The Year is dedicated to Saint Joseph, “spouse and father”. The pandemic has shown the fragility of many families, but also their strength. Pastoral care must embrace the many new situations: families in crisis, single people, poor, broken down families. It is urgent to “lead children and young people in the discovery of the beauty” of the marital vocation. Youth disenchantment and adults’ solitude vis-à-vis educational challenges must be overcome.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Starting tomorrow, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, a special Year dedicated to the family begins, marking the fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
Card Kevin J Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, officially announced the Year at a press conference held today at the Vatican.
Pope Francis had already mentioned it last December. The pontiff chose to dedicate the year to Saint Joseph, Card Farrell said, since he was “spouse and father, so loved that he was chosen by God to look after the Holy Family.”
The reason for the year is the desire to refocus on Amoris Laetitia, which was “the result of a long synodal journey”. This is all the more important since the ongoing pandemic has harshly affected family life in so many ways, while manifesting “its face as the 'guardian of life'“ precisely through current problems.
The year should be used to renew the pastoral care of families, burdened by many difficulties. “Let us think about accompanying couples and families in crisis, support those who have been left alone, the poor, broken down families. Many families must be helped to discover in the sufferings of life the place of Christ's presence and his merciful love”.
At the same time, families must become the “subject” of pastoral care. “Families are full of potential and gifts for the whole society and the Church, and therefore must be actively recognised and involved as protagonists of the ordinary pastoral care of parishes and dioceses.”
Prof Gabriella Gambino, undersecretary of the Dicastery, attended the press conference. She highlighted the urgent need to “boost the beauty of the sacrament of marriage and Christian families”, especially among young people and children.
In our age “when fragility is so widespread, there is a great desire for family, but so much fear in the face of the choice of marriage,” she explained. For this reason it is necessary “to start from the foundations of faith in order to lead children and young people in the discovery of the beauty of a vocation, that of marriage.”
Gambino proposed a method, a form of pastoral outreach that can be used right-away, one that is not compartmentalised so that faith can be shared by children, parents and grandparents.
“This could make up for the disenchantment towards the journey of faith by children and the loneliness of adults in the face of the educational challenges that arise as the family grows.”
“The timing and methods of pastoral care need to be rethought today since many families live in large cities and must handle work commitments of spouses and the school and extracurricular commitments of their children.”
For Gambino, monthly videos produced by the Dicastery on the apostolic exhortation can help intensely experience this year. They include a statement by the Pope and some testimonies about aspects of Amoris Laetitia.
“Today we are going through a vocational emergency, not only vis-à-vis religious life, but also marriage. As we have said, choosing marriage is not like choosing a job: it is a vocation. This year, more than ever, we are all called to work to boost the family institution, not only in the Church, but also in society.”
During the press conference, a couple, Valentina and Leonardo Nepi, spoke about their experience of maturing the marital vocation and their current experience as parents of a five-year-old daughter, Ilaria.
Both pointed out that “when we were teenagers, it was important to see young couples and newlyweds freely devoting times to us young people, moved by a strong sense of Christian community.”
For them too, it is urgent that the message about married life as a vocation reach young people. “The seeds of this proclamation are in fact already laid in youth and it is important that the family outreach and youth pastoral outreach be closely connected.”