The extraordinary synod on challenges to the family now meeting in the Vatican is an historic event.
A light has been lit in this meeting –not as bright as the Pentecost two thousand years ago, not as warm as the Second Vatican Council 50 years ago –but there is light and warmth emanating from the synod hall in the Vatican.
By calling this synod Pope Francis is encouraging collegiality in what might well be an unprecedented way.
He has gathered some 200 bishops plus others from around the world and requested 12 married couples to join the assembly to offer their experience of family life.
One of the couples, Ron and Mavis Pirola of Sydney, Australia, spoke before the assembly on opening day. Having been married for 55 years and being the parents of four children they obviously qualify as representatives of family life in practice.
Perhaps their most telling observation was recounting an incident in the life of their friends:
“Friends of ours were planning their Christmas family gathering when their gay son said he wanted to bring his partner home too. They fully believed in the Church’s teachings and they knew their grandchildren would see them welcome the son and his partner into the family. Their response could be summed up in three words, ‘He’s our son.’”
The Pirolas were simply giving the bishops an example of the tension that families must face in very day life.
And they linked their example to an observation in the instrumentum laboris, the working document which the bishops had received to jump-start their discussion. In part one, chapter one, number 4 of the instrumentum laboris the bishops were reminded that the Church looks to the Christian family in order to fully understand her mystery.
The universal Church can learn from the domestic church!
The domestic Church, the Christian family, experiences the same tension which the Church constantly faces, “the tension of upholding the truth while expressing compassion and mercy.”
In the family the response is “He’s our son.” In the Church should the response be any different?
The light and warmth of the family is a light and warmth for the Church at large.