BY Peter Diamond | August 31 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


The message from Ireland: happiness can be found in family

Scots return from World Meeting committed to combatting secular society

HAPPINESS can be found in the family—that is the message Scotland’s priests, bishops and laity will bring back from Ireland following Pope Francis’ visit to the Emerald Isle for the World Meeting of Families.

Bishops Joseph Toal of Motherwell, John Keenan of Paisley and Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrew’s & Edinburgh attended the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) last week along with Catholics from across Scotland and priests with a focus on helping parents and children.

Fr Nicholas Monaghan, Glasgow Archdiocese’s priest for family and married life, has highlighted the crucial role of the family following the world meeting, while Bishop Toal said he has returned with a refreshed motivation to ‘combat the secular vision in society.’

The World Meeting of Families was an initiative of St Pope John Paul II and aimed to give families and priests the opportunity to learn more about and promote God’s plan for marriage in the family.

Held this year in Dublin, hundreds of thousands of people took part, including Pope Francis, who was in the country from Saturday until Sunday.

Bishop Toal said the meeting’s theme, ‘The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the world,’ encapsulated a week full of joyful moments.

“I know there were a small number of individuals who travelled over from the diocese independently and I hope they found the event as interesting as I did,” the bishop said.

Bishop Toal highlighted two talks as particularly inspiring, one on the difficulties of married life in the modern world and the other on Amoris Laetitia and how the Church handles re-married Catholics. He added that a great number of talks were from the laity, which he said was ‘positive as they have such an important role to play within the Church.’

The bishop was one of 82,000 people in Croke Park Stadium for the Festival of Families on Saturday and he attended the papal Mass on Sunday, where strong winds made taking part a challenge.

Bishop Toal said that at times he couldn’t make out a word of what Pope Francis was saying due to the high winds and that ‘by the time he delivered his homily some of the other bishops around me were following the sermon on their phones!’

“But it was obviously a very important message,” he added.

“Particularly the point about mothers and babies and the abuse that went on there.

“Overall though, it was a terrific global gathering and it’s nice to participate in these events and remind ourselves that we are one Church spread across the world.

“I think we need to encourage families because it is a powerful thing to see the Holy Spirit present in our family and we should also remember that the Church is a family and take that into the world.

“The Pope spoke about different families and their place within God’s house and I think a lot of that talk is necessary but we should also remember that traditional families are vitally important if we want to find true happiness within our families.”

Bishop Toal said that ‘although there are enormous pressures on young Catholics not to take up or delay getting married or starting a family, the Church will always say these virtues are a blessing.’

He added: “We still have a lot of things to do in our own country to combat the secular visions within society and I think everyone who took part in the week in Ireland will come away with a refreshing steer towards that.

“Nowadays there is a lot of pressure on adults to delay creating a family or getting married or having children, so we need to keep presenting a positive message for people to say these things are good.

“All of these things are a natural part of life and a beautiful part of life and therefore we need to support one another in preaching that marriage and family life is a blessing to people.”

Much of Pope Francis’ visit received bleak coverage in the UK secular media.

However, Bishop Toal said: “What I picked up from the Irish bishops that I spoke to and the media coverage that I watched at night is that the Faith is still resonating across Irish society.

“People are still interested in what the Church has to say. It was featured every evening on the primetime TV slot and covered a range of issues with a mixture between enthusiasm and hope for the future and hurt and anger for past wrongdoings that have happened in Ireland.”

Bishop Toal added that he was impressed with the way that Irish Bishops equipped themselves throughout the week and their defence of the Faith’s fundamentals.

He added: “The media coverage the Pope’s visit received was something that stood out because it was getting so much exposure every evening that certainly wouldn’t happen in Scottish television. So it was great to see that Faith is still a significant part of life in Ireland, even though some people are now fiercely critical.

“I think the bishops over there are very brave and perhaps should be given some credit as many of them are carrying the flack for failures that are by in large historical. They sit beside these strong critics on national television and defend the fundamentals of the Church’s teachings, that was something that quite impressed me.”

Fr Monaghan of St Dominic’s Church in Bishopbriggs said the World Meeting was a reminder that families who pray together bear so many fruits for the Church.

Fr Monaghan said: “The Church continues to teach that families are the first and vital cell of society and while in Scotland, like every other western country, marriage and the family face all kinds of pressures, people still desire its goodness and blessings for themselves and their children.

“I think their witness is the best way to encourage others to realise they can find happiness too by following God’s plan into marriage and the blessings of children and family life.”

Fr Monaghan said his highlight throughout the week was seeing families from all over the world expressing their Faith including a mother and son who travelled from the US to promote their children’s Rosary campaign and a family from Poland who formed their own music group to highlight the role of St Pope John Paul II within the WMOF.

Fr Monaghan added: “The testimonies we heard at the WMOF reminded us that the family is not only a place of blessing but also a place where the Faith is learned and lived and is a source of strength in difficulties.”


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