Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 184

184.  By their witness as well as their words, families speak to others of Jesus.  They pass on the faith, they arouse a desire to God and they reflect the beauty of the Gospel and its way of life. Christian marriages thus enliven society by their witness of fraternity, their social concern, their outspokenness on behalf of the underprivileged, their luminous faith and their active hope.  Their fruitfulness expands and in countless ways makes God's love present in society.


Click here for full text

Monday, January 30, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 183

183.  A married couple who experience the power of love know that this love is called to bind the wounds of the outcast, to foster a culture of encounter and to fight for justice.  God has given the family the job of "domesticating" the world205 and helping each person to see fellow human beings as brothers and sisters.  "An attentive look a the everyday life of today's men and women immediately shows the omnipresent need for a healthy injection of family spirit...  Not only is the organization of ordinary life increasingly thwarted by a bureaucracy completely removed from fundamental human bonds, but even social and political mores show signs of degradation".206  For their part, open and caring families find a place for the poor and build friendships with those less fortunate than themselves.  In their efforts to live according to the Gospel, they are mindful of Jesus' words:  "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me (Mt 25:40)".  In a very real way, their lives express what is asked of us all: "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invited your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and your will be blessed" (Lk 14:12-14).  You will be blessed! Here is the secret to a happy family.

205 Cf. Catechesis (16 September 2015):  L'Osservatore Romano, 17 September 2015, p.8.
206 Catechesis (7 October 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 9 October 2015, p.8.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 182

182.  No family can be fruitful if it sees itself as overly different or "set apart".  To avoid this risk, we should remember that Jesus' own family, so full of grace and wisdom, did not appear unusual or different from others.  That is why people found it hard to acknowledge Jesus' wisdom:  "Where did this man get all this?  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?"  (Mk 6:2-3).  "Is this not the carpenter's son?" (Mt 13:55).  These questions make it clear that theirs was an ordinary family, close to others, a normal part of the community.  Jesus did not grow up in a narrow and stifling relationship with Mary and Joseph, but readily interacted with the wider family, the relatives of his parents and their friends.  This explains how, on returning from Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph could imagine for a whole day that the twelve-year-old Jesus was somewhere in the caravan, listening to people's stories and sharing their concerns:  "Supposing him to be in the group of travelers, they went a day's journey" (LK 2:44).  Still, some Christian families, whether because of the language they use, the way they act or treat others, or their constant harping on the same two or three issues, end up being seen as remote and not really a part of the community.  Even their relative feel looked down upon or judged by them.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 181

181.  We also do well to remember that procreation and adoption are not the only ways of experiencing the fruitfulness of love.  Even large families are called to make their mark on society, finding other expressions of fruitfulness that in some way prolong the love that sustains them.  Christian families should never forget that "faith does not remove us from the world, but draw us more deeply into it...  Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God's kingdom in our world".203  Families should not see themselves as a refuge from society, but instead go forth from their homes in a spirit of solidarity with others.  In this way, they become a hub for integrating persons into society and a point of contact between the public and private spheres.  Married couples should have a clear awareness of their social obligations.  With this, their affection does not diminish but is flooded with new light.  As the poet says:

"Your hands are my caress,
The harmony that fills my days.
I love you because your hands
Work for justice.

If I love you, it is because you are
My love, my companion and my all,
And on the street, side by side,
We are so much more than just two".204

203 Address at the Meeting with Families in Manila (16 January 2015): AAS 107 (2015), 178.
204 Mario Benedetti, "Tus manos so mi caricia / mis acordes contidianos / tequiero porque tus manos / trabajan pr las justicia.  / / Si te quiero es porque sos / mi amor mi cómplice y todo / y en la calle codo a codo / somos mucho más que dos.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 180

180.  "The choice of adoption and foster care expresses a particular kind of fruitfulness in the marriage experience, and not only in cases of infertility.  In the light of those situations where a child is desired at any cost, as a right for one's self-fulfillment, adoption and foster care, correctly understood, manifest an important aspect of parenting and the raising of children.  They make people aware that children, whether natural, adoptive or taken in foster care, are persons in their own right who need to be accepted, loved and cared for, and not just brought into this world.  The best interests of the child should always underlie any decision in adoption and foster care".201  On the other hand, "the trafficking of children between countries and continents needs to be prevented by appropriate legislative action and state control".202

201 Relation Finalis 2015, 65.
202 Ibid.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 179

179.  Adoption is a very generous way to become parents.  I encourage those who cannot have children to expand their marital love to embrace those who lack a proper family situation.  They will never regret having been generous.  Adopting a child is an act of love, offering the gift of a family to someone who has none.  It is important to insist that legislation help facilitate the adoption process, above all in the case of unwanted children, in order to prevent their abortion or abandonment.  Those who accept the challenge of adopting and accepting someone unconditionally and gratuitously become channels of God's love.  For he says, "Even if your mother forgets you, I will not forget you" (IS 49:15).


