Sonia and Jaime Bernardo, SFO
 Chairs, National Family Commission

On December 26, 1999, the Feast of the Holy Family, before he prayed the Angelus in Saint Peter’s Square, the Holy Father reflected on the subject of family.  He told the faithful gathered there of the “importance of the family as the community of love and life formed by a man and a woman, who give themselves to one another in marriage and are open to God’s gift of children”. He explained that children have rights; they are entitled to be born and to grow in such a family.

Pope John Paul II has asserted that “the future of humanity passes by way of the family (Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, #86) and the great family of nations is built from this small but fundamental cell”.  Family life has “the mission to guard, reveal, and communicate love”, by becoming “what God intended it to be from the beginning: the sanctuary of love and cradle of life.  Civilization still rises and falls on the health of family life.”

What does Jubilee mean for the Franciscan family?

In the biblical tradition of the Jubilee, the word “jubilee” comes perhaps from the term “jobel”, and recalls the sound of the horn or trumpet used to call the people of Israel to announce their feast days, especially the most important holy seasons, and to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor (cf. Isaiah 61:1-2).

Today, the term Jubilee speaks of joy; not just inner joy, but a joy of expectation, of jubilation, celebrating an anniversary or occasion with all its ”outward, visible, audible and tangible events“ – demonstrating that the Church is rejoicing. The Great Jubilee marks the celebration which fills us with joy for the commemorative event of the birth of Jesus.

Each family, in some way should be involved in the preparation for the Great Jubilee.  Wasn’t it through a human family that Jesus entered human history?

For Franciscan families, the Jubilee should be a year of grace; of loving kindness; of deeper conversion; of more dedicated effort in going from Gospel to life, and life to Gospel; of penance and reconciliation.  Our General Constitutions tell us that “Secular Franciscans should consider their own family to be the first place in which to live their Christian commitment and Franciscan vocation. They should make space within it for prayer, for the Word of God, and for Christian catechesis. They should concern themselves with respect for all life in every situation from conception till death.” (Article 24)

Franciscans see Jesus as the source of life and light for our lives.  “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  Life is precious to us, as is whatever touches life.

Pope John Paul’s important message to all for the Year 2000 is a message of hope, of forgiveness, and of celebration.  Franciscans are also called to seek ways of forgiveness. The Gospel is clear on the need for forgiveness.  As Secular Franciscans, we find ourselves in places where conflicts may arise.  But we learn the ways of forgiveness, we develop an attitude of mind and heart that carries with it the readiness to forgive. Our way of life calls us to continue our conversion, to change our ways in order to imitate the ways of the Lord as Francis did.

“Within our families, we need to teach – by word and example, by our priorities and our lives – the values that help our children grow to be responsible, faithful, caring, and disciplined.  Our love, our values, and our faith are passed on not only by what we say, but also by how we live. Real happiness and satisfaction come from who we are and how we care for one another rather than what we have. Our news and entertainment media, too often attack family values, undermine moral principles, and expose children to violence and to sexual themes on a daily basis. Fundamental values of integrity, compassion, respect for others and honesty must be encouraged.”  Faced with a world where violence is an everyday event, Franciscans are called to be bearers of peace.  We must unceasingly seek out ways of unity and harmony. We have chosen this path by Profession into the Order.  Even if it is hard, it is what we have committed ourselves to do.  We can bring joy and hope, because Jesus is present within us. We must contemplate this mystery of the presence of God with humanity for the past 2000 years.  We must thank the Lord for this gift as we celebrate the Great Jubilee.

We are invited to participate in the celebration of the Great Jubilee.  This will make a difference in who we are, and how we, and our brothers and sisters, live.

Questions for Discussion:

1.   What does the Jubilee require of us?

2.   In what simple ways can families celebrate the Jubilee?

3.   What are the personal connections between the Jubilee and our family life?