Saturday, December 31, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 153

Violence and manipulation

153.  On the basis of this positive vision of sexuality, we can approach the entire subject with healthy realism.  It is, after all, a fact that sex often becomes depersonalized and unhealthy; as a result, "it becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts".155  In our own day, sexuality risks being poisoned by the mentality of "use and discard".  The body of the other is often viewed as an object to be used as long as it offers satisfaction, and rejected once it is no longer appealing.  Can we really ignore or overlook the continuing forms of domination, arrogance, abuse, sexual perversion and violence that are the product of a warped understanding of sexuality?  Or the fact that the dignity of others and our human vocation to love thus end up being less important than an obscure need to "find oneself"?

155 John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae (25 March 1995), 23: AAS 87 (1995), 427.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Amoris Laetitia Par. 152

152.  In no way, then, can we consider the erotic dimension of love simply as a permissible evil or a burden to be tolerated for the good of the family.  Rather, it must be seen as gift from God that enriches the relationship of the spouses.  As a passion sublimated by a love respectful and the dignity of the other, it becomes a "pure, unadulterated affirmation" revealing the marvels of which the human heart is capable.  In this way, even momentarily, we can feel that "life has turned out good and happy".154

154 Josef Pieper, Über die Liebe, Munich, 2014, 174.  English: On Love, in Faith, Hope, Love, San Francisco, 1997, p.256.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 151

151.  To those who fear that the training of the passions and of sexuality detracts from the spontaneity of sexual love, Saint John Paul II replied that human persons are "called to full and mature spontaneity in their relationships", a maturity that "is the gradual fruit of discernment of the impulses of one's own heart".149  This calls for discipline and self-mastery, since every human person "must learn, with perseverance and consistency, the meaning of his or her body".150  Sexuality is not a means of gratification or entertainment; it is an interpersonal language wherein the other is taken seriously, in his or her sacred and inviolable dignity.  As such, "the human heart comes to participate, so to speak, in another kind of spontaneity".151  In this context, the erotic appears as a specifically human manifestation of sexuality.  It enables us to discover "the nuptial meaning of the body and the authentic dignity of the gift".152  In his catecheses on the theology of the body, Saint John Paul II taught that sexual differentiation not only is "a source of fruitfulness and procreation", but also possesses "the capacity of expressing love: that love precisely in which the human person becomes a gift".153  A healthy sexual desire, albeit closely joined to a pursuit of pleasure, always involves a sense of wonder, and for that very reason can humanize the impulses.

149 Catechesis (12 November 1908), 2: Insegnamenti III/2 (1980), 1133.
150 Ibid., 4
151 Ibid., 5
152 Ibid., 1: 1132
153 Catechesis (16 January 1980), 1: Insegnaemnti III/1 (1980), 151.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Amoris Letitia - Par. 150

The erotic dimensions of love

150.  All this brings us to the sexual dimension of marriage.  God himself created sexuality, which is a marvellous gift to his creatures.  If this gift needs to be cultivated and directed, it is to prevent the "impoverishment of an authentic value".146  Saint John Paul II rejected the claim that the Church's teaching is "a negation of the value of human sexuality "because it is necessary for procreation".147 Sexual desire is not something to be looked down upon, and "and there can be no attempt whatsoever to call into question its necessity".148

146 John Paul II, Catechesis (22 October 1980), 5: Insegnamenti III/2 (1980), 951.
147 Ibid., 3.
148 Id., Catechesis, (24 September 1980), 4: Insegnamenti III/2 (1980), 719.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 149

149.  Some currents of spirituality teach that desire has to be eliminated as a path to liberation from pain.  Yet we believe that God loves the enjoyment felt by human beings: he created us and "richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy" (1 Tim 6:17).  Let us be glad when with great love he tells us:  "My son, treat yourself well...Do not deprive yourself of a happy day" (Sir 14:11-14).  Married couples likewise respond to God's will when they take up the biblical injunction: "Be joyful in the day of prosperity" (Ec 7:14).  What is important is to have the freedom to realize that pleasure can find different expressions at different times in life, in accordance with the needs of mutual love.  In this sense, we can appreciate the teachings of some Eastern masters who urge us to expand our consciousness, lest we be imprisoned by one limited experience that can blinker us.  This expansion of consciousness is not the denial or destruction of desire so much as its broadening and perfection.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 148

