Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Foundation of peace: the Family

Nowhere is the conflict of Civilisations felt more keenly than it is by the family - here the two cultures of Life and death meet and the struggle is most deeply felt. Yet the family, in Christ, has been immersed in the well-spring of life in the Sacrament of Marriage, and the forces it possesses for good and for the building up on the Civilisation of Love are grace-filled. In the aftermath of the World Wars and in the midst of the world's contemporary secular project which tries to focus the hearts and minds of men and women on illusory and fleeting goals, the Church has set her sight upon the very basis and medium of human life - the family. The family, in Christ, is the first and most essential building brick of the Civilisation of Love which flows out of the heart of the Holy Trinity.

During this last week I helped to lead a Family Camp and Retreat on the outskirts of Sydney in the very beautiful landscape near the Hawksbury River. This was the first event of the newly established National Association of Catholic Families in Australia (founded some years ago in the UK). I was delighted to have been asked to involve myself with this fledgling Association in Sydney and to be Chaplain to the Camp. My experience of being involved with Catholic family events in the UK has been extremely rewarding - when Catholic families are "switched on" to their mission and the graces that are theirs - loads of human and Christian culture flows out of them.

We had 7.30am Mass each of the three days, talks on "The Eucharist and the Family", "Asceticism in the Family" and "The Family and the New Evangelisation". We prepared our meals and eat together, we experienced the "Flying Fox" and organised a magnificent Family Concert evening. The Camp ended with a Rosary procession through the woods at the Retreat Centre.

In 1981 John Paul II called upon Catholic families to associate - some families have heard his call and family events like these are taking place, albeit with small numbers, throughout the world. I have always encouraged families in the parishes in which I have worked in Leeds to come together, but I have usually found that their attention is on the secular world and have almost totally lost touch with Christ, and my encouragement has led to nothing. I am so grateful to these families of Sydney for the openness which they showed to God, to one another and to me.

There is a Family Conference/Retreat taking place in St Alban's in the Uk at the end of this month - this is your opportunity - become leaders in the new Culture which the Holy Spirirt wants to form!

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