Catholics and Christians worldwide would do well to be in prayer for the upcoming Synod on the Family. Pope Francis has convened the synod to address “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” By calling a Synod of Bishops, the Holy Father is showing the importance of addressing the pastoral care of the family. “It is right, that the Church should move as a community in reflection and prayer and that she takes common pastoral directions in relation to the most important points—such as the pastoral of the family—under the guidance of the Pope and the bishops,” says director of the Holy See Press Office Fr. Federico Lombardi.

Why is it important that we be in prayer for this Synod? According to this synod is a critical moment for these crucial matters related to faith and family. The family faces obstacles and challenges not only from outside the Faith, but challenges from within as well. On 14 September 2014 Pope Francis presided over the weddings of 20 couples, and prior to the ceremony the Rome Diocese openly and deliberately highlighted the fact that “Those who will get married Sunday are couples like many others. There are those who are already cohabitating; who already have children.” Of course, the international press seized upon this information and announced this as a sign of a shift in the Church’s teaching and attitude regarding marriage.

Commenting on the possible consequences of these weddings, John-Henry Westen writes for LifeSite:

All I can do is pray that the public fallout from these wedding ceremonies does not foreshadow the public outcome of the Synod. If so, we could be headed for a tragedy akin to the tragedy of the late sixties when, despite the proclamation of the truth of Humanae Vitae against contraception, the effect among ordinary Catholics was a near universal rejection of the teaching in practice.

We must pray that such a tragedy does not occur again.

In addition to questions of how to address couples who cohabitate before marriage, the working paper of the Synod outlines many other questions that will be discussed in the Synod. It is expected that Cardinal Walter Kasper’s contentious proposal for allowing the divorced and remarried to receive Communion will be addressed at the Synod. The working paper also outlines discussion about the use of contraception and same-sex relationships.

To put it simply, this Synod on the family will address some of the most contentious issues in our day and age. The voices, from within and from outside of the Faith, calling for the Church to adopt a view on these issues more “current” or “relevant” are myriad. There is a seemingly vast opportunity for contention and division to develop. Our world so desperately hungers for truth and an end to division. We must therefore pray, that God, in his great mercy, would see fit to grant that this Synod be a voice of truth and unity.