148.  Training in the areas of emotion and instinct is necessary, and at times this requires setting limits.  Excess, lack of control or obsession with a single form of pleasure can end up weakening and tainting that very pleasure144 and damaging family life.  A person can certainly channel his passions in a beautiful and healthy way, increasingly pointing them towards altruism and an integrated self-fulfillment that can only enrich interpersonal relationships in the heart of the family.  This does not mean renouncing moments of intense enjoyment,145 but rather integrating them with other moments of generous commitment, patient hope, inevitable weariness and struggle to achieve an ideal.  Family life is all this, and it deserves to be lived to the fullest.

144 Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 32, art.7.
145 Cf. Id., Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 153, art. 2, ad 2: "Abundantia delectationis quae est in actu venero secundum rationem ordinato, non contrariatur medio virtutis".


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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 147

God loves the joy of his children

147.  This calls for a pedagogical process that involves renunciation.  This conviction on the part of the Church has often been rejected as opposed to human happiness.  Benedict XVI summed up this charge with great clarity:  "Doesn't the Church, with all her commandments and prohibitions, turn to bitterness the most precious thing in life?  Doesn't she blow the whistle just when the joy which is the Creator's gift offers us a happiness which is itself a certain foretaste of the Divine?"142  He responded that, although there have been exaggerations and deviant forms of asceticism in Christianity, the Church's official teaching, in fidelity to Scriptures, did not reject "eros as such, but rather declared war on a warped and destructive form of it, because this counterfeit divinization of eros...actually strips it of diving dignity and dehumanizes it".143

142 Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25 December 2005), 3: AAS 98 (2006), 219-220.
143 Ibid., 4: AAS 98 (2006), 220.


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Saturday, December 24, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 146

146.  This being said, if passion accompanies a free act, it can manifest the depth of that act.  Marital love strives to ensure that one's entire emotional life benefits the family as a whole and stands at the service of its common life.  A family is mature when the emotional life of its members becomes a form of sensitivity that neither stifles nor obscures great decisions and values, but rather follows each one's freedom,141 springs from it, enriches, perfects and harmonizes it in the service of all.

141 Cf. ibid., q. 59, art.5.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 145

145.  Experiencing an emotion is not, in itself, morally good or evil.140  The stirring of desire or repugnance is neither sinful nor blameworthy.  What is morally good or evil is what we do on the basis of, or under the influence of, a given passion.  But when passions are aroused or sought, and as a result we perform evil acts, the evil lies in the decision to fuel them and in the evil acts that result.  Along the same lines, my being attracted to someone is not automatically good.  If my attraction to that person makes me try to dominate him or her, them my feeling only serves my selfishness.  To believe that we are good simply because "we feel good" is a tremendous illusion.  There are those who feel themselves capable of great love only because they have a great need for affection, yet they prove incapable of the effort needed to bring happiness to others.  They remain caught up in their own needs and desires.  In such cases, emotions distract from the highest values and conceal a self-centredness that makes it impossible to develop a healthy and happy family life.

140 Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 24, art.1.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 144

144.  As true man, Jesus showed his emotions.  He was hurt by the rejection of Jerusalem (cf. Mt 23:27) and this moved him to tears (cf. Lk 19:41).  He was also deeply moved by the sufferings of others (cf. Mk 6:34).  He felt deeply their grief (cf. Jn 11:33), and he wept at the death of a friend (cf. Jn 11:35).  These examples of his sensitivity showed how much his human heart was open to others.


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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 143

The world of emotions

143.  Desires, feelings, emotions, what the ancients called "the passions", all have an important place in married life.  They are awakened whenever "another" becomes present and part of a person's life.  It is characteristic of all living beings to reach out to other things, and this tendency always has basic affective signs:  pleasure or pain, joy or sadness, tenderness or fear.  They ground the most elementary physiological activity.  Human beings live on this earth, and all that they do and seek is fraught with passion.


