Will Familyfest rival Oktoberfest this October?

By Ben Smith, Director of the Family & Life Office

Many people, especially those with a German background, will celebrate Oktoberfest this month in pubs around the globe. In parallel with this celebration, Catholics will be celebrating a “Familyfest” of their own during the month of October.

The 8th World Meeting of Families was held in Philadelphia, USA from 22 September to 27 September, 2015. The thousands of families that attended were given a great opportunity to grow in their faith by attending a Congress over the first four days of the event, in which they heard from a range of international speakers. The Congress addressed the theme for the event, which was “Love is our Mission: the family fully alive.” Pope Francis attended the event from 26 September to 27 September and led a Festival of Families on the Saturday night, and celebrated the concluding Mass on the Sunday morning. The great spirit of the event and the words of Pope Francis have provided a magnificent entrée to the Familyfest.

On the October long weekend, Pope Francis will be back in Rome to open the Synod on the Family that begins on 4 October and closes on 25 October. The Synod will be attended by a number of Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious, and lay people from all over the world. The theme for the event is “the vocation and mission of the family in the contemporary world”. This theme will look at how the beauty and goodness of marriage and family life can be proclaimed in our contemporary world.

The Synod will also tackle a range of hot button issues such as divorce and remarriage, contraception, and same-sex attraction to explore how Catholics who struggle with these issues can be engaged and accompanied in a non-judgemental and encouraging manner in their faith journeys towards Jesus Christ. The discussion of these topics is bound to generate a robust debate among the participants. It is important for us to pray for those who will take part in the Synod so that they can be inspired by the Holy Spirit in their deliberations.

One special married couple, who will be canonised during the Synod, will play a special role in praying for the success of the Synod. On Sunday, 18 October, 2015, Pope Francis will canonise Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St Thérèse of Lisieux. They will be the first married couple in the Church’s history to be canonised together. Their marriage and family life was a great source of happiness and holiness for them. They shared something special that we need to discover and share in our modern world. Not only did one of their children become a saint, but their five surviving daughters all entered consecrated life.

Louis and Zelie brought up their family in France in the second half of the 19th century. At the time, France was recovering after a major revolution that created a secular government when the Church was suffering persecution. Louis was a watchmaker and Zelie was a lace maker, and they lived a middle class lifestyle in the city of Alencon. They were a devout family who attended daily Mass and helped the poor in their town. They shared many happy occasions but suffered a number of tragedies, with the death of four of their children at a young age and Zelie dying of breast cancer at the age of 45. St Therese of Lisieux’s words concerning her parents provide a good way to summarise their lives: “The Lord gave me a mother and a father more worthy of Heaven than earth.”

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