"Big Four" Highlights


Building Up the ‘Little Church’

Archbishop Lori addresses issues for upcoming Synod on the Family

Archbishop William E. Lori has a special interest in marriage and family life. As archbishop of Baltimore, he is concerned about the families that make up the local Church he oversees. As Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, he has the responsibility of overseeing the spiritual welfare of the Order’s 1.8 million members and their families. It is in families where the faith normally is handed down from one generation to the next.

But because of the crisis in marriage, family life, and even in fatherhood, the Church’s mission of evangelization is challenged. That’s one reason Pope Francis has called for a multiyear effort to address problems facing the family, beginning with a special gathering of the Synod of Bishops this October.

In addition to his other duties, Archbishop Lori is chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and a member of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. He spoke recently to Fathers for Good about issues that the synod will address.

Fathers for Good: Why is Pope Francis calling a Synod on the Family at this time?

Archbishop William Lori: I think that Pope Francis is at heart a pastor. From his own pastoral experience he knows how important the family is to the well-being of society and to children, and I think he also knows how important the family is to the Church. As he looks now at the Church throughout the world, he sees multiple pastoral challenges and opportunities, and so I think he wants to lift up the family front and center, much as John Paul II did with the previous Synod on the Family and his subsequent exhortation, Familiaris Consortio.

FFG: What’s the purpose of the synod?

Archbishop Lori: I think that the overall purpose of the synod is to strengthen family life and to help families live the vocation of motherhood and fatherhood, the vocation of fostering children. I believe it is really to provide bishops and priests with the resources needed to foster family life, and I believe that all of this has as its aim advancing the Church’s mission of evangelization, because evangelization cannot proceed apart from the family.

FFG: Why is that?

Archbishop Lori: The Church has always referred to the family as a little Church, an ecclesiola, as they say, because it’s really at the heart of the family that the faith is passed on, that evangelization occurs. When mom and dad really believe in Christ and really welcome the love of Christ in their lives, and when their love for each other really reflects the love of Christ for the Church, then they are prepared, equipped, to help their children encounter Christ, to know Christ not just as a figure of history but as someone real, living and loving — in fact, the one who loves them more than anyone else does. And in the light of Christ’s love, to pass on the faith, not just as dry lessons of catechism but as words of spirit and life.

FFG: Could you share some thoughts on the questions at the end of the synod’s preparatory document?

Archbishop Lori: Two questions stand out for me at this time in the life of the Baltimore Archdiocese. One is formation. It is so important that we provide good formation for marriage. We shouldn’t just call it “preparation” because it seems to me that it gives the idea that it’s one more thing you add to the list: you’re renting a hall, you’re renting a tuxedo, your bride is getting a dress, and – oh, yes – we’re also doing our sacramental preparation. In reality, this is formation, like you’re being formed for a particular vocation to love.

It’s important that we look at that top to bottom: how are we forming the people that provide the formation? Are we, in the way we bring young people along in the life of the Church, doing the remote preparation, so that they will have minds and hearts that are receptive to a vocation to marriage and family life? Then the question of evangelization dovetails because when you help couples to really be formed for the sacrament of marriage and really to form loving Christian homes, then the mission of evangelization advances.