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Filming the World Meeting of Families videos, featured in this series, had a profound impact on many of us. Spending a day with a family, being invited into their homes and into their lives was a privilege. As a young Catholic still unmarried, I was especially grateful to have before me examples of couples who had made it through sometimes difficult situations, or challenging decisions. They emerged not only to have a better sense of who they were as a couple, but as a family. I can think of one family I had the opportunity of filming who was an encouragement to me: the Taylors.
They live in Erie, Pennsylvania; they have three daughters and one boy they adopted when he was just a couple years old. I won’t share with you here they’re whole story – I’ll simply encourage you to watch Love as We Know It! – but what struck me most. Despite the difficult decision to welcome a new child into their home and having to go through the tedious process required for an adoption, they did it together. Keith and Mary Jean talked about it over and over again with their daughters until it was made official. Everyone was a part of the journey. “To want to form a family is to resolve to be a part of God’s dream, to choose to dream with him, to want to build with him, to join him in this saga of building a world where no one will feel alone, unwanted or homeless” (Address of the Holy Father at the prayer vigil for the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 26th, 2015). But this wasn’t a unique event in the life of their family. The Taylor home is open to everyone and have many times welcomed people who needed to rest, eat and play.
As the Holy Father’s post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia made its appearance in a long list of papal documents on the family, he reminded us once more that the ‘joy of love’ is the fruit of a family “strengthened by generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience” (AL 4). It came as a conclusion to what the Church has experienced for the past couple years – after calling two Synods on the family and supporting the 8th World Meeting of Families – and as a springboard for a renewed energy in caring for families all over the world.
Why should particular attention be given to families? Pope Francis gave one answer several months ago to thousands gathered along the Benjamin Franklin parkway at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, following the worldwide congress on the family: “God did not want to come into the world other than through a family. God did not want to draw near to humanity other than through a home. God did not want any other name for himself than Emmanuel (cf. Mt 1:23). He is ‘God with us’.” In the heart of the family is an opportunity to love: ourselves, God and our neighbour. Love as We Know It is really a compilation of testimonies of love as they (the families) know it, with what they’ve been given so far.