I am going to ask you, dear reader, to answer this “Have you ever said yes to doing something without knowing what you were actually agreeing to do?” Guess what? I did and this is the result.
I had agreed to attend the World Meeting of Families in Dublin and I had no clue what it was. I did some research and found out it is a gathering of families from around the world held every three years and it meets to celebrate their faithfulness and commitment to each other, to the Church and to the world. It sounded very grand and not really the place for me. However not being one to turn down an opportunity to do something new off I went.
Wednesday dawned and we were transported to the RDS where the Meeting was to be held. Everyone had been given their WMOF swinger identifying them as ticketholders to a varied and eclectic mixture of families, clergy, religious and solo pilgrims. We had our pilgrim packs containing all the information we would need for the next three days. Each day there were a collection of talks, testimonies and keynote speeches, the message being each one of us has a place in the universal family of the Church. A real message of inclusion for everyone regardless of marital status or sexuality, everyone has to be made welcome and accepted. The message which Pope Francis has given over and over again is forgiveness and love are the keys which open the hearts of everyone. The words which were heard constantly, “please, sorry, thank you” a simple but effective message, reflecting the 2016 Post Synod Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, whose opening sentence is “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the Joy of the Church” Forgiveness often being learned in the family.
I decided to take a day off from the talks to follow a Pilgrim Walk in Dublin, visiting some of the oldest churches where generations of families have gathered to celebrate their faith and take hope for the future. Each had a theme, again taken from Amoris Laetitia. Although it turned out to be a long walk I saw parts of Dublin not on the tourist maps, but more importantly I met others from WMOF, giving an opportunity not only to talk to the church volunteers, but pilgrims from all over the world. Everyone held a common faith in Christ as Saviour, but also a common belief that the answer to achieving world harmony if only politicians would listen, is to use “Please, sorry and thank you”.
After the Congress concluded there was still the big concert in Croke Park which Pope Francis was to attend and being very lucky we also were able to attend. All I can say is “IT WAS AMAZING” not only because it was a real celebration of Irish culture, but because of the testimonies given by families from all over the world. Listening to them was a real humbling experience and indeed gives hope for the future of the family.
The end to the trip was to attend the celebration of the Eucharist in Phoenix Park led by Pope Francis. This can only be described as a surreal experience. On the one hand there was the wholly spiritual experience of sharing Eucharist with a worldwide family, whilst on the other there was a sensation of it being a “good day out” with all the trappings of hamburgers, hotdogs and pizzas!
In conclusion I am so glad I said yes. The World Meeting of Families has helped me to a greater understanding of Amoris Laetitia and how its message reinforces family life in all its many guises. We can move forward with hope and an undertaking to use, please, thank you and sorry in any combination as often as is necessary. Here’s to the next one in 2021 to be held in Rome.