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 178

An Expanding Fruitfulness

178.  Some couples are unable to have children.  We know that this can be a cause of real suffering for them.  At the same time, we know that "marriage was not instituted solely for the procreation of children...  Even in cases where, despite the intense desire of the spouses, there are no children, marriage still retains character of being a whole manner and communion of life, and preserves its value and indissolubility".199  So too, "motherhood is not a solely biological reality, but is expressed in diverse ways".200

199 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 50.
200 Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops, Aparecida Document (29 June 2007), No. 457.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 177

177.  God sets the father in the family so that by the gifts of his masculinity he can be "close to his wife and share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship.  And to be close to his children as they grow - when they play and when they work, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they stray and when they get back on the right path.  To be a father who is always present. When I say 'present', I do not mean 'controlling'.  Fathers who are too controlling overshadow their children, they don't let them develop".197  Some fathers feel they are useless or unnecessary, but the fact is the "children need to find a father waiting for them when they return home with their problems.  They may try hard not to admit it, not to show it, but they need it".198  It is not good for children to lack a father and to grow up before they are ready.

197 Catechesis (4 February 2015), L'Osservatore Romano, 5 February 2015, p.8.
198 Ibid.


Click here for full text

Monday, January 23, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 176

176.  We often hear that ours is "a society without fathers".  In Western culture, the father figure is said to be symbolically absent, missing or vanished.  Manhood itself seems to be called into question. The result has been an understandable confusion.  "At first, this was perceived as a liberation: liberation from the father as master, from the father as the representative of a law imposed from without, from the father as the arbiter of his children's happiness and an obstacle to the emancipation and autonomy of young people.  In some homes, authoritarianism once reigned and, at times, even oppression".194  Yet, "as often happens, one goes from one extreme to the other.  In our day, the problem no longer seems to be the overbearing presence of the father so much as his absence, his not being there,  Fathers are often so caught up in themselves and their work, and at times in the own self-fulfillment, that they neglect their families.  They leave the little ones and the young to themselves".195  The presence of the father, and hence his authority, is also impacted by the amount of time given over to the communications and entertainment media.  Nowadays authority is often considered suspect and adults treated with impertinence.  They themselves become uncertain and so fail to offer sure and solid guidance to their children.  A reversal of the roles of parents and children is unhealthy, since it hinders the proper process of development that children need to experience, and it denies them the love and guidance needed to mature.196

194 Catechesis (28 January 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 29 January 2015, p.8.
195 Ibid.
196 CF. Relatio Finalis 2015,28.


Click here for full text

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 175

175.  A mother who watches over her child with tenderness and compassion helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience that the world is a good and welcoming place.  This helps the child to grow in self-esteem and, in turn, to develop a capacity for intimacy and empathy.  A father, for his part, helps the child to perceive the limits of life, to be open to the challenges of the wider world, and to see the need for hard work and strenuous effort.  A father possessed of a clear and serene masculine identity who demonstrates affection and concern for his wife is just as necessary as a caring mother. There can be a certain flexibility of roles and responsibilities, depending on the concrete circumstances of each particular family.  But the clear and well-defined presence of both figures, female and male, creates the best suited to the growth of the child.


Click here for full text

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 174

174.  "Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism...It is they who testify to the beauty of life".192  Certainly, "a society without mothers would be dehumanized, for mothers are always, even in the worst of times, witnesses to tenderness, dedication and moral strength.  Mothers often communicate the deepest meaning of religious practice in the first prayers and acts of devotion that their children learn...  Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth...  Dear mothers: thank you!  Thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world".193

