When I solicited ideas from the OSV Newsweekly team for ideas for this issue’s Openers column, I was told that since we’re celebrating Father’s Day this week, I ought to write about that.
But then came Pope Benedict XVI’s surprise announcement earlier this month of Philadelphia as the host city for the next World Meeting of Families, in 2015— and his holding out of the possibility that he personally would attend, “God willing.” And, of course, his remarks on families offer tidbits of inspiration and encouragement not just for fathers, but also for mothers, spouses and children.
His announcement, made at the end of this year’s family gathering in Milan, came as a bit of a surprise. The pope has trimmed his travel schedule of late in a concession to his age, and in three years time, when the U.S. meeting is scheduled, he’ll be 88. He celebrated his 81st birthday in the United States during his six-day visit in April 2008.
Even if the pontiff doesn’t end up making it to Philadelphia, the city’s Archbishop Charles J. Chaput hailed the significance of the venue: “It’s fitting that this gathering, which celebrates the cornerstone of society, will take place in America’s cradle of freedom,” he said in a statement from Milan. “The Holy Father’s choice is a gift to the local Church in Philadelphia and to the whole nation.”
What could we expect? According to a Catholic News Service report, the Milan event drew about 1 million people from more than 150 countries. But Archbishop Chaput told CNS he already has warned Vatican officials that because of his archdiocese’s dismal financial situation right now, the 2015 event will have to be much smaller than it has been.
At the closing Mass in Milan’s North Park, Pope Benedict encouraged married couples to “watch over your children and, in a world dominated by technology, transmit to them, with serenity and trust, reasons for living, the strength of faith, pointing them toward high goals and supporting them in their fragility.”
And he offered a big-picture antidote to parents and spouses dragged down by the daily grind:
“Your vocation is not easy to live, especially today, but the vocation to love is a wonderful thing, it is the only force that can truly transform the cosmos, the world. You have before you the witness of so many families who point out the paths for growing in love: by maintaining a constant relationship with God and participating in the life of the Church, by cultivating dialogue, respecting the other’s point of view, by being ready for service and patient with the failings of others, by being able to forgive and to seek forgiveness, by overcoming with intelligence and humility any conflicts that may arise, by agreeing on principles of upbringing, and by being open to other families, attentive towards the poor, and responsible within civil society.”