Within the Fold and Without

Author: Pope Francis

Within the Fold and Without

Pope Francis

At the General Audience Pope Francis calls all to pray for families and to renew prayer for the Synod

A special “pause in prayer” for the family and for life: this was the heart of the General Audience on Wednesday, 23 March [2015], the Solemnity of the Annunciation. The Pope asked the faithful present in St Peter’s Square to recite the Hail Mary and the Prayer to the Holy Family composed for the Synod of Bishops, recalling that the Church "as a mother, never abandons the family, even when it is downhearted, wounded and humiliated in so many ways. Neither when it falls into sin nor moves away from the Church; she will always do anything to try to take care of it and heal it, to call it to conversion and to reconcile it to the Lord”. The following is a translation of the Pope’s catechesis, which was given in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Good morning!

In our series of catecheses on the family, today’s is a special step: it will be a pause in prayer.

Indeed, on 25 March in the Church we solemnly celebrate the Annunciation, the mystery of the Incarnation begins. The Archangel Gabriel visits a humble girl in Nazareth and proclaims to her that she will conceive and bear the Son of God. With this Annunciation the Lord illuminates and strengthens Mary’s faith, as He will also do for her spouse Joseph, so that Jesus could be born into a human family. This is very beautiful: it shows us how deeply the mystery of the Incarnation, as God desired, encompasses not only conception in the mother’s womb, but also acceptance in a real family. Today I would like to contemplate with you the beauty of this bond, the beauty of God’s condescension; and we can do this by reciting the Hail Mary together, the first part of which takes up the words of the Angel, those he addressed to the Virgin. I invite you to pray together:

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit
of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of
our death. Amen.

And now a second aspect: on 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, in many countries the Day for Life is celebrated. That is why, 20 years ago, St John Paul II on this day signed the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae. In order to commemorate this anniversary there are many followers of the Pro-Life Movement present in the Square today. In Evangelium Vitae, the family occupies a central place, as it is the womb of human life. The word of my venerable Predecessor reminds us that a human couple was blessed from the beginning to form a community of love and life, entrusted with the mission to generate life. Christian spouses, celebrating the Sacrament of Marriage, make themselves open to honour this blessing, with the grace of Christ, for their whole lives. The Church, for her part, is solemnly committed to care for the family that is born, as a gift of God for her life, in good times and in bad: the bond between the Church and the family is sacred and inviolable. The Church, as a mother, never abandons the family, even when it is downhearted, wounded and humiliated in so many ways. Neither when it falls into sin nor moves away from the Church; she will always do everything to try to care for and heal it, to call it to conversion and to reconcile it to the Lord.

If this then is the task, it is dear how much prayer the Church needs in order to be able, in every age, to carry out this mission! Prayer full of love for the family and for life. Prayer that can rejoice with the rejoicing and suffer with the suffering.

Here then is what I, together with my co-workers, have thought to offer today: renewal of prayer for the Synod of Bishops on the Family. We relaunch this commitment until this coming October, when the Ordinary Synodal Assembly dedicated to the family will take place. I would like this prayer, as the whole journey of the Synod, to be animated by the compassion of the Good Shepherd for his flock, especially for people and families who, for different reasons, are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36). Thus, sustained and animated by the grace of God, the Church can be ever more committed, and ever more united, in the witness of the truth of the love of God and of his mercy for the world’s families, none excluded, both within the fold and without.

I ask you, please do not fail to pray. Everyone — the pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay faithful — we are all callcd to pray for the Synod. This is what is needed, not gossip! I also call to prayer those who feel distant or who are no longer used to it. This prayer for the Synod on the Family is for the good of everyone. I know that this morning you were given a holy card, which you are holding in your hands. I invite you to keep it and carry it with you, so that in the coming months you can recite it often, with holy persistence, as Jesus asked us to. Now let us recite it together:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love,
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too may be
places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again experience
violence, rejection and division:
May all who have been hurt
or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us more mindful of the
sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer. Amen.

L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
27 March 2015, page 3

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