PHILADELPHIA—The World Meeting of Families opened today, Sept. 22, with excitement. Several of us got over there before the lines were long to pick up our registration packets and get moving. By noon, the convention center was bustling with friendly people trying to find their way.
The festivities on the first day got off to a start with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 1 pm, during which Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and others welcomed people to Philadelphia.
At 2:30 p.m. Bishop Robert Barron, who is known for his Word on Fire ministry, gave the opening keynote about what it means to be created in God’s image. This is not just something nice for us to sit back and be proud of. Rather, it is a call to service and mission. In other words, we have been given a special role in the universe that enables us to lead creation, including our fellow humans, to union with God. Several of our group were in the first few rows of a packed hall. Some of them even got to meet Bishop Barron!
Next, we had the first Mass at 4:30 p.m. While I was looking for Kathy Schmugge, who had a place for me next to her and was actually in the front row, I ran into Sister Pat McCormack, who is speaking here on Thursday and will be one of the awesome presenters at On Fire With Faith in South Carolina. Anyway, at Mass, there were bishops and other clergy from all over the world in a seemingly endless procession which culminated in the arrival of Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, the host for this event.
Seeing that many bishops and cardinals on the stage was an amazing display of the sheer magnitude of the Church. In South Carolina, we can sometimes feel like we are alone as Catholics since we are less than 4 percent of the population. When you see a line of mitres coming down aisle with no end in sight, you realize that we are most certainly not alone!
Archbishop Chaput’s homily really discussed the importance of the family as the Domestic Church. It is the family that builds and rebuilds the Church. Yet, it is our relationship to Christ that is always first and foremost. This relationship is a solid foundation upon which to build a family.
Michael J. Martocchio, Ph.D., is the director of the Office of Catechesis and Christian Initiation for the Diocese of Charleston. He traveled with his wife and two daughters.