Fifty years ago, we ourselves did not know the origins of our love. We were content to know that we had undertaken a journey which had no end in sight, amazed that our differences could be so balanced, so enjoyable and complementary, so much so that although different from each other, we felt we were wonderfully equal. We felt ready for everything, convinced that no one loved in the way we loved, because we had invented love.

Yet, less than a year after that wonderful ‘Yes,’ some clouds had already begun to gather on and darken our horizon. Work, tiredness, daily routine… Yes, we all know that being in love ends at some point. It was then that someone revealed to us that God is the source of every love – God who is love. We should have known all this because, when we pronounced our wedding vows, He was there with us and, from then on, he had even come to dwell among us.

Gianni and Maria Salerno
Gianni and Maria Salerno shares on the joys and challenges of educating children.

But we had not realized what a gift we had, we did not know his presence was part of the package! We only discovered later that he gives the whole of himself to us and in return asks for just a small, agreeable, daily contribution: that we love one another with his very own love.

Does being in love come to an end? [Yes but] then real love needs to take its place. Because if faith is, so to speak, an interior virtue, love is its outward, visible fulfilment.

Love is greater than anything else: greater than faith, greater than hope. In the Next Life, there will no longer be a need for these two virtues. On the other hand, love remains in Paradise. Love makes of the two partners one body, and this refers to one reality that is untouchable and indissoluble. It is a ‘we’’ that is open to the Absolute. Love must culminate the paradox of knowing how to become nothing in order to put oneself in the other person’s shoes. Only in this way will our love mirror its original plan which comes from the Trinity.

The ‘we’ formed by a couple is the first and living fruit of our love. The complementarity of male and female expresses itself in a thousand daily gestures of mutual service and tenderness, up to the fullness of bodily intimacy. It is also expressed in sharing space, time and tasks.

World Meeting of Families[The ‘we’ formed by the couple] knows how to go out first of all to their children and then towards others. The ‘we’ is the couple’s characteristic way of evangelizing, placing themselves before others as one example among many, and never as a model of the ideal family, which in fact does not exist. Love is our unique opportunity, even if we feel that we are not perfect, even if we feel we have failed in everything.

What matters is to believe that in the present moment for our partner, and that is what we are in the moment we decide to love them as they are, without any expectation that they will change, putting into action the three ‘magic’ words which Pope Francis teaches: please, thank you, and sorry.

It is said that today, the family is going through the most tragic of all crises. Let us not regret the good old days, if ever such days existed. It is in the family that life is enkindled. It is here that we learn to share, to rejoice, to suffer, to know sickness and to face death.

Love makes it the most concrete of utopias: families that welcome children even if they’re disabled, others who adopt them precisely because they are disabled, and still those others who welcome elderly parents, those who open their homes to migrants, those who help their children recover from addiction, etc.

World Meeting of Families
Pope John Paul II during his Apostolic Visit to Ireland in 1979

In the fifty or more years that we have been together, life has taught us many lessons. We have cried and we have also partied. So many times, we had been wrong, but with his grace and forgiveness, we have started anew. Placing our love again and again into the hands of God, who is our love, he has never hesitated, as at Cana, to change our poor water into wonderful wine, making it wonderfully available also to those around us.

And now, despite the fact that over the years our passion has diminished and the limits of our characters have become more evident, we continue trustingly to draw water from God’s unending source, happy to feel that we are companions and partners right to the end.


 

A brief history of the World Meeting of Families

World Meeting of Families
World Meeting of Families

In 1994, in conjunction with the International Year dedicated by the United Nations to the Family, Pope John Paul II then announced the “World Meeting of Families,” which took place in Rome on October 8-9 of that same year. Since then, the event has been repeated every three years. The past editions were held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 1997, in Rome (Italy) in 2000(during the Jubilee Year), in Manila (Philippines) in 2003, in Valencia
(Spain) in 2006, in Mexico City in 2009, in Milan (Italy) in 2012 and in Philadelphia (USA) in 2015.

This year, Dublin, the capital of Ireland, hosted the 9th World Meeting
of Families with the theme “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World.” It took place on August 25-26, 2018. Thousands of families from 196 countries of the world prepared for the meeting in Ireland with Pope Francis, with half a million people attending the Pope’s Mass.

Promoted by the new Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life, the event was preceded by a three-day pastoral conference attended by 37,000 families.

After two recent Synods on the Family (2014-15) and the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2016) of Pope Francis, numerous families and those involved in “family” issues had greatly looked forward to this event which shone the spotlight on the Christian family and its specific gift of being light and “joy for the world,” in the face of challenges posed by contemporary life.

 

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