Here below are the full texts of Pope Francis' address at a Meeting with Families this evening in Manila, beginning with a welcome message of Bishop Gabriel Reyes, Bishop of Antipolo and President of the Episcopal Commission for the Family, followed by testimonies by families.



Most Holy Father,

Welcome home! This is your home. We are your children and you are our father. The families of the Philippines are here. We have long welcomed you into our hearts. Now we embrace you eager to listen to you.

Where are the Filipino families? Many of us are like the crisp morning sunburst. The family is our nest of happiness. The family is our cradle of warmth. Speak to us Holy Father and bless us to remain in the sunshine of Jesus.

Some of us are fetching water in the heat of the noon sun like the Samaritan woman by the well. Some of us are confused. Some of us are living in guilt and shame because of our dark secret sins. Some of us are weary and lonesome. We seem to have everything and yet we know we have nothing. Speak to us Holy Father and teach us as Jesus did at the well of Jacob.

Some of us are tired and burdened. Discouraged and hurt like the disciples of Emmaus on that Easter afternoon. Our wages are not enough. Our backs are aching from working all day in foreign lands. Our children are hungry and we have none to feed them. We have not seen our children for years. We look for happiness in drugs and alcohol. Speak to us Holy Father and bring us the joy that only comes from Jesus.

But all of us are children of Easter morning. We are not children of gloom and darkness but children of light and hope. You are here. Jesus is here. Jesus makes us new.

Speak to us Holy Father. We will listen with love. We know you are also listening to us because you love us. Pope Francis mahal na mahal po namin kayo!



Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
Meeting with Families
Manila, Mall of Asia Arena
16 January 2015

Dear Families,
Dear Friends in Christ,

I am grateful for your presence here this evening and for the witness of your love for Jesus and his Church. I thank Bishop Reyes, Chairman of the Bishops’ Commission on Family and Life, for his words of welcome on your behalf. And, in a special way, I thank those who have presented testimonies and have shared their life of faith with us.

The Scriptures seldom speak of Saint Joseph, but when they do, we often find him resting, as an angel reveals God’s will to him in his dreams. In the Gospel passage we have just heard, we find Joseph resting not once, but twice. This evening I would like to rest in the Lord with all of you, and to reflect with you on the gift of the family. 

It is important to dream in the family. All mothers and fathers dream of their sons and daughters in the womb for 9 months. They dream of how they will be. It isn’t possible to have a family without such dreams. When you lose this capacity to dream you lose the capacity to love, the capacity to love is lost. I recommend that at night when you examine your consciences, ask yourself if you dreamed of the future of your sons and daughters. Did you dream of your husband or wife? Did you dream today of your parents, your grandparents who carried forward the family to me? It is so important to dream and especially to dream in the family. Please don’t lose the ability to dream in this way. How many solutions are found to family problems if we take time to reflect, if we think of a husband or wife, and we dream about the good qualities they have. Don’t ever lose the memory of when you were boyfriend or girlfriend. That is very important.

Joseph’s rest revealed God’s will to him. In this moment of rest in the Lord, as we pause from our many daily obligations and activities, God is also speaking to us. He speaks to us in the reading we have just heard, in our prayer and witness, and in the quiet of our hearts. Let us reflect on what the Lord is saying to us, especially in this evening’s Gospel. There are three aspects of this passage which I would ask you to consider: resting in the Lord, rising with Jesus and Mary, and being a prophetic voice.

Resting in the Lord. Rest is so necessary for the health of our minds and bodies, and often so difficult to achieve due to the many demands placed on us. But rest is also essential for our spiritual health, so that we can hear God’s voice and understand what he asks of us. Joseph was chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. As Christians, you too are called, like Joseph, to make a home for Jesus. You make a home for him in your hearts, your families, your parishes and your communities.

To hear and accept God’s call, to make a home for Jesus, you must be able to rest in the Lord. You must make time each day for prayer. But you may say to me: Holy Father, I want to pray, but there is so much work to do! I must care for my children; I have chores in the home; I am too tired even to sleep well. This may be true, but if we do not pray, we will not know the most important thing of all: God’s will for us. And for all our activity, our busy-ness, without prayer we will accomplish very little. 

Resting in prayer is especially important for families. It is in the family that we first learn how to pray. And don’t forget when the family prays together, it remains together. This is important. There we come to know God, to grow into men and women of faith, to see ourselves as members of God’s greater family, the Church. In the family we learn how to love, to forgive, to be generous and open, not closed and selfish. We learn to move beyond our own needs, to encounter others and share our lives with them. That is why it is so important to pray as a family! That is why families are so important in God’s plan for the Church!

I would like to tell you something very personal. I like St Joseph very much. He is a strong man of silence. On my desk I have a statue of St Joseph sleeping. While sleeping he looks after the Church. Yes, he can do it! We know that. When I have a problem or a difficulty, I write on a piece of paper and I put it under his statue so he can dream about it. This means please pray to St Joseph for this problem.

Next, rising with Jesus and Mary. Those precious moments of repose, of resting with the Lord in prayer, are moments we might wish to prolong. But like Saint Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act (cf. Rom 13:11). Faith does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it. Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world.

Just as the gift of the Holy Family was entrusted to Saint Joseph, so the gift of the family and its place in God’s plan is entrusted to us so we can carry it forward. To each one of you and us because I too am the son of a family.

The angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph the dangers which threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee to Egypt and then to settle in Nazareth. So too, in our time, God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm. We must be attentive to the new ideological colonization.

Beware of the new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family. It’s not born of the dream that we have from God and prayer – it comes from outside and that’s why I call it a colonization. Let us not lose the freedom to take forward the mission God has given us, the mission of the family. And just as our peoples were able to say in the past “No” to the period of colonization, as families we have to be very wise and strong to say “No” to any attempted ideological colonization that could destroy the family. And to ask the intercession of St Joseph to know when to say “Yes” and when to say “No”....

The pressures on family life today are many. Here in the Philippines, countless families are still suffering from the effects of natural disasters. The economic situation has caused families to be separated by migration and the search for employment, and financial problems strain many households. While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality. The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life. 

I think of Blessed Paul VI in the moment of that challenge of population growth, he had the strength to defend openness to life. He knew the difficulties families experience and that’s why in his encyclical (Humanae Vitae) he expressed compassion for specific cases and he taught professors to be particularly compassionate for particular cases. And he went further, he looked at the people on the earth and he saw that lack (of children) and the problem it could cause families in the future. Paul VI was courageous, a good pastor and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching. And from the heavens he blesses us today.

Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats! The Philippines needs holy and loving families to protect the beauty and truth of the family in God’s plan and to be a support and example for other families. Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself. The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). So protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments. Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them! Instead, be living examples of love, forgiveness and care. Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death. What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation! So rise with Jesus and Mary, and set out on the path the Lord traces for each of you.

Finally, the Gospel we have heard reminds us of our Christian duty to be prophetic voices in the midst of our communities. Joseph listened to the angel of the Lord and responded to God’s call to care for Jesus and Mary. In this way he played his part in God’s plan, and became a blessing not only for the Holy Family, but a blessing for all of humanity. With Mary, Joseph served as a model for the boy Jesus as he grew in wisdom, age and grace (cf. Lk 2:52). When families bring children into the world, train them in faith and sound values, and teach them to contribute to society, they become a blessing in our world. God’s love becomes present and active by the way we love and by the good works that we do. We extend Christ’s kingdom in this world. And in doing this, we prove faithful to the prophetic mission which we have received in baptism.

During this year which your bishops have set aside as the Year of the Poor, I would ask you, as families, to be especially mindful of our call to be missionary disciples of Jesus. This means being ready to go beyond your homes and to care for our brothers and sisters who are most in need. I ask you especially to show concern for those who do not have a family of their own, in particular those who are elderly and children without parents. Never let them feel isolated, alone and abandoned, but help them to know that God has not forgotten them.

I was very moved after the Mass today when I visited that shelter for children with no parents. How many people in the Church work so that that house is a home, family? This is what it means to take forward, prophetically, the meaning of family. You may be poor yourselves in material ways, but you have an abundance of gifts to offer when you offer Christ and the community of his Church. Do not hide your faith, do not hide Jesus, but carry him into the world and offer the witness of your family life!