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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 142

Passionate Love

142.  The Second Vatican Council teaches that this conjugal love "embraces the good of the whole person; it can enrich the sentiments of the spirit and their physical expression with a unique dignity and ennoble them as the special features and manifestation of the friendship proper to marriage".138  For this reason, a love lacking either pleasure or passion is insufficient to symbolize the union of the human heart with God:  "All the mystics have affirmed that supernatural love and heavenly love find the symbols which they seek in marital love, rather than in friendship, filial devotion or devotion to a cause.  And the reason is to be found precisely in its totality".139  Why then should we not pause to speak of feelings and sexuality in marriage?

138 Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 49.
139 A. Sertillanges, L'Amour chrétien, Paris, 1920, 174.


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Monday, December 19, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 141

141.  Finally, let us acknowledge that for a worthwhile dialogue we have to have something to say.  This can only be the fruit of an interior richness nourished by reading, personal reflection, prayer and openness to the world around us.  Otherwise, conversations become boring and trivial.  When neither of the spouses works at this, and has little real contact with other people, family life becomes stifling and dialogue impoverished.


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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 140

140.  Show affection and concern for the other person.  Love surmounts even the worst barriers.  When we love someone, or when we feel loved by them, we can better understand what they are trying to communicate.  Fearing the other person as a kind of "rival" is a sign of weakness and needs to be overcome.  It is very important to base one's position on solid choices, beliefs or values, and not on the need to win an argument or to be proved right.


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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 139

139.  Keep an open mind.  Don't get bogged down in your own limited ideas and opinions, but be prepared to change or expand them.  The combination of two different ways of thinking can lead to a synthesis that enriches both.  The unity that we seek is not uniformity, but a "unity in diversity", or "reconciled diversity".  Fraternal communion is enriched by respect and appreciation for differences within an overall perspective that advances the common good.  We need to free ourselves from feeling that we all have to be alike.  A certain astuteness is also needed to prevent the appearance of "static" that can interfere with the process of dialogue.  For example, if hard feelings start to emerge, they should be dealt with sensitively, lest they interrupt the dynamic of dialogue.  The ability to say what one is thinking without offending the other person is important.  Words should be carefully chosen so as not to offend, especially when discussing difficult issues.  Making a point should never involve venting anger and inflicting hurt.  A patronizing tone only serves to hurt, ridicule, accuse and offend others.  Many disagreements between couples are not about important things.  Mostly they are about trivial matters.  What alters the mood, however, is the way things are said or the attitude with which they are said.


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Friday, December 16, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 138

138.  Develop the habit of giving real importance to the other person.  This means appreciating them and recognizing their right to exist, to think as they do and to be happy.  Never down-play what they say or think, even if you need to express your own point of view.  Everyone has something to contribute, because they have their life experiences, they look at things from a different standpoint and they have their own concerns, abilities and insights.  We ought to be able to acknowledge the other person's truth, the value of his or her deepest concerns, and what it is that they are trying to communicate, however aggressively.  We have to put ourselves in their shoes and try to peer into their hearts, to perceive their deepest concerns and to take them as a point of departure for further dialogue.


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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 137

137.  Take time, quality time.  This means being ready to listen patiently and attentively to everything the other person wants to say.  It requires the self-discipline of not speaking until the time is right.  Instead of offering an opinion or advice, we need to be sure that we have heard everything the other person has to say.  This means cultivating an interior silence that makes it possible to listen to the other person without mental or emotional distractions.  Do not be rushed, put aside all of your own needs and worries, and make space.  Often the other spouse does not need a solution to his or her problems, but simply to be heard, to feel that someone has acknowledged their pain, their disappointment, their fear, their anger, their hopes and their dreams.  How often we hear complaints like: "He does not listen to me."  "Even when you seem to, you are really doing something else."  "I talk to her and I feel like she can't wait for me to finish."  "When I speak to her, she tries to change the subject, or she give me curt responses to end the conversation".


