SANTIAGO DE CUBA — Pope Francis met with families on Tuesday at Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral in Santiago de Cuba, thanking those gathered for their warm witness and inclusive nature, reflecting that it is at home, in the family, that Christ shows the love of God.
Going off script from his prepared remarks Sept. 22, the Pope recalled that at the general audiences held each Wednesday in St. Peter's Square, “I pass by so many people, so many women, who show me they're pregnant, and they ask my blessing.”
“I will propose something to you, to those women who are 'pregnant with hope,' because a child is hope, a source of hope: At this moment, touch your womb. Not just those here, (but) those listening on television or radio; to each one, each of these children, boys or girls in the womb, I bless them! I bless the children in the womb, in the name of Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
“I hope they may be holy; they may grow. Be tender to the child whom you are expecting.”
In his prepared remarks, Pope Francis said, “I remember in my former diocese how many families told me that almost the only time they came together was at dinner, in the evening after work, when the children had finished their homework,” adding that these times around the table are “special times in the life of the family.”
“These were also times when someone might come home tired, or when arguments or bickering might break out,” the Holy Father continued, saying, “Jesus chooses all those times to show us the love of God.”
At home, Pope Francis noted that children and families learn how to receive, to appreciate the blessings of life and to learn interdependence.
“That is why the Christian community calls families ‘domestic churches.’ It is in the warmth of the home that faith fills every corner, lights up every space, builds community,” the Holy Father noted.
Pope Francis also noted that Christ himself made many of his own appearances of public life at meals and dinners, eating with different people and showing up in various homes.
“He chose a specific moment of family life as the ‘place’ of his presence among us: a moment which we have all experienced, a moment which we all understand: a meal,” Pope Francis stated, noting the importance of the Eucharist as the “Bread of Life for our families.”
In addition to meals, Christ made appearances at weddings and in people’s homes, adding special meaning to those ordinary, daily moments in people’s lives because Christ chose to be part of them, the Pope said.
Christ began his public ministry at a wedding, where “he enters into that history of sowing and reaping, of dreams and quests, of efforts and commitments.”
Weddings are important occasions in family life, the Pope continued, saying they are times when grandparents and parents can “reap the fruits of what they have sown.”
“Our hearts rejoice when we see children grow up and make a home of their own. For a moment, we see that everything we worked for was worth the effort,” Pope Francis said.
However, the Holy Father warned against those cultures in which the space for the family is shrinking, where families are disappearing and home life is becoming more and more separated.
“Without a family, without the warmth of home, life grows empty, there is a weakening of the networks which sustain us in adversity, nurture us in daily living and motivate us to build a better future,” Pope Francis noted.
“When we do not live a family life … when one forgets how to say mother, father, son, daughter, grandmother, grandfather (they are the foundation of our name, of who we are; we need to live as a family) ... selfishness always exists. Those personalities (I, me, myself): They are totally centered on themselves; they do not know solidarity or fraternity, working together or love. … Even arguments among brothers, they don't know about that.”
Families, he stressed, “are a blessing. When you begin to see the family as a problem, you are paralyzed; you don't walk, because you are centered on yourself.”
The Pope continued, saying families are the antidote to two modern-day problems: fragmentation and uniformity. Only families, he stated, can break the bonds of isolation and division that is too often found in society.
Reminding those gathered that families are a “school of humanity,” he asked them to never forget that “families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity.”
Looking ahead toward the future, Pope Francis spoke about the kind of world parents and families should leave behind for future generations.
“I believe that one possible answer lies in looking at yourselves: Let us leave behind a world of families,” he urged, saying that now is the time to care for the family, the true center of freedom and humanity.
The Pope’s comments on the family come on the final day of his apostolic journey to Cuba, whence he will make his way to the United States for the World Meeting of Families and visiting Washington, New York City and Philadelphia.
Pope Francis also noted his gratitude to Archbishop Dionisio García lbáñez of Santiago de Cuba for his warm welcome and thanked the married couples who shared their dreams and struggles along their journeys of making their homes domestic churches.
“In a few days, I will join families from across the globe at the World Meeting of Families and, in less than a month, the Synod of Bishops devoted to the family,” Pope Francis stated, asking the Cuban families to pray for these events, so that the Church may find ways to build and nourish the family.
“To conclude my visit with this family gathering is a reason to thank God for the ‘warmth’ spread by people who know how to welcome and accept someone, to make him feel at home. Thank you!” the Pope stated, saying this meeting with Cuban families was the “cherry on the cake” of his visit.
“I rely on your prayers. Thank you very much.”