The bond that exists between the family and the Christian community is a natural one, in which the Church serves as a spiritual family while the family serves as a small Church.

These were the words of Pope Francis during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square today. Continuing his catechetical series on the family, the Holy Father reflected on the ties that unite the Christian community with families.

The Pope told the faithful that throughout its history, the Church has walked in the midst of the people, in the history of countless men, women, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. It is these histories, he said, that “is written directly in God’s heart.”

“This is the place of life and faith,” he said. “The family is the place of our initiation – irreplaceable, indelible – to this history. In this history of eternal life that will end with the contemplation of God for all eternity in heaven. But it begins in the family! And for this [reason], the family is so important.”

To better understand this relationship between the family and the Christian community, the 78-year-old Pontiff exhorted the faithful to contemplate the life of Christ. Jesus, he said, “learned of the world” in a small family and later carried forth this experience in His public ministry.

“Living this experience for thirty years, Jesus assimilated the human condition, accepting it in his communion with the Father and in his apostolic mission. Then, after leaving Nazareth and beginning his public life, Jesus forms around him a community, an ‘assembly’, that is a convocation of people. This is the meaning of the word ‘Church’”.

The Holy Father went on to say that this assembly formed by Christ does not take the form of an “exclusive sect” but rather a “hospitable family” that includes not only the disciples but also those who are sick, hungry, the stranger, the persecuted, and the sinners.

“This is a strong lesson for the Church!” the Pope exclaimed. “The disciples themselves are chosen to take care of this assembly, of this family of God’s guests.”

A Communion of Love

Continuing his catechesis, Pope Francis stressed the need to revive this covenant between the family and the Christian community.

The family and the parish, he said, are the two places in which this “communion of love” is realized and whose source is God. The Church must always have its doors open.

“The Churches, the parishes, the institutions with closed doors should not be called churches, they should be called museums!” he exclaimed.

The Jesuit Pope warned of the urgency to maintain this connection between the Church and the family, acknowledging that such a bond requires a “generous faith”. It also requires the Christian community to do its part in relating with families. The Church is not called to take a managerial role over the family, but rather a relationship that favors interpersonal dialogue and mutual respect.

Concluding his address, Pope Francis called on the faithful to let themselves be led by the words of the Virgin Mary at the Wedding of Cana: “Do whatever He tells you” and experience the miracles that can be made in one’s life through Christ.

“We all must be aware that the Christian faith is played in an open field of a life shared with all; the family and the parish should fulfill the miracle of a more communal life for the whole society,” he said.