On Family Life: “Please, Thank You, Forgive Me”
Following the previous week’s general audience on marriage, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family by getting a bit more concrete. On May 6th, he told married couples: “The Church, in order to offer to all the gifts of faith, hope and love, needs the courageous fidelity of spouses to the grace of their sacrament!” and on May 13th his reflection centered on the small acts that make up this spousal fidelity.
Returning to a theme he has spoken of before, Pope Francis’s reflection on the life of the family focused on “three simple words”: may I, thank you, forgive me. The pope said, “They are simple words, but not so simple to put into practice. They enclose a great strength: the strength to take care of the home, including through thousands of difficulties and trials. However, its absence opens cracks that can even make it collapse.” Daily acts of love and humility are what build up a marriage through time.
The Holy Father cautioned the faithful not to think of these words as simply “good manners,” even though being polite can often be a step in the right direction. He cautions that if the words are empty of truth, they do no good. “We, however, understand politeness in its authentic term, where the style of good relations is firmly rooted in love of the good and respect of the other.”
Pope Francis went through each of the three words, beginning with “may I.” He said, “To enter into the life of the other, also when he forms part of our life, calls for the delicacy of a non-invasive attitude, which renews trust and respect.” Trust in one another means not taking “everything for granted,” in fact, it requires even more “respect for the freedom of the other and the capacity to wait for him to open the door of his heart.” Here, the Holy Father referenced the Book of Revelation, where Jesus announces that he stands at the door and knocks. Family members must respect each other’s freedom.
Secondly, the pope spoke about “thank you.” Gratitude must be taught and lived in the family. It is “at the very heart of faith” for if one does not give thanks, he or she “has forgotten God’s language.” Pope Francis exclaimed here, “Hey, this [forgetting to give thanks] is ugly!” He recalled the Scripture passage in which only one of ten lepers returns to thank Jesus for his healing. He also quoted an elderly person who said, “Gratitude is a plant that grows only in the earth of noble souls.”
The last word is “pardon,” asking for forgiveness. The pope said, “When it is lacking small cracks are enlarged – even without wishing it – until they become wide gaps.” How necessary forgiveness is in the spousal relationship and the family! Admitting you have done wrong and seeking to restore the relationship, says the pope, stops the “infection.” He added, “Many emotional wounds, many lacerations in families begin with the loss of this precious word: pardon.”
The Holy Father’s advice at the close of his reflection is to never end the day without making peace. He said it does not have to be a grand production: “A caress suffices, without words, but never end the day without making peace in the family. Understood? Hey, it’s not easy! But it must be done. And with this life will be more beautiful.”
In his characteristically informal and simple style, Pope Francis says, “These three key-words of the family are simple words, and perhaps initially they make us smile. However, when we forget them, there’s nothing to laugh about, no?”