Sacraments are not mere 'decorations,' insists Pope

this one 500 320 Pope Francis greets families of pilgrims Oct. 26 in St. Peter's Square. | Andreas Dueren/CNA.

Pope Francis met with families from around the world today in a celebration of the joy of family life, telling them that the sacraments provide real grace to aid in the challenges everyone faces.

"The sacraments don't just decorate life!" exclaimed the Pope to the crowds filling St. Peter's Square on Oct. 26. "They are to give us strength of life!"

The event was held during the Year of Faith in order for families from around the world to celebrate with the Pope. He entered the square on Saturday evening surrounded by children holding brightly colored balloons. Music played as different acrobats and artists performed.

As the evening progressed, many children, couples, and grandparents spoke to Pope Francis about their questions and concerns regarding marriage and family life.

Speaking about marriage, Pope Francis admitted, "certainly, it's difficult.  For this reason we want the grace of the Sacrament!"

"The Sacrament of Matrimony is not a pretty ceremony. Christian spouses marry in the Sacrament because they know they need it!"

Decrying the "provisional" culture that pervades the modern world with its fear of commitment, the Pope explained, "with trust in God's faithfulness, everything can be faced responsibly and without fear." 

"Christian spouses are not naïve; they know life's problems and temptations. But they are not afraid to be responsible before God and before society. They do not run away, they do not hide, they do not shirk the mission of forming a family and bringing children into the world."

The Pontiff acknowledged the particular difficulties facing many families today, including war, poverty, and especially the growing rate of joblessness.

"'Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden,' Jesus says. Dear families, the Lord knows our struggles and the burdens we have in our lives. But he also knows our great desire to find joy and rest! Do you remember? Jesus said, '…that your joy may be complete.' Jesus wants our joy to be complete!" he exclaimed.

"Jesus always gives us that love: he is its endless source. He gives us, in a sacrament, his word and the bread of life, so that our joy may be full," he said, in reference to the Eucharist.

Pope Francis then turned to an icon of the Presentation, depicting Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus in the Temple alongside the elderly prophets, Simeon and Anna.

"In this scene three generations come together: Simeon holds in his arms the child Jesus, in whom he recognizes the Messiah, while Anna is shown praising God and proclaiming salvation to those awaiting the redemption of Israel," the Pope recounted.

"These two elderly persons represent faith as memory. Mary and Joseph are the family, sanctified by the presence of Jesus who is the fulfillment of all God's promises."

"Like the Holy Family of Nazareth, every family is part of the history of a people; it cannot exist without the generations who have gone before it."

"Grandparents are the wisdom of the family!" he added.

The Pope departed from his prepared remarks to give some practical advice families should familiarize themselves with three simple phrases: "excuse me," "thank you," and "I'm sorry."

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"Tell me," he asked the audience, "how many times a day do you say thank you to your wife? To your husband? How many days have passed since you last said thank you?"

"Don't finish a day without making peace," he encouraged.

One little girl informed the Pontiff that she knew how to make the sign of the cross.  Pope Francis went over to the microphone and said with a smile, "I know how to make the sign of the cross, but I don't know if all the children here do. Do you? Yes? Let's do it together!"

Pope Francis then led the crowds in the Profession of Faith and concluded the evening with a Hail Mary.

Saturday evening's event was part of a weekend of activities for families on pilgrimage to Rome.

Many had made a visit to the tomb of St. Peter on Saturday morning, and will join the Pope for a rosary and mass on Sunday morning.

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