Wednesday’s general audience was held in St. Peter’s Square, attended by thousands of faithful. Before beginning, the Holy Father invited those present to recite a Hail Mary for the cardinals, bishops, consecrated persons and laypeople who are currently meeting in Florence for the National Congress of the Italian Church.
He dedicated today’s catechesis to conviviality, a typical characteristic of family life. This attitude of sharing the goods of life and of being happy to do so is, he said, “a precious virtue”. He continued, “Its symbol, its icon, is the family gathered around the table, partaking of a meal together – and therefore not merely food, but also sentiments, stories, and events. It is a fundamental experience. When there is a celebration – a birthday, an anniversary – the family gathers around the table. In some cultures it is customary to do so also following bereavement, to stay close to those who suffer for the loss of a family member”.
“Conviviality is a sure thermometer for measuring the health of relations: if in the family there is a problem or a hidden trouble, you understand immediately at the table. A family that almost never eats together, or in does not talk at the table but instead watches the television, or smartphones, is not a close family. Christianity has a special vocation to conviviality, as we all know. The Lord Jesus taught at the table, and represented the Kingdom of God as a festive banquet. Jesus also chose to consign to the disciples His spiritual testament at the table, condensed in the memorial gesture of His Sacrifice”.
Francis explained that the family brings to the Eucharist its own experience of conviviality, and opens it to the grace of a universal conviviality, of God’s love for the world. “Participating in the Eucharist, the family is purified of the temptation to close up in itself, fortified in love and in faith, and broadens the boundaries of its own fraternity according to Christ’s heart. In our time, marked by closed minds and too many walls, the conviviality generated by the family and extended in the Eucharist becomes a crucial opportunity. The Eucharist and families it nourishes are able to overcome such limitations and to build bridges of acceptance and charity”.
“Nowadays many social contexts impede family conviviality. We must find a way to recover it, if adapting it to the times. Conviviality seems to have become something to buy and sell, but in that way it becomes something else. Nourishment is not always the symbol of a just sharing of goods, able to reach those who have neither bread nor affection. In rich countries we are induced to spend first on excessive consumption, and then again to remedy the excess. This senseless behavior diverts our attention from the true hunger of the body and the mind”.
“The living and vital alliance of Christian families, which support and embraces in the dynamism of their hospitality the burdens and joys of everyday life, cooperates with the grace of the Eucharist, which is able to create ever new communities with its strength that includes and saves”. The Pope concluded, “the Christian family thus shows the true extent of its horizon, which is the horizon of the Mother Church and all humanity, the abandoned and excluded among all peoples”.