Pope Francis and the Hyland’s in Ireland

Held every three years, the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) was held in Dublin Ireland from the 21 - 26 of August. This event, the ninth of its kind, gives families from all over the world the opportunity to come together and celebrate, pray and reflect on the central importance of marriage and the family.

The event consists of a three-day pastoral congress with various international speakers. The congress was followed by a ‘festival of families’ which is a celebration of family life with testimony from families who have been through difficult times and have found strength in the teachings of Christ and his Church.

The meeting concluded with a Papal mass in which 500,000 people were expected to be in attendance.

The Hyland family attended on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference as the conference’s official family delegate as part of a pilgrimage of Australian’s from all over the country.

There was something for all ages at the pastoral congress. There was a kids and teens program as well as a YOUCAT tent which was well suited for teenagers who seemed to enjoy hanging out there with other young pilgrims.

Leanne and I agree that Bishop Robert Barron’s talk on Chapter 7 of Amoris Laetitia (AL) “towards better education of our children” was one of the best expositions of this document that we have heard so far.

The Bishop’s ability to use sports analogies to explain the virtue ethics used in AL was amazing and it would be in the interest of all educators of children to listen to his talk which is available on the WMOF website.

He used the analogy of baseball in which players of the game do not learn how to play baseball by reading the rule book, they learn to play by imitating the ‘good person’ and being corrected by their coach.

He went on to say that it is only by inculcating the ‘virtues’ of baseball that the player is “free” to play the game. Similarly, in life, virtues are learnt not by reading the rulebook, although rules are important, but by lived experience of habit and correction.

The main point of this chapter was to affirm the role of the family as the ‘school of virtue’, where habitual inculcation of virtue occurs through parents who “lovingly correct” their children.

The festival of families was held in Croke Park, Dublin. It was an exciting experience for everyone involved as it was the first event in which we were able to see Pope Francis.

As the Pope drove around in his ‘Pope Mobile’ Joshua, our eldest was able to get a high five from him. This was certainly the highlight of the whole pilgrimage for Joshua.

Pope Francis addressed us, and his message reflected on stories of the families who shared beforehand. His main message was simple and empowering. He said that families need to say and practice saying ‘Sorry, Please and Thank You’, he said that these are the most important words. He made us repeat them many times.

He said that we should not go to bed without healing an argument otherwise there will be a cold war for many days. He encouraged us to find moments of tenderness, which can be as simple as a caress on the cheek to let the other know that we are sorry.

The Papal Mass was a pilgrimage within a pilgrimage.

Our day began at 9am as we started our journey on trains, trams and on foot towards Phoenix Park. The sheer number of people involved meant that it took a lot longer than usual to get there though it was well worth the journey.

It was great to hear Pope Francis during the penitential rite asking for forgiveness. He asked for forgiveness for the hurt caused to those sexually abused by clergy and laypeople in the church, for the exploitation of those forced to work in institutions, for the silence of the hierarchy, for the poor treatment of single mothers, and for the failure to respond with compassion and justice.

The rain managed to hold for most of the Mass, though the wind was quite relentless. The Mass itself was beautiful. The choir was magnificent, and the international flavour of the mass was made manifest with the first reading in Gaelic and the second reading in Spanish.

I felt a great sense of HOPE, hope for our Church, hope for the world we live in to turn away from lives that we are ego driven, selfish and acts of evil and hurt. In the hope that families turn to each other and really be with one another.

This was an experience that our family will never forget, and we encourage everyone who is interested in learning more about the importance of marriage and family to attend the next World Meeting of Families which will be held in Rome in 2021.

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Shane Hyland Image
Shane Hyland

Shane Hyland was the Pastoral Placement Program Supervisor, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle in 2016.

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