Sunday liturgy “trumps” the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, but I wanted to celebrate it anyway by sharing my first impressions of Pope Francis’s Message for the 49th World Day of Communications, entitled, Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love. Traveling on my book tour in California, I haven’t had an opportunity to do more than one quick read of But even from a superficial look, I think that this Message is going to be extraordinarily helpful on many levels.
On a deeply personal level: because all of us begin communicating in our families. For me, it brings a feeling of nostalgia for what it was like for me growing up in a large and very loving family…and it also encourages me to look at both the gifts I received in learning how to communicate, and the ways in which I didn’t learn to communicate very well and even now could improve.
On a holistic level: the Message also encourages us to explore all the levels of communication, beginning with the nonverbal and physical–the gestures, physical touch, the sounds (e.g. of our mothers’ heartbeats when we are in the womb), and the bodily expression of our feelings. I love that the “icon” that Pope Francis takes is the Visitation, and that the joy of greeting is perhaps the first, foundational experience of communication.
On an interpersonal/relational level: Pope Francis appropriately focuses on the close interpersonal relationships upon which we base all our familial communication and thus learn the most important aspect of communication: a giving of ourselves in love.
On the level of our relationship with God: Most of us learn how to pray in our families. I know for myself that my trust in God as my all-loving Creator and Father could never be what it is today without my first being lovingly nurtured by my father and mother. (I keep trying to express this to my mother, but words fail me!) St. John Paul’s writings were the first place that I discovered the importance of the parents’ role in shaping a person’s lifelong relationship with God, and Pope Francis re-emphasizes how essential and critical their role is.
The Message also speaks about the challenges that face effective communication, as well as the reality that, because communication is a most human behavior, our communication is never perfect. This passage is very encouraging for us as writers and as human beings and indeed may be my favorite part of the message:
“We should not be fearful of imperfections, weakness or even conflict, but rather learn how to deal with them constructively. The family, where we keep loving one another despite our limits and sins, thus becomes a school of forgiveness. Forgiveness is itself a process of communication.”
Finally, Pope Francis also refers to the use of media that can be used to build up or hinder communication in the family.
This year’s Message for the World Day of Communication is not just a fine addition to the collection of World Communications Day Messages, but is also a wonderful deepening of the role of communication in family life during this year of reflection on the family.
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If you are in California, I’m in the San Francisco area this week! I’d love to meet you during one of these two upcoming author events: