By Barb Arland-Fye
“The family … is the ‘yes’ of God’s love,” Pope Francis says. I witnessed the “‘yes’ of God’s love” on Sunday in the moments before, during and after 20 teenagers received the sacrament of confirmation. Bishop Martin Amos called the candidates and their sponsors to come forward inside Church of the Visitation in Camanche.
In the midst of this procession of 40-plus people, a teen and her aunt held fast to the “help belt” wrapped around their mother/grandmother’s waist. The trio walked carefully to the foot of the sanctuary, every step a victory in fortitude and love. The teen’s sponsor was her maternal grandmother, still in recovery from serious illness, but determined to be present for her granddaughter’s confirmation. What an inspiring, poignant witness to the “‘yes’ of God’s love!”
The “‘yes’ of God’s love” reverberated in the church each time a sponsor spoke a teenager’s confirmation name: Angela, Sebastian, Mary, Francis, Cecilia, Theresa, Isidore and Anthony among them. Whether related by blood or not, the sponsors and the youths and the people in the pews were united as a family of faith. For the first time, the parishes of Our Lady of the River in LeClaire and Church of the Visitation celebrated the sacrament of confirmation together in Camanche. Members of Our Lady of the River’s choir led the congregation in song because Church of the Visitation does not have a choir. We are a family in faith, the “‘yes’ of God’s love.”
Pope Francis’ comment about the ‘“yes’ of God’s love” comes in a letter the Holy Father wrote March 25 concerning the 9th World Meeting of Families that will be held in Dublin, Ireland, in August 2018. The letter’s recipient was Cardinal Kevin Farrell, a Vatican official who leads the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life. “It is only from love that the family can ‘manifest, spread, and regenerate God’s love in the world,’” the pope wrote.
Thirty-two years ago on this date, my husband Steve and I were united in the sacrament of marriage, the beginning of our journey in what it means to be family. Steve says his favorite memory from our wedding day centers on the vows we spoke before the priest, Father Lou Leonhardt. Steve’s second favorite memory is catching a glimpse of my dad and me splitting a hamburger before the wedding. It was an afternoon wedding and we hadn’t had time for lunch. I cherish both memories as well. The ‘“yes’ of God’s love” began with our vows.
Our family grew to include two sons, now grown, who taught us to appreciate Paul’s explanation of love to the Corinthians. Paul was speaking in the context of love’s superiority over all theological virtues. Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” in the family first.
In his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), Pope Francis speaks of the small circle of the family broadening out to the larger family, to communities of families, “who support one another in their difficulties, their social commitments and their faith.”
That is what I witness in my family and in my faith community, when we come together to celebrate the sacraments. “The family…is the ‘yes’ of God’s love,” the Holy Father observes.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)