Diocesan Family Sunday – “Family – An Oasis of Mercy”
The Shrine of the Holy Innocents – what a beautiful place to host an event for families! Not just because of the surrounding gentle grassy slopes so wonderfully enjoyed by the children in the lovely sunny spring weather, or because of the path which takes its traveller on a physical and spiritual journey through the fourteen Stations of the Cross (displayed in beautiful white statues). Not even because of the great service of the architect and artist in creating the transcendental sacred space within the shrine building. No, the best part of the Shrine of the Holy Innocents, is that Our Lord was physically present right in the midst of it, accompanying all the families of the diocese throughout the entire day.
And the day’s activities served as a means of building that hopeful anticipation of walking through the Holy door to greet Christ in the tabernacle, just as in life our families journey together towards the heavenly goal of truly being one with Christ at the end of time.
The Indulgence for the Year of Mercy
The structure of the family day was such that families, with the aid of their Pilgrim Family Prima, could use each part of the afternoon as an opportunity to prepare to walk through the Holy Door together and gain a plenary indulgence for the Year of Mercy. The first step, “pilgrimage”, gave families the opportunity to walk from the Church to the Shrine by way of a path, marked with a display of quotes and images of the Saints, encouraging them in their journeys. The first of these saintly companions, Australia’s own Saint, St Mary of the Cross McKillop, reminded us that rather than belonging to this world, “We are but travellers here”…and the final saintly message was St Augustine at the steps of the shrine leading in to the tabernacle “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our Hearts are restless until they rest in You”.
Something for the Children
We were very determined to provide a program of substance for the children where formation in the topic of the day was presented at an age appropriate level. To this end, the children had the opportunity to really delve into the works of mercy, exploring how they may be enacted within the context of the family and beyond, with the help of our generous volunteers.
What a blessing it was the have the Missionaries of Charity among us, teaching the children about the Love of God, and the resulting acts of Charity and Mercy that flow forth from this to our neighbour. With the sisters in their white and blue, and the Franciscan friars in their grey, the children were able to see a beautiful witness of religious life – undoubtedly one that may inspire future vocations!
And how they enjoyed the Bishops visit! He spoke to them about the Jubilee Year of Mercy, about their families, and even on a personal note his own experience of family life growing up. When he asked for questions at the end, the children did not have to be asked twice – up shot their hands.
Something for the Parents
Guest couple James & Genevieve McCaughan, parents to 11 children including diocesan priest Fr Daniel McCaughan, kicked off the parent’s sessions by speaking on their experiences bringing up children in the faith as well as how they extend their family “oasis of mercy” to the broader community. Bishop Vincent gave an address on the relevance of the Year of Mercy and how this relates to families. Sister Antonine from the Missionaries of Charity spoke about the charism of St Teresa of Kolkata and shared some insights into how this can be lived out in family life.
Walking through the Holy Door to Greet Our Lord
Gathering on the steps outside the Shrine, the children assisted all in reflecting on the Love of God from which His Mercy flows forth, before walking in, by singing the beautiful Latin hymn “Ubi caritas et amore Deus ibi est” which, they informed their parents, meant “Where there is charity and love, there God is” How edifying for the faithful to hear the sweet, three part harmony music of their children voices singing the Church’s own Gregorian chant! With this contemplative beginning, families proceeded to walk through the door, greet Our Lord in the tabernacle and venerate the Way of Mercy relics and cross – a wonderful opportunity as the Year of Mercy comes to its close.