The crowd of approximately one million shuffled quietly, some toward the gates with hands outstretched, others kneeling or standing back in contemplation. Thousands of priests in bright white cassocks, escorted with yellow and white umbrellas, descended to deliver the Eucharist to hundreds of thousands of Catholic pilgrims.
In the concluding Papal Mass for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF), Pope Francis’ homily challenged Christians to have a “purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel,” and to open our homes to teach our children love and the importance of diversity, so that our families may truly embody the mission of domestic churches. “They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith,” he continued, “We Christians, the Lord’s disciples, ask the families of the world to help us! How many of us are here at this celebration! This is itself something prophetic, a kind of miracle in today’s world. Would that we could all be prophets! Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world, and thus overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of others!”
The Holy Father’s actions in the preceding week testified to his call for the family to be a source of healing for the world. From Sept. 19-22, he visited Cuba, working to promote reconciliation; the flight from Cuba to Washington was, according to Pope Francis, “symbolic — a bridge that, thanks be to God, is being rebuilt. God always wants to build bridges. We are the ones who build walls. And walls always crumble.”
In his speech before Congress on on Sept. 24, Pope Francis moved American politicians to tears, revealing the pettiness of our divided parties and encouraging all people to safeguard life from conception to natural death. He challenged us to welcome immigrants, identifying with them as the son of an immigrant. On Sept. 27, he visited the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility near Philadelphia, telling the inmates, “I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own.” He apologized and consoled those wounded by the sexual abuse scandals, saying, “God weeps.”
Later in the day, he made his way to celebrate Sunday’s Papal Mass in Philadelphia to close the WMOF Congress. Throughout the previous week, cardinals, sisters, priests, families, students, disabled children, and the elderly from over 100 different nations had gathered to celebrate Mass each day. They encouraged each other in the vision of the family that Cardinal Tagle eloquently delivered: love is our mission, that the family may be a home for the wounded heart.
Upon returning to Rome, Pope Francis shared this vision with his general audience in St. Peter’s Square: the marriage between a man and a woman is united and fertile, which symbolizes communion and fruitfulness, and challenges the consumerist extremes of fragmentation and homogenization. He continued, “[It] was providential that the message, rather, the witness of the World Meeting of Families took place at this time in the United States of America, that is, the nation which achieved the highest economic and technological development in the last century without renouncing its religious roots. Now these same roots are asking that we begin again from the family in order to rethink and change the model of development for the good of the whole human family.” In this visit to America, the pope called Catholics to follow in his footsteps and his teaching, striving for quiet communion together as a home for the wounded heart.
Sources: abcnews.go.com, catholicherald.com