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In this artwork by J. Tissot, based off one of the parables of Jesus, we see the kneeling prodigal son returning home and being accepted back by his father."It's important for families to strive to be the best they can be, but also realize that things may not always be perfect. Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love by Pope Francis) is an opportunity for Catholics to talk about some of the issues that families face," said Father Phil Sosa, provincial superior of the North American Province of the Missionaries of the Holy Family.

Father Sosa acknowledged the deep effort it takes for priests to minister to families and accompany them as they face challenges in life. Before he became provincial superior, Father Sosa served in a parish for more than a decade. When meeting with couples for their child's baptismal preparation, Father Sosa interviewed them in an effort to get to know them and their individual challenges.

In some cases, couples would share their circumstances, such as being married outside of the Church. Rather than hammering them with Church teaching, the priest took a compassionate, merciful approach, gently teaching them about the Sacrament of Marriage.

"It takes a lot of effort as priests," he said. "We have to meet them where they're at, but it was very rewarding for me to see people coming back to the Church."

The Missionaries of the Holy Family website, MSF-America.org, includes information on improving family relationships. The Caring for Your Family section of the site provides valuable tips on topics such as marriage preparation to parenting teens to end-of-life issues. The website has information on how to order the Holy Family Prayer Book, which includes traditional and original prayers dedicated to helping families today.

The Missionaries of the Holy Family have served in the St. Louis archdiocese since the 1940s. In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the community serves at Saint Wenceslaus Parish in South St. Louis and the Little Sisters of the Poor in North St. Louis. +JMJ+

[This article is written by Jennifer Brinker of the St. Louis Review. Posted online on 14 April 2016.]

[Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love, is on the Vatican website.]

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