“Dear brothers and sisters, today's catechesis is the opening of the door to a series of reflections on family life, real life, daily life,” the Pope told pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square May 13.
“Above this door are written three words that we have already used other times: May I, thank you, and I'm sorry. They are words linked to good manners, (and) in their genuine sense of respect and desire for good, (they are) far away from any hypocrisy and duplicity,” he said.
Francis’ address was a continuation of his ongoing catechesis on the family, which he began at the end of last year as part of the lead-up to the World Day of Families in September, as well as October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family.
Although the words ’May I,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ can be hard to say or put into practice, their absence “can cause cracks in the foundation of the family, which can lead to its collapse,” the Pope said.
However, if families make a habit of including the phrases in their daily lives as a sign of love for one another rather than just a formal expression of good manners, they can strengthen a happy family life, he continued.
The word ‘May I’ is a reminder that we should be “delicate, respectful and patient with others,” he said. Even if we feel like we have the right to something, “when we speak to our spouse or family member with kindness we create space for a true spirit of marital and familial common life.”
He then turned to the second word, noting that to say ‘thank you’ can seem like a contradiction in a distrustful society, which tends to view this attitude as weakness.
Despite this perception, it is through an “education in gratitude” that that social justice and the dignity of persons are upheld, he said.
Gratitude Francis continued, “is a virtue that for believers is born from the same heart of their faith… (it) is also the language of God, to whom above all we must express our gratitude.”
Pope Francis then turned to the words “I’m sorry,” or “Forgive me,” and said that without these words, hurt feelings can develop in relationships and weaken life as a family.
“But when we ask forgiveness, we show our desire to restore what was lost – respect, honesty, love – and healing between family members is made possible,” he said, noting how the Our Father prayer teaches us that to accept our mistakes and to commit to correcting them is the first step of healing.
The Pope then spoke directly to spouses, telling them that if they ever fight or have an argument, they should never end the day without reconciling and making peace with each other.
Francis concluded his address by praying that families would be a sign of God’s love and mercy in the middle of the world. He asked that the words ’May I’, ‘Thank you,’ and ‘I’m Sorry’ would always remain “in our hearts, in our homes and in our communities.”
After concluding his speech, the Pope greeted pilgrims present from various countries around the world, including Spain, Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, England, Sweden, Taiwan, Cameroon and the United States.
He also noted how the day marked the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared to three shepherd children – Lucia Santos and Francisco and Jacinta Marto – May 13, 1917.
Since the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the children was approved in 1930, a sanctuary has been built at the site of her appearance, where millions continue to flock every year to pray and ask for Mary’s intercession.
St. John Paul II nearly died after being shot by Mehmet Ali Agca on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima in 1981. He credited her for saving his life, and maintained a strong devotion to her until his death in 2005.
In his audience, Pope Francis told youth to learn how to cultivate their devotion to Mary by praying the rosary daily, and asked that all those who are ill would “feel the presence of Mary in the hour of the Cross.”
He spoke to newly-weds present, and encouraged them as husbands and wives to pray to Mary so that “love and mutual respect will never be lacking in your homes.”