They are written as aids to reflection for both clergy and laity on the reality of family life as currently lived. The aim is to focus on ways that the Church in England and Wales can improve its pastoral accompaniment of people through marriage and family life. Through this period of prayer and reflection the Bishops hope to gain a better understanding of how to help and accompany people in their lives: with, among many other issues, marriage preparation; the early years of marriage; celebrating the milestones of marriage; those who find themselves in irregular situations whether that be co-habitation before marriage, divorce and then remarriage, or same-sex relationships.
These reflections will focus on the practical reality of family life and will help the Bishops develop pastoral practice across England and Wales.
In his Pastoral Letter for the Feast of the Holy Family on Sunday 28 December 2014 the Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon OP, Archbishop of Liverpool, spoke of the forthcoming process of reflection and discernment, saying:
'Last October, Bishops and other delegates from around the world met Pope Francis in Rome for a special Synod of Bishops to discuss "pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation". Some of the most powerful speeches at the Synod came from married couples, who were able to speak to the Pope and Bishops about the joys and sorrows of family life in the world in which we live. The work of that Synod will continue this year, with a further meeting of the Synod of Bishops in October 2015; that meeting will look at "the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world". In this time between these two Synods, our Holy Father has asked us to reflect on both these themes with true spiritual discernment.
'The Church always acts under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Please ask for this in your prayers: think about the situation of the family today – your own family, and families across our Diocese, country and world; pray for families and ask God to enlighten the Church so that we can work to support married couples and family life. Above all, pray for your own families, that they may be strengthened in love by the gift of God’s spirit.
'It may also be useful for you to join together in your parishes, praying together and discussing the issues that face the family today. I want to take this opportunity to encourage you to gather in your parishes, schools, chaplaincies and homes to have these conversations between now and Easter Sunday (5 April 2015), so that your deliberations can be compiled and submitted by Pentecost Sunday (24 May 2015). Your parish priest will be able to give you questions for discussion and other guidance that the Bishops of England and Wales have produced to help us.
'The views and experiences of married couples and single people, those who have had long and loving marriages, those have suffered the pain of divorce and separation, and those who have alternative lifestyles, are all necessary for the Synod to discern, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, an effective pastoral approach for those called to marriage, as well as the role of marriage in the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness.
'The Church must always defend the sanctity of human life, and support marriage and family life as the bedrock of society. For this reason, I believe that married people have an important mission in the world. It would be good for you to reflect upon how your family, by the grace of God, is ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light for the world’ (Matthew 5:13,14), a place of nurturing our young people, caring for our older people, and handing on the faith to our children and our neighbours.
'I hope that your conversations will inspire your prayer and action on behalf of all families, especially your own. I join my heart and prayers with yours, asking God to bless all families, so that they may be a sign of God’s kingdom coming and his will being done on earth as it is in heaven.'
Read 'The Call, the Journey, the Mission'
Read the Reflections for Clergy
Parish Resources and Response Form
Read and reflect using Scripture from the Bishops of England and Wales
Read, listen to or download Archbishop Malcolm's Pastoral Letter for the Feast of the Holy Family