Dear friends in Christ, know that I pray for you always! I pray that the Lord may continue to deepen your love for him, and that this love may manifest itself in your love for one another and for the Church. Pray often and take the fruits of your prayer into the world, that all may know Jesus Christ and his merciful love. Please pray also for me, for I truly need your prayers and will depend on them always!

H/T Rocco Palmo for unscripted remarks. 



TESTIMONIES BY THE FAMILIES
Manila, January 16, 2015

One by one, the assigned families will go to the designated place to deliver their testimony. After each testimony the family approaches the Holy Father to kiss his hand. The Testimony of the Dizon family will be in Tagalog, that of the Pumarada family in English, and that of the Cruz family in sign language with voice interpretation.

***

Dizon Family
Testimony on Poverty

I’m happy to introduce my family to every one of you. We are the Dizon Family and we live in Barangay Krus Na Ligas, Quezon City, a small community with a big population living a simple life. We do not have much, but amidst poverty, we find ourselves rich in graces from God, graces that are priceless.

Our mother is Francisca Dizon. When she was nine years old, our grandparents tasked her to take good care of the small and old chapel in our community which later became a parish.

She was the president of the Sacred Heart of Jesus’ group and the Altar Ladies or the Mother Butlers Guild and until now, she is still an active member of the organization. Our father, Sixto Dizon, was one of the young people who fought against the Japanese in World War II. He was a member of our barangay peace and order committee. Since our parents are actively serving the community and the church, they’re able to influence us and their grandchildren who are now members of different organizations such as Family and Life Ministry, Music Ministry, Lectors and Commentators, Knights of the Altar, and Youth Ministry. My sister became the president of Parish Pastoral Council when it was still a mini parish and it’s also during her leadership that it was established as the parish of Krus Na Ligas, now Holy Cross Parish. All the organizations reunited for one goal and that is to enrich not only the works related to the church but for the whole community as well. These are just some of the priceless graces we have amidst poverty and simplicity.

More than economic difficulties, manifold of challenges strengthen the faith and relationship of the people of Krus Na Ligas. And, our family actively participated in every struggle that our community had. When UP tried take the small farm field that our parents and other people cultivated and harvested crops, the only source of living at that time, it was a moment of almost losing everything, losing the only thing that we have.

The sound of the church’s bell signaled the people to go out of their houses and fight for their rights. It was a victory, for the invasion of the community’s land was unsuccessful and that’s because of the love and cooperation of the people, and of their deep faith. Another big struggle was the supposed construction of a building in front of the church. And again, the residents of the community didn’t fail to show how firm they were in their faith, that the said project would not bring any significant effect to the community particularly to the churchgoers. Our mother is a living witness and one of the reasons why the project was not pursued. Who can separate us from the love of Christ? God is always with us.

We do not have much, but God also granted us the grace to be part in the formation of priests and religious men, as we served as foster family to many of them; seminarians and religious from San Carlos Seminary, Franciscan Missionaries and San Jose Seminary including our beloved Archbishop, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who stayed with us during his exposure as a seminarian.

A Christian family is not a perfect family. We are indeed a big family with 11 siblings, 40 grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren. There are times of misunderstandings,
frustrations, differences in principles. But all our experiences in the past brought us here now as a Christian family, living in mercy and compassion. Our family strongly believe that we will surpass life’s challenges as long as we are together and with the help of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

We will continue to serve and help our fellow men, and our beloved Barangay Krus Na Ligas. We are rich not in material things but in graces and blessings from above that nothing in this world can ever give; the grace of faith, community and family. We are the Dizon Family from Krus na Ligas, and we live by the footsteps of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. AMEN.

***

Pumarada Family
Testimony on OFWs

My name is Ma. Ediza Pumarada. I am with my husband William and our only daughter, Shalmae. We are married for twenty-two years now. Our story is one of the many stories of migrant Filipino families nowadays.