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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Amoris Laetiticia - Par. 136


136.  Dialogue is essential for experiencing, expressing and fostering love in marriage and family life.  Yet it can only be the fruit of a long and demanding apprenticeship.  Men and women, young people and adults, communicate differently.  They speak different languages and they act in different ways.  Our way of asking and responding to questions, the tone we use, our timing and any number of other factors condition how well we communicate.  We need to develop certain attitudes towards that express love and encourage authentic dialogue.


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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 135

135.  It is not helpful to dream of an idyllic and perfect love needing no stimulus to grow.  A celestial notion of earthly love forgets that the best is yet to come, that fine wine matures with age.  As the Bishops of Chili have pointed out, "the perfect families proposed by deceptive consumerist propaganda do not exist.  In those families, no one grows old, there is no sickness, sorrow or death...Consumerist propaganda presents a fantasy that has nothing to do with the reality which must daily be faced by the heads of families".137  It is much healthier to be realistic about our limits, defects and imperfections, and to respond to the call to grow together, to bring love to maturity and to strengthen the union, come what may.

137 Chilean Bishops' Conference, La vida y la familia: regalos de Dios para cada uno de nosotros (21 July 2014).


Monday, December 12, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 134

134.  All this occurs through a process of constant growth.  The very special form of love that is marriage is called to embody what Saint Thomas Aquinas said about charity in general.  "Charity", he says, "by its very nature, has no limit to its increase, for it is a participation in that infinite charity which is the Holy Spirit...Nor on the part of the subject can its limit be fixed, because as charity grows, so too does its capacity for an even greater increase".135  Saint Paul also prays:  "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another" (1 Th 3:12), and again, "concerning fraternal love...we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more" (1 Th 4:9-10).  More and more!  Marital love is not defended primarily by presenting indissolubility as a duty, or by repeating doctrine, but by helping it to grow ever stronger under the impulse of grace.  A love that fails to grow is at risk.  Growth can only occur if we respond to God's grace through constant acts of love, act of kindness that become ever more frequent, intense, generous, tender and cheerful.  Husbands and wives "become conscious of their unity and experience it more deeply from day to day".136  The gift of God's love poured out upon the spouses is also a summons to constant growth in grace.

135 Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 24, art. 7. 
136 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 48.


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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 133

A love that reveals itself and increases

133.  The love of friendship unifies all aspects of marital life and helps family members to grow constantly.  This love must be freely and generously expressed in words and acts.  In the family, "three words need to be used,  I want to repeat this!  Three words: 'Please', 'Thank you', 'Sorry'.  Three essential words!".132  "In our families when we are not overbearing and ask: 'May I?'; in our families when we are not selfish and can say: 'Thank you!'; and in our families when someone realizes that he or she did something wrong and is able to say 'Sorry!', our family experiences peace and joy".133  Let us not be stingy about using these words, but keep repeating them, day after day.  For "certain silences are oppressive, even at times within families, between husbands and wives, between parents and children,  among siblings".134  The right words, spoken at the right time, daily protect and nurture love.

132  Address to the Pilgrimage of Families during the Year of Faith (26 October 2013): AAS 105 (2013), 980.
133 Angelus Message (29 December 2013):  L'Osservatore Romano, 30-31 December 2013, p. 7.
134 Address to the Pilgrimage of Families during the Year of Faith (26 October 2013): AAS 105 (2013), 978.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 132

132.  To opt for marriage in this way expresses a genuine and firm decision to join paths, come what may.  Given its seriousness, this public commitment of love cannot be the fruit of a hasty decision, but neither can it be postponed indefinitely.  Committing oneself exclusively and definitively to another person always involves a risk and a bold gamble.  Unwillingness to make such a commitment is selfish, calculating and petty.  It fails to recognize the rights of another person and to present him or her to society as someone worth of unconditional love.  If two persons are truly in love, they naturally show this to others.  When love is expressed before others in the marriage contract, with all its public commitments, it clearly indicates and protects the "yes" which those persons speak freely and unreservedly to each other.  This "yes" tells them that they can always trust one another, and that they will never be abandoned when difficulties arise or new attractions or selfish interest present themselves.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 131

