On the Feast of the Holy Family, Pope Francis encouraged married couples to rely on the strength of Christ and his graces as they weather the storms of life together.

In a letter to spouses Dec. 26, Pope Francis wrote that “marriage, as a vocation, calls you to steer a tiny boat — wave-tossed yet sturdy, thanks to the reality of the sacrament — across a sometimes stormy sea.”

“Let us never forget, though, that by virtue of the sacrament of matrimony, Jesus is present in that boat,” the pope added. “He is concerned for you and he remains at your side amid the tempest.”

Pope Francis’ letter was written for the Amoris Laetitia Family Year, which began on March 19, 2021, the Solemnity of St. Joseph. The celebration will conclude in June 2022 with the 10th edition of the World Meeting of Families, which will be held in Rome.

In his letter, Francis addressed the challenges, and in some cases crises, that families are facing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: “Families have always been in my thoughts and prayers, but especially so during the pandemic, which has severely tested everyone, especially the most vulnerable among us.”

“The present situation has made me want to accompany with humility, affection and openness each individual, married couple and family in all those situations in which you find yourselves,” he said.

The pope recalled the importance of forgiveness as “the fruit of an interior resolve that comes to maturity in prayer, in our relationship with God.”

Forgiveness, he said, “is a gift born of the grace poured out by Christ upon married couples whenever they turn to him and allow him to act.”

“Christ ‘dwells’ in your marriage and he is always waiting for you to open your hearts to him, so that he can sustain you, as he did the disciples in the boat, by the power of his love. Our human love is weak; it needs the strength of Jesus’ faithful love. With him, you can truly build your ‘house on rock’ (Mt 7:24),” he said.

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