In October 1995, economic difficulty and the lack of good employment possibilities here in our country painfully pushed my husband to look for better opportunities in Singapore for the good of our family. Our separation, only three years after our marriage, brought me feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. The psychological and emotional burdens were difficult to bear in spite of the earnings that working abroad brought our family. Homesickness and loneliness set in. My adjustments as a wife, left alone to take care of our daughter assuming both the roles of being father and the mother for her, was a real challenge for me. Keeping our loving relationship and our trust for each other, in spite of our separation, was even more challenging. I grew-up in a Catholic environment. I was a member of a choir in our parish during my younger days. I also helped in the building of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC’s) in our parish.

My Catholic background taught me the importance of prayer in one’s life. We prayed hard from the time when my husband was still discerning whether or not to work abroad. And when the decision was finally made, we again entrusted it to the Lord and asked him to strengthen our family. Prayer was also our weapon to overcome misunderstandings in our family.

Indeed, through prayer accompanied with our efforts to positively communicate with each other, things also turned out well for us as a family.

Yet, it is sad that not many migrant families are as blessed as we are today. We witness family disintegration and abandonment of children even among our closest relatives.
Migration continues to challenge the structure, roles and functions of the family, communities and the larger society.

Children went astray in life because of the lack of presence and proper guidance of their parents. Moved by the situation of migrants and of the families they left behind, I joined the migrants’ ministry of our parish and helped organizing them. And in the year 2000, this parish apostolate led me to a wider apostolate through the Migrants Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. Under its auspices, I started conducting seminars for migrants and their families in the different parishes and dioceses in the country.

Our daughter also joined the youth ministry in our parish. After her college graduation last year, she started her career with the Commission on Filipino Overseas, a government
agency that attends to the needs of migrants. Both of us are also volunteers of the Scalabrinian Lay Association (SLA), which provides awareness seminars on international migration to graduating university students. In all of these, my husband’s support is very much felt, albeit from a distance, and in fact, he joins us in some of our apostolates when he is here with us for short vacations. As a family, sustained by God’s grace, we will never get tired of our apostolates where we could share our talents and other blessings especially to migrants and their families who are in need.

Holy Father, thank you very much for showing your fatherly concern for migrants and their families. Holy Father, please bless and pray for all the migrant families in the Philippines and all over the world. Thank you very much!

***

Cruz Family
Testimony on PWD

I am Renato G. Cruz. I am with my wife, Anastacia, and my children, Zernice Anne, Reanne, Jeizel Ann, and Azrick-Jon.

My wife and I are deaf, but my children are hearing. It is not easy to be deaf. From Monday to Saturday, we mostly stayed in our house. No deaf friends to talk to because they live far from our house. No neighbours to talk to because they are all hearing and unable to communicate with us. They will just greet us and say hi or hello but not to the extent that they will talk to us that much longer.

I usually attend activities in school, but I find it hard to understand anything because there is no interpreter available. Though my children know how to sign and interpret, there are times that we are far from each other, making it difficult for them to interpret for me. So when the speaker begins to talk, I have no idea what he is saying and I don’t understand anything. I just rely on the powerpoint presentation and the gestures of the other parents.

Faith in God is very important. We teach our children the importance of God in our lives. We teach them to pray, to offer to God their personal intentions. It is of great help that the grandparents of my children are religious. And they are able to teach my children about prayer. Before when my children were still young, we went to church every Sunday. But as they grow and have their own preferences, they go as their own or with their friends when going to church. Sometimes, they have work on Sunday. My wife and I always try to attend mass where there is sign language interpreter like in Quiapo Church and in St. Joseph Church in Quezon City. I teach sign language.

But I also teach catechism to deaf children studying in public schools. I teach them about the sacraments and prepare them for confession and first communion. I have been part for a very long time of the Catholic Organization of Deaf Youth and Adults and the Catholic Ministry to Deaf People.

I always encourage deaf parents like me, to join retreats and recollection in the church. I always remind them to have an open mind. And make sure that they become role models for others.

My whole family is very grateful to the Lord for leading us to overcome all trials and challenges. May all families be filled with mercy and compassion, always strong and united. Thank you very much.