Marrying for love

131.  I would like to say to young people that none of this is jeopardized when their love finds expression in marriage.  Their union encounters in this institution the means to ensure that their love truly will endure and grow.  Naturally, love is much more than an outward consent or a contract, yet it is nonetheless true that choosing to give marriage a visible form in society by undertaking certain commitments shows how important it is.  It manifests the seriousness of each person's identification with the other and their firm decision to leave adolescent individualism behind and to belong to one another.  Marriage is a means of expressing that we have truly left the security of the home in which we grew up in order to build other strong ties and to take on a new responsibility for another person.  This is much more meaningful than a mere spontaneous association for mutual gratification, which would turn marriage into a purely private affair.  As a social institution, marriage protects and shapes a shared commitment to deeper growth in love and commitment to one another, for the good of society as a whole.  That is why marriage is more than a fleeting fashion; it is of enduring importance.  Its essence derives from our human nature and social character.  It involves a series of obligations born of love itself, a love so serious and generous that it is ready to face any risk. 


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 130

130.  On the other hand, joy also grows through pain and sorrow.  In the words of Saint Augustine, "the greater the danger in battle the greater is the joy of victory".131  After suffering and struggling together, spouses are able to experience that it was worth it, because they achieved some good, learned something as a couple, or came to appreciate what they have.  Few human joys are as deep and thrilling as those experienced by two people who love one another and have achieved something as the result of a great, shared effort.

131 Augustine, Confessions, VIII, III, 7: PL 32, 752.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 129

129.  The joy of this contemplative love needs to be cultivated.  Since we were made for love, we know that there is no greater joy than that of sharing good things:  "Give, take, and treat yourself well" (Sir 14:16).  The most intense joys in life arise when we are able to elicit joy in others, as a foretaste of heaven.  We can think of the lovely scene in the film Babette's Feast, when the generous cook receives a grateful hug and praise: "Ah, how you will delight the angels!"  It is a joy and a great consolation to bring delight to others, to see them enjoying themselves.  This joy, the fruit of fraternal love, is not that of the vain and self-centered, but of lovers who delight in the good of those whom they love, who give freely to them and thus bear good fruit.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 128

128.  The aesthetic experience of love is expressed in that "gaze" which contemplates other persons as ends in themselves, even if they are infirm, elderly or physically unattractive.  A look of appreciation has enormous importance, and to begrudge it is usually hurtful.  How many things do spouses and children sometimes do in order to be noticed!  Much hurt and many problems result when we stop looking at one another.  This lies behind the complaints and grievances we often hear in families:  "My husband does not look at me; he acts as if I were invisible".  "Please look at me when I am talking to you!".  "My wife no longer looks at me, she only has eyes for our children".  "In my own home nobody cares about me; they do not even see me; it is as if I did not exist".  Love opens our eyes and enables us to see, beyond all else, the great worth of a human being.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 127

127.  The love of friendship is called "charity" when it perceives and esteems the "great worth" of another person.129  Beauty - that "great worth" which is other than physical or psychological appeal - enables us to appreciate the sacredness of a person, without feeling the need to possess it.  In a consumerist society, the sense of beauty is impoverished and so joy fades.  Everything is there to be purchased, possessed or consumed, including people.  Tenderness, on the other hand, is a sign of a love free of selfish possessiveness.  It makes us approach a person with immense respect and a certain dread of causing them harm or taking away their freedom.  Loving another person involves the joy of contemplating and appreciating their innate beauty and sacredness, which is greater than my needs.  This enables me to seek their good even when they cannot belong to me, or when they are no longer physically appealing but intrusive and annoying.  For "the love by which one person is pleasing to another depends on his or her giving something freely".130

129 Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, q.26, art. 3.
130. Ibid., q. 110, art.1.


