A Family-Focused New Year


As the calendar turns to a New Year, we’re all looking ahead to better days.

How can it be otherwise? The year 2020 was an annus horribilis, a horrible year, in so many ways—the sickness and death brought by the pandemic, the economic disaster, the nationwide protests over racial injustice and a tumultuous national election.

Closer to home, our children’s schooling has been interrupted, food insecurity shot up as family incomes fell, pandemic-related limits on church capacities kept Mass attendance down and holidays were quiet, even lonely, events.

Home and family became the focal point of life for many of us, maybe for most of us—a form of literal togetherness that few of us have experienced in modern times.

That’s why we’re delighted to see that Pope Francis has declared a “Year of the Family,” a time of reflection and events focusing on family life and timed to the fifth anniversary of his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”).

The year of reflection will actually take place over a 15-month period, beginning March 19, 2021, and concluding June 26, 2022, with the World Meeting of Families in Rome.

As the pope sees it, the period will be an opportunity for Catholics “to focus more closely on the contents of the document” via a series of initiatives coordinated by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.

We’re all invited by Pope Francis to take part in the spiritual, pastoral and cultural events to be to be planned for parishes, dioceses, universities, ecclesial movements and family associations.

We encourage as many New York Catholics as possible to accept that invitation and embrace the upcoming Year of the Family, especially as so many of us have experienced an unaccustomed closeness to those family members in our own household.

Those changes in family interaction, along with the unexpected sadness of Covid-necessitated separation from parents, grandparents and others in our extended families, serve to highlight the familial love that we may have taken for granted.

As a companion of sorts to the Year of the Family, the pope already had declared a year of St. Joseph, which began Dec. 8 and ends Dec. 8, 2021.

Reflecting on St. Joseph and the Holy Family in his Angelus talk last Sunday, the pope said the Holy Family is a model in which “all families of the world can find their sure point of reference and sure inspiration.”

And he offered this advice to families of today: Families can experience sincere communion when they live in prayer, when forgiveness prevails over discord and “when the daily harshness of life is softened by mutual tenderness and serene adherence to God’s will.”

“I would like to say something to you: If you quarrel within the family, do not end the day without making peace,” the pope said. “And do you know why? Because cold war, day after day, is extremely dangerous. It does not help.”

No, it does not help. And the pope’s words are wise indeed. May we all heed them, applying them throughout the New Year and praying for a happy and holy year for all.