‘many people can testify that they owe their initiation into the Christian life to their grandparents.’  Their words, their affection or simply their presence help children to realize that history did not begin with them, that they are now a part of an age-old pilgrimage and that they need to respect all that came before them.  (n. 193)

CONTEMPLATE & SHARE

Grandparents are cherished members of our families who bring us gifts of wisdom, experience, and love and share with us their life of faith.

What wisdom have you learned from your grandparents?

Discuss how your faith has been influenced by your grandparents.

Share a favorite family story that you learned from a grandparent.

How can you treasure and honor your grandparents? 

As a grandparent, how can you share your faith with your grandchildren and children?

INTERCESSIONS

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - May the sacrificial offerings made by our grandparents on behalf of the Church be a source of inspiration for present and future generations, we pray to the Lord…

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - May grandparents always be revered and respected as gifts from God to their families, especially as we recognize their special presence and role on this National Grandparents Day, we pray to the Lord…

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - May our grandparents and ancestors in the faith, living and deceased, intercede for all families by praying for their reconciliation, healing, and peace, we prayer to the Lord…

Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time - May our grandparents and elders witness to the faith by sharing the Spirit’s gift of wisdom with their families and communities, we pray to the Lord

CLOSING PRAYER

Universal Prayer for Grandparents

Lord Jesus,
you were born of the Virgin Mary,
the daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne.
Look with love on grandparents the world over.
Protect them! They are a source of enrichment
for families, for the Church and for all of society.
Support them! As they grow older,
may they continue to be for their families
strong pillars of Gospel faith,
guardians of noble domestic ideals,
living treasuries of sound religious traditions.
Make them teachers of wisdom and courage,
that they may pass on to future generations the fruits
of their mature human and spiritual experience.

Lord Jesus,
help families and society
to value the presence and role of grandparents.
May they never be ignored or excluded
but always encounter respect and love.
Help them to live serenely and to feel welcomed
in all the years of life which you give them.
Mary, Mother of all the living,
keep grandparents constantly in your care,
accompany them on their earthly pilgrimage,
and by your prayers, grant that all families
may one day be reunited in our heavenly homeland,
where you await all humanity
for the great embrace of life without end. Amen!

Pope Benedict XVI, 2008

(Catholic Grandparents Association)  

JOY IN ACTION

Weekly suggestions for the faithful to consider

September 3: Make a point to connect with parents, in-laws, or grandparents and visit or plan an activity with them if they live close by.  Invite them to attend a game with you if your children are involved in school sports.

September 10: Pray for comfort and strength for those struggling with the challenges of advanced age.

September 17: Visit an elderly neighbor or a loved one in a nursing home.

September 24: If your schedule permits, consider volunteering for Catholic Charities’ SEARCH program or another program which serves the elderly by helping with grocery shopping, rides, etc.  Often, only a few hours a week is needed. If you can’t make a regular commitment, help your parents, grandparents, or a neighbor with a task or chore, such as raking leaves.

REFLECTION

Joy of Grandparents
By: Father Kyle Doustou, Parochial Vicar, Portland Peninsula & Island Parishes

When I was growing up, Saturday nights were usually spent at my grandparents’ house, and we followed the same ritual every week: beans and red hot dogs with brown bread at 4:30, The Lawrence Welk Show with his bubbles and old-world champagne music at 5:00, the news at 6:00 with a bit of dessert, Wheel of Fortune at 7:00, and – of course – Jeopardy! at 7:30. These were wonderful nights for me as a child...they were wholesome, simple and, because of my grandparents, always a step back in time. It was an opportunity for me to put aside my world of cartoons and games and to dwell in their world for a while, learning to love the things that they loved.

But interestingly enough, it was not just the food and the music and the laughter that made the greatest impact on my young heart; it was what came afterwards. As my grandfather would stay in the living room watching some old Western movie or the like, my grandmother would help me get ready for bed and then sit me down and talk about the faith...the same faith she learned as a little girl. She told me stories about the saints and about her early days at St. Peter Elementary School with all the priests and sisters and brothers. She would pull out her old family Bible and explain the stories behind all the beautiful illustrations. She would take down the little box on her dresser that was filled with holy medals and holy cards, and she would let me paw through them all as she told me what they meant. Then, we would say our prayers together, and soon thereafter, I would be fast asleep. I can still remember those Saturday nights as if they happened yesterday, and I am convinced that they are why I am a man of faith and a priest today.

In paragraph 193 of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis speaks about the necessity of “historical memory” if we are to grow in our faith. The Holy Father calls grandparents the “living memory” of a family, and he invites all of us to sit at their feet, to listen to their stories, and to learn from them the treasures of the heritage that is our Catholic faith. He promises us that it is only by doing so, by remembering where we have come from and by discovering our roots in the rich soil of history, that we can have a fruitful and faith-filled future.

My own life has shown me that our grandparents can be a tremendous joy for us because they are our window to the past and, thus, our key to the future. The wisdom that they have gained from their own experiences of living out the faith handed on to them is a vital inspiration for us as we grow in the faith we ourselves have received.

Saint Augustine once referred to our good God as “Beauty ever ancient, ever new.”  I am convinced that our grandparents, perhaps better than anyone else, can bring us into this mystery and help us learn to love him as they themselves have: with great simplicity and great joy.