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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 126

Joy and Beauty

126.  In marriage, the joy of love needs to be cultivated.  When the search for pleasure becomes obsessive, it holds us in thrall and keeps us from experiencing other satisfactions.  Joy, on the other hand, increases our pleasure and helps us find fulfillment in any number of things, even at those times of life when physical pleasure has ebbed.  Saint Thomas Aquinas said that the word "joy" refers to an expansion of the heart.127  Marital joy can be experienced even amid sorrow; it involves accepting that marriage is an inevitable mixture of enjoyment and struggles, tensions and repose, pain and relief, satisfactions and longings, annoyances and pleasures, but always on the path of friendship, which inspires married couples to care for one another: "they help and serve each other".128

127 Cf. Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 31, art. 3., ad 3.
128 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church and the Modern Word Gaudium et Spes, 48.


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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 125

125.  Marriage is likewise a friendship marked by passion, but a passion always directed to an ever more stable and intense union.  This is because "marriage was not instituted soley for the procreation of children" but also that mutual love "might be properly expressed, that is should grow and mature".125  This unique friendship between a man and a woman acquires an all-encompassing character only within the conjugal union.  Precisely as all-encompassing, this union is also exclusive, faithful and open to new life.  It shares everything in constant mutual respect.  The Second Vatican Council echoed this by stating that "such a love, bringing together the human and the divine, leads the partners to a free and mutual self-giving, experienced in tenderness and actions, and permeating their entire lives".126

125 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 50.
126 Ibid., 49.


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Friday, December 2, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 124

124.  A love that is weak or infirm, incapable of accepting marriage as a challenge to be taken up and fought for, reborn, renewed and reinvented until death, cannot sustain a great commitment.  It will succumb to the culture of the ephemeral that prevents a constant process of growth.  Yet "promising love for ever is possible when we perceive a plan bigger than our own ideas and undertakings, a plan which sustains us and enables us to surrender our future entirely to the one we love".123  If this love is to overcome all trials and remain faithful in the face of everything, it needs the gift of grace to strengthen and elevate it.  In the words of Saint Robert Bellarmine, "the fact that one man unites with one woman in an indissoluble bond, and that they remain inseparable despite every kind of difficulty, even when there is no longer hope for children, can only be the sign of a great mystery".124

123 Encyclical Letter Lumen Fidei (29 June 2013), 52:  AAS 105 (2013), 590.
124 De sacramento matrimonii, I, 2; in Id., Disputationes, III, 5, 3 (ed. Giuliano, Naples, 1858), 778.


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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 123

Lifelong sharing

123.  After the love that unites us to God, conjugal love is the "greatest form of friendship".122  It is a union possessing all the traits of a good friendship:  concern for the good of the other, reciprocity, intimacy, warmth, stability and the resemblance born of a shared life.  Marriage joins to all this an indissoluble exclusivity expressed in the stable commitment to share and shape together the whole of life.  Let us be honest and acknowledge the signs that this is the case.  Lovers do not see their relationship as merely temporary.  Those who marry do not expect their excitement to fade.  Those who witness the celebration of a loving union, however fragile, trust that it will pass the test of time.  Children not only want their parents to love one another, but also to be faithful and remain together.  These and similar signs show that it is in the very nature of conjugal love to be definitive.  The lasting union expressed by the marriage vows is more than a formality or a traditional formula;  it is rooted in the natural inclinations of the human person.  For believers, it is also a covenant before God that calls for fidelity:  "The Lord was witness to the covenant to between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant...Let none be faithless to the wife of his youth.  For I hate divorce, says the Lord" (Mal 2:14-16).

122 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles III, 123; cf. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 8, 12 (ed. Bywater, Oxford, 1984, 174).


