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Preparatory catechesis for the World Meeting of Families

Part 2 in a series by Mark Mann
God and Father of us all, in Jesus, your Son and our Savior, you have made us your sons and daughters in the family of the Church. May your grace and love help our families in every part of the world be united to one another in fidelity to the Gospel.
May the example of the Holy Family, with the aid of your Holy Spirit, guide all families, especially those most troubled, to be homes of communion and prayer and to always seek your truth and live in your love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us!
-Prayer from the World Meeting of Families reprinted with permission of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Next September, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will host the Eighth World Meeting of Families. This is an international gathering for all families; at whatever age, whatever your household and whatever your faith tradition – all are welcome to gather with the pope and other leaders of the Catholic Church.
In the Diocese of Grand Rapids, you and your family will have the opportunity to participate in the World Meeting of Families in two ways – by traveling to Philadelphia physically or virtually through the Internet. This is the second in a series of articles to help you and your family prepare for the World Meeting of Families.
Catholics are a people who trust in Jesus Christ, through whom we have a relationship with God. In this relationship, God shapes our hearts to see the world as he does and to love as he loves. One of the key biblical images for understanding how God loves is marriage.
You can find marital imagery in the Old Testament – in the Songs of Songs, Hosea, Ezekiel, Isaiah,  Jeremiah and the Psalms – where we learn that God loves us intimately, with tenderness and longing.
But the Bible is not sentimental about marital love. The prophets also use the image of adultery to describe the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel. When the people of God turn away from God, when they seek security in material goods and neglect the poor, then adultery is exactly the image to describe their infidelity.
Yet God is always faithful. And God’s faithfulness to his people is not a blind romantic kind of loyalty. God knows full well about our sinfulness, our shaky faith and our attempts to love apart from him.
Even then, God does not abandon us. This kind of love is covenantal.
In the same way, a Christian understanding of love involves much more than emotion. This kind of love has dimensions we discover only as we live into it. When we seek God, when we turn to God and accept
God’s love, we learn that love, if it is to be authentic, is meant to be life-giving.
St. Paul vividly describes this kind of love as marital love in his letter to the Ephesians. In a covenantal relationship of marital love, we learn to give up our own perspectives – to die to self – and to give
ourselves to the other. Likewise, Christ Jesus embodies this life-giving love for the Church, proven in blood on the cross. The love of Jesus Christ is both the model and the source of the mutual love of spouses to one another, and, in turn, as parents to their children.
This understanding of love as covenantal is the thread that unites all Catholic teaching on marriage and family. “By contemplating the pierced side of Christ (cf. 19:37), we can understand that “God is love.” (1 Jn.4:8) It is there that this truth can be contemplated.
It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move” [Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 12].
Prayer from the World Meeting of Families reprinted with permission of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
The preparatory catechesis for the World Meeting of Families is Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive. We encourage you to obtain a copy of the full text for your home by visiting or call Michigan Church Supply, 616.245.2251.
Please use the following questions for further reflection on the theme of this article to grow in faith together as a family. We encourage sharing your reflections with your larger “family” of neighbors and those you see at Mass on Sundays.
What is true love and how can we recognize it?
How is God's way of loving the same and how is it different from our human way of loving?

Mark Mann is the director for family, marriage, youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Grand Rapids. For more information about the World Meeting of Families, visit, or contact Mark at 616-475-1243.