Editor's Note: This exhortation, promulgated Dec. 30, 2018, is reprinted with permission from the Diocese of Phoenix. Learn more at: https://family.dphx.org.
COMPLETE MY JOY (Philippians 1:27-2:2)
“Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (Philippians 1:27-2:2, RSV)
APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION TO THE HUSBANDS AND WIVES, MOTHERS AND FATHERS OF THE DIOCESE OF PHOENIX
THOMAS J. OLMSTED
BISHOP OF PHOENIX
- When I consider the blessings that God has bestowed on me in my life, second only to my Baptism into Christ’s family is the blessing of being raised in a faithful and united Catholic family. My parents, Patrick and Helen, committed themselves to God in the vocation to Holy Matrimony, and this provided a stability for me to grow as their son and as a son of God. I, and my brothers and sisters, never worried about their commitment to God, to each other or to us. For this I am eternally grateful. Their motherly and fatherly acceptance of my life, that of my 5 siblings and the common, simple home life that we lived allowed God to form us and prepared us to follow His will.
- Likewise, throughout my life as a priest, I can say that some of the most meaningful moments are those when God sent me to walk with and minister to families amidst the ups and downs of life. Family is likely where we feel the deepest joys as well as the deepest pain. This is because of the deep love that comes with family; it echoes our deep human need for love. In fact, I am convinced that the priestly work that we spiritual fathers do for the upbuilding of the family is our most important work. I think this more today than ever.
- So, in this 15th year of my service to you as your bishop, and the 50th anniversary of our founding as a Diocese, I seek in this exhortation to, in a way, visit your home. Throughout this Jubilee Year, I shall be praising God for all of the husbands and wives, mothers and fathers of the Diocese of Phoenix. Over these past 50 years, countless faithful Catholics have surely attained the goal of their lives — eternal salvation. Credit here is due to the rich mercy of God, to the dedicated priests and religious who have served our Diocese so well, and to you and the many faithful families who have lived — and continue to live—your vocations with generosity and even, at times, heroism.
- I thank the Lord for each of you. I call upon the Holy Spirit and the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of our Diocese, to assist me in encouraging and challenging you to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ—Who is the source of hope and love for every vocation. Your taking up this mission in a renewed way during this Year of the Family will do much to complete my joy in you as your spiritual father.
How to read this Exhortation
- I ask that you read through this exhortation prayerfully and slowly, with a listening heart. In this way, you can receive what the Lord has for you, fitting for your own journey and your family’s journey. Many of you, though from strong and intact families, have yet to hear family life presented as a beautiful, noble and joy-filled life that can certainly be lived with God’s grace. Others of you give thought regularly to your family’s mission, and are looking for a challenge; I trust you will find it.
- I also am keenly aware that for many, the family pain that you experienced, or are experiencing now, has injured the hopes that such happiness in a family could be attainable. Do not be afraid. Great hope remains in Jesus Christ who has overcome the world. If this place of suffering is where you find yourself at this time, you may profit by reading chapter four first, on suffering, sin and healing.
God’s Remarkable Plan: Image the Trinity, Domestic Church
- Let us begin: God has a plan for your good and for your family’s healing, renewal and mission. This is not to say that your family life will look at any point like a sales brochure model! It doesn’t have to. In fact, to an almost comical degree, simply looking at the people the Bible names in the bloodline of Jesus — the difficult and fractured family situations that God used to give us our Savior — should assure all of us that He in no way sees our family situation as irredeemable. [Pope Francis shares this history remarkably in his 2016 exhortation on the family The Joy of Love, Chapter 1.] Far deeper than the appearances, God wants to increase a profound communion of love in your family that corresponds to the deepest desires of your hearts.
- Is this truly possible? Yes. How? Because of what you are. I want to remind you here of who and what you are, Catholic families of the Diocese of Phoenix. What you are is beautiful and exciting, at the deepest possible level! And the challenge to become what you are even more is therefore worth our time to discuss, and worth any required sacrifice.
- A bit of theology is needed here. Theology is pondering God’s mystery, the truth he reveals about Himself. St. John Paul II, in his magnificent 1981 exhortation to the Christian family, The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, reminded all of us that “the family has the mission to guard, reveal, and communicate love,” and so become “a living reflection of, and a real sharing in God’s love.” [Familiaris Consortio, 17.] Through the family, husband and wife — and any children God gives them — are a living image or icon of the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity!
- Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI makes this point even more explicitly when he says, “God is Trinity. The human family is, in a certain sense, the icon of the Trinity because of the love between its members and the fruitfulness of that love.” [Benedict XVI. Homily on Holy Family Sunday. (Dec 28, 2009).] As the concrete image of God to the world, every family — your family — is, by its nature, a communion of love and life.
- When the world’s coldness, monotony, or malevolence cause other people to wonder—as they now often do—whether God exists at all, where has He placed the clearest sign that He is indeed present, and that He is love? He placed it in the family, man and woman united in life-long marriage, bringing the child, a fruit of their love or foster/adoptive generosity, into their little community, growing love in the world, growing visible light to counter the darkness.
- To this awe-inspiring truth — that the little icon of the family images the Trinitarian God in a unique way — we can add this: the Christian family is also the littlest living cell of the Church—the domestic church, in fact. This is another indicator of your dignity and the adventure of your mission! Your home is, and is called to grow, as an outpost of the mission of the Church militant on earth, in union and service with your parish. “Thus, the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith…the family, like the Church, ought to be a place where the Gospel is transmitted and from which the Gospel radiates…the future of evangelization depends in great part on the Church of the home.” [Familiaris Consortio, 51-52]