Vatican City, 10 September 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Paul VI Hall the Pope received in audience the participants in the International Meeting of the Equipes Notre Dame (Teams of Our Lady, END), held in Rome on the theme, “Here I am Lord, send me”. The Equipes are a lay movement focusing on married spirituality, established in response to the needs of couples to live fully the sacrament of marriage, using its own method and exploring the complex reality of married couples today. The END were founded in France in 1938 upon the initiative of a number of couples and the priest Fr. Henri Caffarel, whose cause for beatification has been received in Rome.
Recalling the upcoming Synod on the family, Francis invited the members of the END to pray for the Synod Fathers and for what they must reflect upon in the assembly on the “vital cell of our societies … in the difficult current cultural context”, and devoted his discourse primarily to the missionary role of the Equipes Notre Dame.
“Christian couples and families are often in the best position to announce Jesus Christ to other families, to support them, to strengthen and encourage them. What you live in the couple and the family – accompanied by the charism typical of your movement – this profound and unique joy that the Lord enables you to experience in the intimacy of domestic life, between joy and suffering, you must bear witness to … so that others, in turn, take the same path”.
The Pope encouraged all the couples to live deeply the “concrete aspects of commitment” of the movement, such as prayer in couples and in the family, a “beautiful and necessary tradition that has always supported the faith and hope of Christians, and unfortunately abandoned in many regions of the world”. He also emphasised the importance of monthly dialogue between spouses, “that well-known and challenging 'need to sit down' that is counter to the habits of our frenetic and agitated world riven with individualism”. Finally, participation in the life of a team brings “the wealth of teaching and sharing, as well as the help and comfort of friendship”. In this respect Francis underlined the mutual fruitfulness of meeting with the accompanying priests, and thanked the couples of the END for the support and encouragement in the ministry of their priests “who always find, in contact with your Equipes and your families, priestly joy, fraternal presence, emotional balance and spiritual paternity”.
The missionary task of the movement is of supreme importance and the Holy Father indicated various fields of action, such as accompanying young couples and forming them in faith before and after marriage, or closeness to wounded families, “of whom there are so many these days, due to unemployment, … health problems, bereavement … the imbalance caused by distance or absence, or a climate of violence. We must have the courage to enter into contact with these families, in a discreet but generous way, materially, humanly and spiritually, in those circumstances in which they are vulnerable”.
Finally, the Pope encouraged couples to “be instruments of the mercy of Christ and the Church towards those whose marriage has failed. Never forget that your conjugal fidelity is a gift from God, and that mercy has been shown to every one of us. A united and happy couple can understand better than any other, from within, the harm and the suffering caused by abandonment, betrayal, and a lack of love. It is necessary, therefore, that you bring your witness and your experience to help Christian communities to discern the real situations in which these people find themselves, to welcome them with their wounds, and to help them to journey in faith and in truth, under the gaze of Christ the Good Shepherd, to take part in the life of the Church in an appropriate way. Nor must you forget the unspeakable suffering of the children who experience these painful family situations.