The Church Is a Family

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In October 2018, Pope Paul VI was proclaimed a saint of the Catholic Church. I will never forget the moment when I found out he had died. I was 12 years old and was playing at the home of my next-door neighbors and best pals, Melissa and Karen. We were listening to tunes on the AM radio — trust me, this was considered cool back then — when the news came. His death was a blow to my heart. Pope Paul VI was the only pope I had ever known.

I didn’t really know him, of course. I had only ever seen pictures of him. But it didn’t matter. He was a father figure in my life, the vicar of Christ, a representative of God. It was as if there were a death in the family.

I wanted to tell my mother, so I told my friends, “I have to go home.”

“Why?” they said.

“I just do,” I said. They hadn’t heard the report, and I didn’t tell them. They were not Catholic, and I felt that this news should be shared first with members of the family. By family, I don’t just mean my mom as my mother. I mean as a fellow member of the

The Church is first and foremost a family. People often speak of it as an institution. And okay, I get that. It’s got a chain of command; it’s got a headquarters; it’s got a mega-history. It’s got 1.2 billion members. But at its core, Jesus designed it to be a family. He gave it a father — his father. He gave it a mother — his mother. He is the eldest son, and we are his adopted brothers and sisters. This is not just nice talk. This is real. I knew it when I was 12, and I’ve seen and felt it all my life. The pope is not just a famous person.
He is one of us.

The Church has canonized Pope Paul VI, and there are many people who will wonder who he was and what he did to lead our family, the Church. Here are three things you can tell your kids so they can share in the celebration, as any family would.

Pope Paul was a man of peace. He urged Catholics to pray the rosary to our mother,
Mary, for an end to the Vietnam War. (See the encyclical Christi Matri, “On Prayers for Peace During October,” at

He was a man of justice. He reminded those of us who have everything we need that we are responsible to share with those who don’t even have their basic needs met. (Read his encyclical Populorum Progressio, “On the Development of Peoples,” at

Finally, he was a man of conscience. He risked being unpopular when he called on parents to live naturally in accordance with God’s design when planning their families and to be generous in having children. (See his encyclical Humanae Vitae, “On Human Life,” at

Let us pray: St. Paul VI, teach us to live by the gospel values you promoted. Help us to a “deeper knowledge and more widespread charity, to a way of life marked by true brotherhood, to a human society based on mutual harmony.” Help us to be the family we
should be. Amen.


Susie Lloyd has won three Catholic Press Awards for her writing. Find her books, articles,
and speaking schedule at

This article originally appeared in Catechist Magazine, October 2018.



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