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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 122

122.  We should not however confuse different levels:  there is no need to lay upon two limited persons the tremendous burden of having to reproduce perfectly the union existing between Christ and his Church, for marriage as a sign entails "a dynamic process..., one which advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God".121

121 John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consorio (22 November 1981), 9: AAS 75 (1982), 90.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 121

121.  Marriage is a precious sign, for "when a man and a woman celebrate the sacrament of marriage, God is, as it were, 'mirrored' in them;  he impresses in them his own features and the indelible character of his love.  Marriage is the icon of God's love for us.  Indeed, God is also communion: the three Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit live eternally in perfect unity.  And this is precisely the mystery of marriage:  God makes of the two spouses on single existence".119  This has concrete daily consequences, because the spouses, "in virtue of the sacrament, are invested with a true and proper mission, so that, starting with the simple ordinary things of life they can make visible the love with which Christ loves his Church and continues to give his life for her".120

119  Catechesis (2 April 2014):  L'Osservatore Romano, 2 April 2017, p. 8
120 Ibid.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 120

Growing in Conjugal Love

120.  Our reflection on Saint Paul's hymn to love has prepared us to discuss conjugal love.  This is the love between a husband and wife,115 a love sanctified, enriched and illuminated by the grace of the sacrament of marriage.  It is an "affective union",116 spiritual and sacrificial, which combines the warmth of friendship and erotic passion, and endures long after emotions and passion subside.  Pope Pius XI taught that this love permeates the duties of married life and enjoys pride of place.117 Infused by the Holy Spirit, this powerful love is a reflection of the unbroken covenant between Christ and humanity that culminated in his self-sacrifice on the cross.  "The Spirit which the Lord pours forth gives a new heart and renders man and woman capable of loving one another as Christ loved us.  Conjugal love reaches that fullness to which it is interiorly ordained:  conjugal charity."118

115 Thomas Aquinas calls love a vis unitiva (Summa Theologiae I, q. 20, art. 1, ad 3), echoing a phrase of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (De Divinis Nominibus, IV, 12: PG 3, 709).

116 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 27, art. 2

117 Encyclical Letter Casti Connubii (31 December 1930): AAS 22 (1930), 547-548.

118 John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981) 13: AAS 74 (1982), 94.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 119

119.  In family life, we need to cultivate that strength of love which can help us fight every evil threatening it.  Love does not yield to resentment, scorn for others or the desire to hurt or to  gain some advantage.  The Christian ideal, especially in families, is a love that never gives up.  I am sometimes amazed to see men and women who have had to separate from their spouse for their own protection, yet, because of their enduring conjugal love, still try to help them, even by enlisting others, in their moments of illness, suffering or trial.  Here too we see a love that never gives up.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 118

Love endures all things

118.  Panta hypoménei.  This means that love bears every trial with a positive attitude.  It stands firm in hostile surroundings.  This "endurance" involves not only the ability to tolerate certain aggravations, but something greater: a constant readiness to confront any challenge.  It is a love that never gives up, even in the darkest hour.  It shows a certain dogged heroism, a power to resist every negative current, an irrepressible commitment to goodness.  Here I think of the words of Martin Luther King, who met every kind of trial and tribulation with fraternal love:  "The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it;  even the race that hates you most has some good in it.  And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls 'the image of God', you begin to love him in spite of [everything].  No matter what he does, you see God's image there.  There is an element of goodness that he can never sluff off...  Another way that you love your enemy is this: when the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it...  When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems.  Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system...  Hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe.  If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and so , you see, that goes on ad infinitum.  It just never ends.  Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that's the strong person.  The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil...  Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love".114

114 Martin Luther King Jr., Sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, 17 November 1957.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 117

117.  Here hope comes most fully into its own, for it embraces the certainty of life after death.  Each person, with all his or her failings, is called to the fullness of life in heaven.  There, fully transformed by Christ's resurrection, every weakness, darkness and infirmity will pass away.  There the person's true being will shine forth in all its goodness and beauty.  This realization helps us, amid the aggravations of this present life, to see each person from a supernatural perspective, in the light of hope, and await the fullness that he or she will receive in the heavenly kingdom, even if it is not yet visible.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 116

Love hopes all things

116.  Panta elpízei.  Love does not despair of the future.  Following upon what has just been said, this phrase speaks of the hope of one who knows that others can change, mature and radiate unexpected beauty and untold potential.  This does not mean that everything will change in this life.  It does involve realizing that, though things may not always turn out as we wish, God may well make crooked lines straight and draw some good from the evil we endure in this world.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 115

