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Bishop Paul Sirba: The family is God’s gift to creation

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has a prayer intention for each month of the year. For August, the pope’s intention is: Families, Schools of Human Growth. That families through their life of prayer and love, become ever more clearly “schools of true human growth.”

Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

Human growth means our growth as human persons made in the image and likeness of God. We are not objects or products but persons, a unity of spirit and matter, soul and body, capable of knowing, self-mastery, and freedom. We enter into and are in relationship with other persons — with God.

We are made to live in community. The family is God’s gift to creation. A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. To quote the Catechism, “This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated” (CCC 2202).

Pope Francis has called us to live according to our dignity as persons of mercy. He has challenged us to grow in virtue by being merciful. There are so many ways for families through their life of prayer and love to be schools of true human growth. Parents may teach their children by charitable actions in which we come to the aid of our neighbors in their bodily and spiritual needs. From feeding the hungry, to clothing the naked, welcoming the immigrant, defending the unborn, instructing, advising, consoling, forgiving, and patiently forbearing with our neighbors, the possibilities for loving are endless.

Before all of the “back to school” ads take hold of us in preparation for September, let us pray and love as our Holy Father has asked us to do during this month of August.

Some practical opportunities for a family tune-up include Camp Survive, which is being held Aug. 5-9. Please pray for our young people. Another is the first annual Diocese of Duluth Catholic Family Camp at Sugar Lake Lodge, which will be held Aug. 25-31. This is time for your family to rest, recharge, spend quality time together, and have opportunity for daily Mass and Adoration. Please see our website for more information.

We celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a holy day of obligation, on Thursday, Aug. 15. Because she belonged to Christ, Mary lived in the Holy Family and the family of the Church as mother and our queen. She is the greatest disciple of Jesus and helps us in the task the Holy Father has placed before us. Her place in heaven, body and soul, gives her a privileged vantage point from which to help us in our human and spiritual growth.

A most beautiful prayer from the Byzantine Liturgy sums up not Mary’s absence but her presence in our human and spiritual needs. “In giving birth you kept your virginity; in your Dormition you did not leave the world, O Mother of God, but were joined to the source of Life. You conceived the living God and, by your prayers, will deliver our souls from death” (CCC 966).

Continue to enjoy these summer days in Minnesota with your family. God bless you!

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth