Elisa Tremblay

Marriage & Family Life

Tremblay is the marriage and life ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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Family love: A vocation and path to holiness?

By Elisa Tremblay | Special To The Compass | August 2, 2022

In 1994, Pope John Paul II began the “World Meeting of Families” to unite families from all over the world “to help deepen their Christian understanding and experience of family life.” This unique gathering of the Catholic Church and family has been happening every three years in different places across the globe. The most recent gathering was meant to occur in 2020 but, due to the restrictions of the pandemic, was postponed and limited to an invitation-only audience. Much to my surprise, my family was chosen to join a delegation of 15 families from around the country, representing our home diocese and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB). Overall, there were 2,000 delegates representing 170 diocesan delegations, apostolates and associations from over 120 different countries.

As I was in this very unique situation, what struck me the most was not only the universality of the church, but how the various messages on marriage and family life were important to the whole world, and applied to all of us, no matter where we lived.

After coming home, I have had a lot of opportunity to reflect on the theme and talks and how they apply to the everyday family in the parish. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis chose the theme which is “Family Love: A Vocation and a Path to
Holiness.” I highly recommend googling “World Meeting of Families 2022” and watching the EWTN coverage. There are numerous talks from people around the globe that highlight how this call to holiness can be achieved through family life.

Because this conference occurred over three days, there is too much to cover in this space. However I will highlight three topics that I thought applied beautifully to lives in a modern everyday family.

The first talk I wanted to highlight was by Dr. Christopher Bellitto, a Professor of History at Kean University in Union, N.J. on the importance of pairing up older generations with the youth. Pope Francis stated in a 2013 World Youth Day Speech in Brazil: “Older people are often thought of as at an end, which means they’re no longer useful and can be disposed.” Francis says, “No …. the elderly are also the future of a people.” The speaker did a great job highlighting the importance of recognizing the learned experience of the elderly and seeing them as influencers of the upcoming younger generations.

Those who are older have seen the Holy Spirit act throughout their lives and can share this readily with those who are filled with joy and zeal for the future. The presentation focused on having the elderly share their stories with the young and be seen as mentors and partners. Sharing tasks such as cooking or ccrafts can be a profound way to pass on the faith and influence the next generation uniquely in a family setting.

Another talk was from a couple from France; Sandrine and Guillaume Haudebourg, who discussed the importance of bring Christ into the home in this digital age. One suggestion they gave was to have each room of the house inspire conversations between couples. In the family room, they could work life balance. The kitchen provided conversations on health. Each room allows the Lord to essentially be in every part of their home and relationships. They also encouraged creating community through digital means, such as their own prayer group that started during the pandemic but has continued meeting weekly via Zoom for community and support.

The last and perhaps best talk was from an Australian couple who spoke about forgiveness as a path to holiness. In February 2020, a drunk driver crashed into a group of siblings and cousins in the Abdallah family while they were walking to get ice cream. Four children were killed, three from the Abdallah family and a niece. Two of their other children sustained serious injuries. The Abdallah parents described how, in that moment, they were drawn to forgive the driver and not carry hatred in their hearts. Although they wanted the driver to be treated justly, they discussed how forgiveness was an incredible path of healing and holiness in their lives. Their testimony included descriptions of prayer services that were picked up by the media after the event and how their message of forgiveness made a profound impact on the people of Australia. This story ended by saying that, in light of this tragedy, Australia has adopted a National Day of Forgiveness (i4give.com), similar to our National Day of Thanksgiving, where people are encouraged to let go of anger and hatred to find a pathway to healing through forgiveness. Their story can be found on YouTube (youtu.be/DiLGPqJUrWs). They received a 10-minute standing ovation. If nothing else, find time to listen to this story this summer.

How can family life, which can be messy and complicated, make us holier? We know that a vocation is what God calls us to and our path to holiness and eternity in heaven. Family life offers a unique way of achieving this because there are so many ways to invite Jesus into our home and our relationships. Each speaker at the conference testified to the many ways our Lord can work in our lives through our families. Jesus chose to come to Earth in a family and invites us to be a part of his family in heaven. We could easily apply the words of Luke to family life: “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Lk 12:34).

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