As we anticipate the blessing of Pope Francis’ visit to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this fall, it’s an opportunity to reflect on the Holy Father’s encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) and its relevance to families.
The family is a “domestic church” built by grace, sustained with love and by design has an inherent portability that is lacking in traditional church structures.
This portability enables the family to take its domestic church to the unchurched and unloved and truly be an evangelizing community within the fringes of society most in need of a ray of light within the daily darkness of the world.
In Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father exhorts us, “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives, it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the ‘smell of the sheep,’ and the sheep are willing to hear their voice.”
Every day, thousands of families throughout the world are taking this exhortation to heart and laying down their lives for their fellow families that live in material, emotional or spiritual poverty.
Our family has been graced to be able to serve the Lord through service to the poor and hungry for the past 18 years in Akron, Ohio, through an all-volunteer nonprofit corporation called Gennesaret (Matthew 14:34-36), which I founded 29 years ago.
The Dirgo family was born when my wife, Mary, and I were married at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13, 1997. The Dirgo family was sent forth from St. Peter’s after receiving the personal blessing on our marriage from Pope St. John Paul II.
Our family was further blessed four years ago, when it grew with the addition of two beautiful daughters, adopted from Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Mumbai, India.
As we have found, the love of a family is a reflection of God’s love, and when infused by God’s grace, it has the power to change the world.
The love that my wife and I have for one another is buoyed by our many kindred spirits, including a heart for the poor.
This heart for the poor moved us, some 20 years ago, to become professed members of the lay branch of the Missionaries of Charity founded by Blessed Mother Teresa and Father Sebastian Vazkala called the Lay Missionaries of Charity. The Lay Missionaries have as their patrons the Holy Family, the ideal example for all families to model.
If we look to the example set by the Holy Family, we’ll see that they went forth to fulfill God’s plan for their lives together, as a family.
Our Lord spent 30 of his 33 years on earth ministering to his family and three years in public ministry.
Imagine the loving times the Holy Family had over those 30 years and the love that was spread to whomever they met.
The Dirgos get a glimpse of what this must have been like whenever we serve the poorest of the poor together as a family and unleash the special bond of love that is unique within a family to those in most need.
Mother Teresa said that the United States has a much greater poverty than India: a poverty that is not due to a lack of food, but a much deeper poverty that is attributed to a lack of love.
Do you feel Our Lord’s call for your family to go forth and make disciples of all nations by sharing the unique love bestowed upon your family?
If so, seek the Lord’s guidance and grace, so that you, too, can change the world with the love of your family, just as the theme for this year’s World Meeting of Families reminds us: “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”
Bob Dirgo writes from