March 19, 2021, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, marks the fifth anniversary of the release of the Holy Father’s post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). On that same day, Pope Francis will inaugurate the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family,” which will conclude at the World Meeting of Families in Rome on June 26, 2022.
The timing of this year of celebrating families could not be better. Across the country, the global pandemic has caused churches to remain closed or at limited capacity for celebrations of Holy Mass and forms of ministerial outreach. For a whole year, families have had to rely almost entirely and only on each other. The importance of the domestic church, of living and passing on the faith at home has come to the forefront of everyone’s lives, especially as Catholics. As the pandemic begins to lessen and states start to relax regulations for in-person gatherings, the Year of Amoris Laetitia Family provides the Church with a unique opportunity to begin welcoming families back to church, some of whom have been gone for nearly a full year.
The Year “Amoris Laetitia Family” is meant to be both a year of celebrating families and to renew the Church’s identity as a “family of families” (AL 87). The USCCB’s Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth will be unpacking different aspects of Amoris Laetitia, particularly those related to the Holy Father’s proposed “Walking with Families: Twelve Ways to Walk with Families Following Amoris Laetitia.” Pope Francis has asked all those who minister to families in the Church to consider how they can further develop and implement these proposals at the local level.
Since the Year of Amoris Laetitia Family will conclude with the World Meeting of Families global gathering in Rome in June of 2022, dioceses are encouraged to organize pilgrimage groups to attend. Hopefully, many families will have the opportunity to attend, however, international travel is not feasible for everyone. With that in mind, the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth is excited to provide pilgrimage guides for families who stay at home as well as for those who travel to Rome. The pilgrimage guides will be provided to dioceses that host local stateside celebrations of the World Meeting of Families.
Ways to Celebrate the Year of Amoris Laetitia Family can include:
- Organizing a pilgrimage to parishes or shrines dedicated to the Holy Family within the diocese.
- Celebrating the newly instituted World Day for Grandparents on the fourth Sunday of July, chosen by the Holy Father for its proximity to the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.
- Hosting diocesan celebrations of the World Meeting of Families spontaneously with the event in Rome.
- Encouraging families in practicing devotions in the home: creating a family altar, enthroning their homes to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, celebrating family member’s patron saint’s feast days, etc.
- Providing family grab bags with activities and prayers revolving around a liturgical season to help strengthen families in their roles as domestic churches.
- Holding wholesome movie nights for families with popcorn and some suggested questions for discussion.
- Putting on a series of date nights for married couples that help to remind them of the beauty and goodness of the sacrament of marriage.