Pope Francis says the family is a great gym where one trains in mutual giving and forgiveness.

Pope Francis says the family is a great gym where one trains in mutual giving and forgiveness.


During today’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said he wanted to underline this point as he reflected on the importance of the family as the place where we learn the value of forgiveness. He reminded those gathered that each day, in the words of the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us and to grant us the grace to forgive others.  

The Holy Father began his address recalling the recent Synod of Bishops, which reflected on the vocation and mission of the family, calling it a moment of grace. He noted it was not the time to examine its conclusions, saying all of us, himself included, need time to meditate on them. But he said he did want to underline how the synod revived hope in the family’s vocation to mutual forgiveness and giving of self.

Speaking on the family as a “gym,” the Pope explained, “Without giving of oneself and without pardoning, love does not  remain, it does not last!”

The Holy Father went on to recall how the Our Father speaks about forgiving trespasses, and then stated: “One cannot live without pardoning, or at least one cannot live well, especially in the family,” he said.

Can’t end day at war

Because we have egos and are fragile, sometimes we make mistakes, the Pope admitted. However, he stressed, we therefore are required to heal these wounds and not wait too long to do so.

Before the day is over, he exhorted, peace must be made between husband and wife, between parents and children, and also with in-laws. When we learn to apologize, the wounds are healed, the marriage is strengthened, and the family becomes more solid.

Francis also mentioned that a long speech is not required to express this apology, but even a caress can start things over. The important thing, the Pope stressed is, “Do not end the day at war! Understand?!”

As difficult as forgiveness may be, the Holy Father pointed out, it is essential for our personal growth, our capacity to acknowledge our failures and to mend broken relationships.  He noted we first learn the virtue of forgiveness in the family.

Christian families help society

“Practicing forgiveness not only saves families from division,” the Pope said, “but enables them to help society be less bad and less cruel.” 

The Holy Father underscored that forgiveness strengthens families in love and suggested that this virtue is “a solid rock” on which to build our lives and an eloquent sign of our Christian discipleship and obedience to the Father’s will. 

Pope Francis concluded his remarks praying that the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, Dec. 8 – Nov. 20, 2016, encourages families everywhere to rediscover the power of forgiveness, and enables the Church, as a great family, to proclaim the power of God’s reconciling love at work in our world.