In anticipation of the Church’s 10th Synod on the Family, which will be held in Rome this upcoming June, Pope Francis invited Catholics to engage in discernment of and discussion on the important role of the family, by revisiting his Apostolic Exhortation entitled, “Amoris Laetitia” – The Joy of Love.
In fact, he dedicated the entire year to this document, declaring in March 2021, “The Amoris Laetitia Family Year” in which Catholics around the world are called to read, reflect, discuss and discern the contents of the document, originally published in March 2016.
While not necessarily a quick-read, its in-depth 9 Chapters offer thoughtful discernment and reflection on the role of the family in our modern world and the role of the Church in supporting and journeying with families. Not only does the Holy Father offer clear direction on relevant and important issues surrounding the family, but he offers pastoral guidance on how to sensitively break open this necessary dialogue.
“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.”Pope John Paul II
The Vital Role of Families in the Church
The Church has always emphasized the important role of marriage and family life in the Church and in society. From Adam and Eve to the Holy Family to the revelations of Christ’s marriage to the Church – the Scriptures are filled, from beginning to end, with stories and teachings about the wondrous and sacred dynamic of the family.
The Church teaches us that these scriptural references help us to grasp not only the human dynamic of married couples, parents and children, but also our relationship with God and his relationship with the Church. This is highlighted and explained thoroughly by Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia.
Because the role of the Family is (and always has been) an integral part of our Catholic Faith, the Church has remained vigilantly engaged in the worldwide conversations about its value, nature and role. In today’s world, where the value and role of the family is a frequent topic of conversation, often sparking much political and social debate, the Church remains passionately dedicated to journeying with and offering pastoral care to families who are seeking to understand and live out their vocation.
As Catholic Educators, uniquely called to be awake and attentive to the needs of families in today’s world, this invitation by Pope Francis, to read and discern the contents of Amoris Laetitia, has a particular relevance.
The Role of the Catholic School
In Chapter 7 of Amoris Laetitia, entitled, “Towards A Better Education of Children” Pope Francis discusses the importance of education and affirms parents as the primary educators of their children.
The Church offers Catholic Schools as a primary means of accompanying families in this important task of educating. This shared responsibility means in a very real sense that the Catholic school is called to become “an extension of the home” as Archbishop Michael Miller notes in The Holy Sees Teachings on Catholic Schools.
Those involved in the day to day workings of Catholic schools know, intimately, the exact challenges faced by the families in our school communities these days – and the subsequent impact of those challenges on the academic, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of our students. School teachers and principals very often become the safe space or the ‘sounding board’ for a single mother to confide about her challenges of keeping up with the many tasks of parenthood, the anxious student needing to share about an unfolding divorce at home or parents who are facing financial loss or security.
In light of our mission as Catholic Educators, given to us by the Church, it is necessary and perhaps even urgently so, to recognize the role of Catholic schools in these ongoing discussions on the family. It’s our hope that Canadian Catholic Educators will accept the Holy Father’s invitation to spend time with this beautiful document and discern the ways in which it can help us in our mission of serving the families and students entrusted to our Canadian Catholic Schools.
The Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops released Amoris Laetitia (conveniently by chapter!) on their website with corresponding reflections and questions to help guide meaningful discussion.
Read Amoris Laetitia
Browse Helpful Video Resources
“Be Not Afraid” to Engage In Meaningful Conversation
While covering everything from relevant scriptural references to modern-day challenges to the role of Catholic Schools and many topics in-between, Pope Francis, maintains his focus on two important aspects for us to follow as we engage in the discussion:
1. a deep appreciation for and attentiveness to the wisdom held by the Church and Magisterium on the topic of marriage and family life and;
2. a sincere and tender mercy for the very real issues and complexities families face today.
Let us continue to work together with the Holy Father and the entire Church, to better learn how to love our Catholic school families “as Christ loves”. Your thoughts, feedback and discernment as Catholic Educators are vital to the worldwide conversation and to the vitality of our mission as we continue to journey with and accompany our beloved school families.
We’re interested to know if you have read Amoris Laetitia! We know that some school boards have been engaging with this document and Pope Francis’ invitation to collective discernment and we’d love to hear how that is playing out in your board meetings or classrooms! Click here to share how you’re engaging with Amoris Laetitia!