The Theology of the Family

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Day 6 – The Papal Mass

Family Life is Unpredictable

The last day of the World Meeting of Families promised another awesome event with the Pope, this time with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as the centerpiece. For many, the opportunity to attend mass celebrated by the Pope is a once in a lifetime experience. The whole family was looking forward to this final day of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, but when we awoke on Sunday morning, one of our children was not feeling well. He came in and told us that he would not be able to make the bike ride to Philadelphia because he couldn’t breathe. He was very obviously having a wheezing episode as I could easily hear the rattling in his chest with each labored breath.

IMG_5476Sunday at the ER

I set out with Peter to the ER in Camden, NJ, we rode our bicycles expecting that this visit would end quickly after a breathing treatment and we would be on our way to join the rest of the family at the Papal Mass later in the day. But Peter did not respond well enough to the first treatment, so he had to receive two more and a prescription for steroids.

Led by my two older kids, the rest of my family made their way across the FenceBen Franklin bridge. through the north side of downtown Philadelphia, past the security gates and settled into their spot to the north east of the Franklin Institute where the Papal Mass took place. From the estimates I heard on the live USCCB feed of the event, there were around 1 million people who attended the Papal Mass, over 300,000 more people than the previous day’s events drew.

Peter and I had a nice day together, just not what either of us had expected. We never did make it across the bridge to Philly, we finished up at the hospital close to 5:30 PM and we went in search of an open Pharmacy to fill his prescription. We didn’t have keys to our RV, so we took our time getting back to where it was parked and stopped along the way to take in the scenery and eat a few donuts.

Understanding God through Living Family Life

As I reflected on this turn of events, I realized that I was learning more about God by living out His plan for family life. Family life is not predictable, it is not always easy, it very often requires sacrifice and always requires dying to self. Family life is one way that God is able to teach us to love like He loves us. Selfishly I would like liked to attend the Papal Mass, but out of a duty and a desire to do what was best for my son because I love him and want his to be healthy and happy I spent the afternoon at the hospital.

God the Father does the same for us. He loved us so much that He couldn’t just watch us suffer due to sin. He sent us His Son to heal us of our iniquities and save us from our sin.   Jesus also continued to show us how to love during the 33 years he lived on earth. He lived family life, sanctified family life, and demonstrated how effective a well-lived family life can be used to transform the world.

massFamily life can be difficult, but it should not be viewed as a burden, it often includes suffering, but this suffering is not without value. Family life is beautiful, with all its ups and downs, it is the means by which God designed us to come into the world and to learn how to love and learn how to serve.   When faced with difficulties, we can look at these challenges as punishment or misfortune or we can view them as gifts from God for our benefit to teach us how to love like He loves. God loves us so much that He sent his only Son into the world to save us from our sins.   If He loves us this much do you think He would place us in harm’s way? Would He give us a struggle that has no value for our eternal salvation? Would He abandon us in our time of greatest need? No He wouldn’t, He is a loving God who loves us more than we can fathom. When we enter into the mystery of family life, we enter into the mystery of God.

When Peter and I were in the hospital watching the Papal Mass from afar, I was at peace knowing that I was where I needed to be at that moment. Peter too was very content and very peaceful even though he was very uncomfortable. Perhaps my son showed me how I should be when I am sick or experiencing discomfort, I should be content knowing that God is with me and will not abandon me in my time of need.


Read the whole series on our Pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families here.


About the Author:

Allen Hébert is a Senior Solutions Engineer in the Information Technology Industry. Allen and his wife Denae, have been married for over 31 years and they have been blessed with nine children. Allen enjoys swimming, driving the family RV and the great outdoors.


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