192 Catechesis (7 January 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 7-8 January 2015, p.8.
193 Ibid.


Click here for full text

Friday, January 20, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 173

173.  The sense of being orphaned that affects many children and young people today is much deeper that we think.  Nowadays we acknowledge as legitimate and indeed desirable that women wish to study, work, develop their skills and have personal goals.  At the same time, we cannot ignore the need that children have for a mother's presence, especially in the first months of life.  Indeed, "the woman stands before the man as a mother, the subject of the new human life that is conceived and develops in her, and from her is born into the world".190  The weakening of this maternal presence with its feminine qualities poses a grave risk to our world.  I certainly value feminism, but one that does not demand uniformity or negate motherhood.  For the grandeur of women includes all the rights derived from their inalienable human dignity but also from her feminine genius, which is essential to society.  Their specifically feminine abilities - motherhood in particular - also grant duties, because womanhood also entails a specific mission in this world, a mission that society needs to protect and preserve for the good of all.191

190 John Paul II, Catechesis (12 March 1980), 2: Insegnamenti III/1 (1980), 542.
191 Cf. Id., Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (15 August 1988), 30-31: AAS 80 (1988), 1726-1729.


Click here for full text

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 172

The love of a mother and a father

172.  "Children, once born, begin to receive, along with nourishment and care, the spiritual gift of knowing with certainty that they are loved.  This love is shown to them through the gift of their personal name, the sharing of language, looks of love and the brightness of a smile.  In this way, they learn that the beauty of human relationships touches our soul, seeks our freedom, accepts the difference of others, recognizes and respects them as a partner in dialogue...Such is love, and it contains a spark of God's love!"187  Every child has a right to receive love from a mother and a father; both are necessary for a child's integral and harmonious development.  As the Australian Bishops have observed, each of the spouses "contributes in a distinct way to the upbringing of a child.  Respecting a child's dignity means affirming his or her need and natural right to have a mother and a father".188  We are speaking not simply of the love of father and mother as individuals, but also of their mutual love, perceived as the source of one's life and the solid foundation of the family. Without this, a child could become a mere plaything.  Husband and wife, father and mother, both "cooperate with the love of God the Creator, and are, in a certain sense, his interpreters".189  They show their children the  maternal and paternal face of the Lord.  Together they teach the value of reciprocity, of respect for differences and of being able to give and take.  If for some inevitable reason one parent should be lacking, it is important to compensate for this loss, for the sake of the child's healthy growth to maturity. 

187 Catechesis (14 October 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 15 October 2015, p.8.
188 Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Pastoral Letter Don't Mess with Marriage (24 November 2015), 13.
189 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 50.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 171

171.  With great affection I urge all future mothers: keep happy and let nothing rob you of the interior joy of motherhood.  Your child deserves your happiness.  Don't let fears, worries, other people's comments or problems lessen your joy at being God's means of bringing a new life to the world.  Prepare yourself for the birth of your child, but without obsessing, and join in Mary's song of joy: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant" (Lk 1:46-48).  Try to experience this serene excitement amid all your many concerns, and ask the Lord to preserve your joy, so that you can pass it on to your child.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 170

170.  Scientific advances today allow us to know beforehand what colour a child's hair will be or what illnesses they may one day suffer, because all the somatic traits of the person are written in his or her genetic code already in the embryonic stage.  Yet only the Father, the Creator, fully knows the child; he alone knows his or her deepest identity and worth.  Expectant mothers need to ask God for the wisdom fully to know their children and to accept them as they are.  Some parents feel that their child is not coming a the best time.  They should ask the Lord to heal and strengthen them to accept their child fully and wholeheartedly.  It is important for that child to feel wanted.  He or she is not an accessory or a solution to some personal need.  A child is a human being of immense worth and may never be used for one's own benefit.  So it matters little whether this new life is convenient for you, whether it has features that please you, or whether it fits into your plans and aspirations.  For "children are a gift.  Each one is unique and irreplaceable...We love our children because they are children, not because they are beautiful, or look or think as we do, or embody our dreams.  We love them because they are children.  A child is a child".186  The love of parents is the means by which God our Father shows his own love.  He awaits the birth of each child, accepts that child unconditionally, and welcomes him or her freely.

186 Catechesis (11 February 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 12 February 2015, p.8.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 169

169.  A pregnant woman can participate in God's plan by dreaming of her child.  "For nine months every mother and father dreams about their child... You can't have a family without dreams.  Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies".185  For Christian married couples, baptism necessarily appears as part of that dream.  With their prayers, parents prepare for baptism, entrusting their baby to Jesus even before he or she is born.