115.  This trust enables a relationship to be free.  It means we do not have to control the other person, to follow their every step lest they escape our grip.  Love trusts, it sets free, it does not try to control, posses and dominate everything.  This freedom, which fosters independence, an openness to the world around us and to new experiences, can only enrich and expand relationships.  The spouses then share with one another the joy of all they have received and learned outside the family circle.  At the same time, this freedom makes for sincerity and transparency, for those who know that they are trusted and appreciated can be open and hide nothing.  Those who know that their spouse is always suspicious, judgmental and lacking unconditional love, will tend to keep secrets, conceal their failings and weaknesses, and pretend to be someone other than who they are.  On the other hand, a family marked by loving trust, come what may, helps its members to be themselves spontaneously to reject deceit, falsehood, and lies.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 114

Love believes all things

114.  Panta pisteúei.  Love believes all things.  Here "belief" is not to be taken in its strict theological meaning, but more in the sense of what we mean by "trust".  This goes beyond simply presuming that the other is not lying or cheating.  Such basic trust recognizes God's light shining beyond the darkness, like an ember glowing beneath the ash.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 113

113.  Married couples joined by love speak well of each other; they try to show their spouse's good side, not their weakness and faults.  In any event, they keep silent rather than speak ill of them.  This is not merely a way of acting in front of others; it springs from an interior attitude.  Far from ingenuously claiming not to see the problems and weaknesses of others, it sees those weaknesses and faults in a wider context.  It recognizes that these failings are part of a bigger picture.  We have to realize that all of us are a complex mixture of light and shadows.  The other person is much more than the sum of the little things that annoy me.  Love does not have to be perfect for us to value it. The other person loves me as best they can, with all their limits, but the fact that love is imperfect does not mean that it is untrue or unreal.  It is real, albeit limited and earthly.  If I expect too much, the other person will let me know, for he or she can neither play God nor serve all my needs.  Love coexists with imperfection.  It "bears all things" and can hold its peace before the limitations of the loved one.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 112

112.  First, Paul says that love "bears all things" (panta stégei).  This is about more than simply putting up with evil; it has to do with the use of the tongue.  The verb can mean "holding one's peace" about what may be wrong with another person.  It implies limiting judgment, checking the impulse to issue a firm and ruthless condemnation: "Judge not and you will not be judged" (Lk 6:37).  Although it runs contrary to the way we normally use our tongues, God's word tell us: "Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters" (Jas 4:11).  Being willing to speak ill of another person is a way of asserting ourselves, venting resentment and envy without concern for the harm we may do. We often forget that slander can be quite sinful; it is a grave offense against God when it seriously harms another person's good name and causes damage that is hard to repair.  Hence God's word forthrightly states that the tongue "is a world of iniquity" that "stains the whole body" (Jas 3:6);  it is a "restless evil, full of deadly poison" (3:8).  Whereas the tongue can be used to "curse those who are made in the likeness of God" (3:9), love cherishes the good name of others, even one's enemies.  In seeking to uphold God's law we must never forget this specific requirement of love.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 111

Love bears all things

111.  Paul's list ends with four phrases containing the word's "all things".  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Here we see clearly the counter-cultural power of a love that is able to face whatever might threaten it.


Friday, November 18, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 110

110.  When a loving person can do good for others, or sees that others are happy, they themselves live happily and in this way give glory to God, for "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor 9:7).  Our Lord especially appreciates those who find joy in the happiness of others. If we fail to learn how to rejoice in the well-being of others, and focus primarily on our own needs, we condemn ourselves to a joyless existence, for, as Jesus said, "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).  The family must always be a place where, when something good happens to one of its members, they know that others will be there to celebrate it with them.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 109

Love rejoices with others

109.  The expression chaírei epí te adikía has to do with a negativity lurking deep within a person's heart.  It is the toxic attitude of those who rejoice at seeing an injustice done to others.  The following phrase expresses its opposite: sygchaírei te aletheía: "it rejoices in the right".  In other words, we rejoice at the good of others when we see their dignity and value their abilities and good works.  This is impossible for those who must always be comparing and competing, even with their spouse, so that they secretly rejoice in their failures.