The World Meeting of Families finished with a capacity crowd listening to Rick Warren, bestselling author and pastor of Saddleback Church, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston taking the stage to talk about “The Joy of the Gospel of Life.”

Pastor Warren was invited by Pope Francis to be the concluding speaker at last November’s Humanum Colloquium at the Vatican.

Cardinal O’Malley addressed the importance of Warren being among so many Catholics:     

“It’s important that Rick Warren is here. This is a witness of unity that’s important in today’s world, as we strive to proclaim the gospel of life: the need to protect every human being from the first moment of conception until natural death, to defend the family as a sanctuary of life, and family as a sacred calling described on the first pages of the Bible as a man who leaves his mother and father to be joined in one flesh to his wife. It’s a great consolation to share this stage with a fellow Christian who is truly committed to preaching the Gospel. We are truly blessed by his presence and his friendship.”

Following prayers and introductions by Archbishop Charles Chaput and author Scott Hahn, Rick Warren opened the hour by saying simply, “Thank you for caring about the family.” He quoted Pope Francis, saying that today the family is being threatened. This inspired Warren to make a list of root causes threatening the family, which he read to thunderous applause:

“In today’s society, materialism is idolized, immorality is glamorized, truth is minimized, sin is normalized, divorce is rationalized, and abortion is legalized. In TV and movies, crime is legitimized, drug use is minimized, comedy is vulgarized, and sex is trivialized. In movies, the Bible is fictionalized, churches are satirized, God is marginalized, and Christians are demonized. The elderly are dehumanized, the sick are euthanized, the poor are victimized, the mentally ill are ostracized, immigrants are stigmatized, and children are tranquilized. In families around the world, our manners are uncivilized, speech is vulgarized, faith is secularized, and everything is commercialized.

“Unfortunately, Christians, you and I, are often disorganized and demoralized, our faith is compartmentalized, and our witness it compromised. So what do we need? We need to revitalize our worship, minimize our differences, mobilize our members, and evangelize the lost, and we need to re-energize our families."

He went on to say that joy-filled families base their love on the love of God. “Joy-filled families are filled with purpose. The goal of the family — Catholics call it the domestic church — is to help every person find their purpose.”

Joy-filled families serve together, he observed. We're called to serve God, and God told us how to do that: by serving each other. The family, he says, “is a launch pad for ministry.”

To the surprise of many, Warren said that he was inspired as a teen when he heard a story told by Bishop Fulton Sheen. Once, when Sheen was visiting a leper colony, he bent over to speak to a man afflicted with sores, and Sheen’s cross fell into the man’s open wound. At first repulsed, Sheen said the Holy Spirit filled him with an intense feeling of love for that man, and he took up the cross from the wound. 

“I thought that was the finest definition of Christian living I’d ever heard,” Warren said. “The whole business of life is to go out in the sores of life, where people are living and dying and suffering and pick up the cross. That is our ministry, and that is our service.”

Cardinal O’Malley also began with a quote from Pope Francis, recalling his recent words: “The family has never been so threatened,” and he thanked those participating in the World Meeting of Families for taking family so seriously.

“We need to see the world through God’s eyes, to see what is really important,” he said. “The vision of faith allows us to make the right decisions about life, about vocation, about mission, about our response to God’s love. In God’s plan, families are missionaries. They pass on the faith to new generations and share with their new members the treasures we’ve received."

Quoting Paul VI, he said the family is the place where the faith is both communicated and received. “Such a family becomes an evangelizer of many families. Being a family in God’s family means being a community of love, where people learn to make a gift of themselves to God and others. Those beautiful families change the course of history. They open a door that allows God’s light to enter the world. And their witness helps us to be open to life.”

After the cardinal and Rick Warren finished speaking, people went to one more series of breakout sessions.

With that, the 2015 World Meeting of Families Congress concluded.

Next up: The Pope arrives!