"Like drinking from a fire hose." That's how several Seattle pilgrims have described trying to take in and process all the information, experiences and encounters on tap this week in Philadelphia at the World Meeting of Families, which came to an end Friday afternoon. The closing keynote address, "The Joy of the Gospel of Life," delivered jointly by megachurch pastor and The Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren and Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston, was no exception to the rule of rich, thoughtful, challenging and inspiring presentations at the congress.
Warren led off and, frankly, stole the show. (Compared to Warren's filet mignon of a talk, the cardinal joked, his portion would be more like a hamburger, "maybe a slider.") He opened his talk by explaining that on multiple occasions he had heard Pope Francis say the same thing: "Today families are being threatened, from within and from without."
"And so I began to think about that," he said, "and I made a little list of what is it that is threatening our families. And I thought, today in our culture, materialism is idolized, immorality is glamorized, truth is minimized, sin is normalized, divorce is rationalized, and abortion is legalized. In TV and movies, crime is sensationalized, drugs are legitimized, comedy is vulgarized, and sex is trivialized. In movies, the Bible is fictionalized, churches are satirized, God is marginalized, and Christians are demonized. Also in our society, the elderly are dehumanized, the sick are euthanized, the poor are victimized, the mentally ill are ostracized, immigrants are stigmatized, and children are tranquilized. Our families now live in a world where manners are uncivilized, speech is vulgarized, education is secularized, advertising is sensualized, and everything is commercialized. Now, unfortunately Christians, you and I, we're often disorganized, and we're demoralized, our faith is compartmentalized, and our witness is compromised.
"So what do we need?" he asked. "What we need is to revitalize our worship, we need to minimize our differences, we need to mobilize our members, we need to evangelize the lost, and we need to reenergize our families."
At the heart of Warren's talk was the question "What is it that creates a joy-filled family?" He gave five answers:
1. Joy-filled families are based on the love of God.
2. Joy-filled families are built on purpose.
3. Joy-filled families focus on becoming like Christ.
4. Joy-filled families serve together.
5. Joy-filled families fulfill their mission.
To illustrate this idea of mission, Warren closed with a moving story about his dying father's final hours. "My father lifted up his frail hand and he put it on my head, like a blessing. And he said to me, 'One more for Jesus. Reach one more for Jesus.' I intend for that to be the theme of the rest of my life."
(CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Vida Nueva)