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5 tips for our family from Francis

By Holly & Jamie Gustafson

We were blessed to have the opportunity to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this September, which included a 4-day congress during the week, and culminated in the Festival of Families on Saturday and the Papal mass on Sunday.

After our first full day of talks by various well-known speakers, Salt and Light TV approached us and asked if they could interview us for their program that evening. They asked for some initial impressions, but it was their final question that had us stumped: what do you think the role of family is, in light of the upcoming Year of Mercy?

After spending the week in Philadelphia, and now a week back home with our family, we feel somewhat more prepared to answer that question. Here are five ways to live God’s mercy in the family:

  1. “Waste time with your children.” With five kids, we know how busy family life can be; it often feels like every minute of our day is accounted for, spent transporting children from one activity to another. Yet over and over we heard Pope Francis’ admonition to “waste time with your children”, to give our time as a free gift, and to make family life our most important activity.
  2. Practice heroic generosity: The family is called to give and teach self-donative love. How would the relationships within our family look different if we asked “What can I do to make your life better/easier/more blessed?” or  by asking ourselves and God “How can I make my spouse/family happy today?”
  3. Take care of your grandparents: In an improvised speech during the Festival of Families, Pope Francis stressed the importance of caring for every generation of our families: “Grandparents are the living memory of the family.”
  4. Speak Tenderly: After calling upon the family to be a prophetic witness of God’s love, Pope Francis ended his homily during the Papal mass on Sunday with one question for all of us to ask ourselves:

“In my own home, do we shout or do we speak to each other with love and tenderness? That’s a good way of measuring our love.”

God’s mercy has so often been compared to an ocean that sometimes it seems too big for us to comprehend, let alone practice in our daily lives. The World Meeting of Families and the example of Pope Francis’ gentle compassion towards various groups and people throughout the week showed us that being an instrument of mercy can be as small as time wasted with family, tiny acts of kindness, and a tender word.

Holly and Jamie Gustafson are RC members and the parents of 5 incredible children in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

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