185 Address at the Meeting with Families in Manila (16 January 2015): AAS 107 (2015), 176.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 168

Love and pregnancy

168.  Pregnancy is a difficult but wonderful time.  A mother joins with God to bring forth the miracle of a new life.  Motherhood is the fruit of a "particular creative potential of the female body, directed to the conception and birth of a new human being".183  Each woman shares in "the mystery of creation, which is renewed with each birth".184  The Psalmist says: "You knit me together in my mother's womb" (Ps 139:13).  Every child growing within the mother's womb is part of the eternal loving plan of God the Father:  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you" (Jer 1:5).  Each child has a place in God's heart from all eternity; once he or she is conceived, the Creator's eternal dream comes true.  Let us pause to think of the great value of that embryo from the moment of conception.  We need to see it with the eyes of God, who always looks beyond mere appearances.

183 John Paul II, Catechesis (12 March 1980), 3: Insegnamenti III/1 (1980), 543.
184 Ibid.


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 167

167.  Large families are a joy for the Church.  They are an expression of the fruitfulness of love.  At the same time, Saint John Paul II rightly explained that responsible parenthood does not mean "unlimited procreation or lack of awareness of what is involved in rearing children, but rather the empowerment of couples to use their inviolable liberty wisely and responsibly, taking into account social and demographic realities, as well as their own situation and legitimate desires".182

182 Letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations Organization on Population and Development (18 March 1994):  Insegnamenti XVII/1 (1994), 750-751.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 166

Welcoming a New Life

166.  The family is the setting in which a new life is not only born but also welcomed as a gift of God.  Each new life "allows us to appreciate the utterly gratuitous dimension of love, which never ceases to amaze us.  It is the beauty of being loved first: children are loved even before they arrive".177  Here we see a reflection of the primacy of the love of God, who always takes the initiative, for children "are loved before having done anything to deserve it".178  And yet, "from the first moments of their lives, many children are rejected, abandoned, and robbed of their childhood and future.  there are those who dare to say, as if to justify themselves, that it was a mistake to bring these children into the world.  This is shameful!...  How can we issue solemn declarations on human rights and the rights of children, if we then punish children for the errors of adults?"179  If a child comes into this world in unwanted circumstances, the parents and other members of the family must do everything possible to accept that child as a gift from God and assume the responsibility of accepting him or her with openness and affections.  For "when speaking of children who come into the world, no sacrifice made by adults will be considered too costly or too great, if it means the child never has to feel that he or she is a mistake, or worthless or abandoned to the four winds and the arrogance of man".180  The gift of a new child, entrusted by the Lord to a father and a mother, begins with acceptance, continues with lifelong protection and has as its final goal the joy of eternal life.  By serenely contemplating the ultimate fulfilment of each human person, parents will be even more aware of the precious gift entrusted to them.  For God allows parents to choose the name by which he himself will call their child for all eternity.181

177 Catechesis (11 February 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 12 February 2015, p. 8.
178 Ibid.
179 Catechesis (8 April 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 9 April 2015, p. 8.
180 Ibid.
181 Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 51: "Let us all be convinced that human life and its transmission are realities whose meaning is not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and full meaning can only be understood in reference to our eternal destiny".


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 165

165.  Love always gives life.  Conjugal love "does not end with the couple...The couple, in giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of their conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother".176

176 John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, (22 November 1981), 14: AAS 74 (1982), 96.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 164

164.  In the course of every marriage physical appearances change, but this hardly means that love and attraction need fade.  We love the other person for who they are, not simply for their body. Although the body ages, it still expresses that personal identity that first won our heart.  Even if others can no longer see the beauty of that identity, a spouse continues to see it with the eyes of love and so his or her affection does not diminish.  He or she reaffirms the decision to belong to the other and expresses that choice in faithful and loving closeness.  The nobility of this decision, by its intensity and depth, gives rise to a new kind of emotion as they fulfil their marital mission.  For "emotion, caused by another human being as a person...does not per se tend toward the conjugal act".174  It finds other sensible expressions.  Indeed, love "is a single reality, but with different dimensions; at different times, one or another dimension may emerge more clearly".175  The marriage bond finds new forms of expression and constantly seeks new ways to grow in strength.  These both preserve and strengthen the bond.  They call for daily effort.  None of this, however, is possible without praying to the Holy Spirit for an outpouring of his grace, his supernatural strength and his spiritual fire, to confirm direct and transform our love in every new situation.

174  John Paul II, Catechesis (31 October 1984), 6: Insegnamenti VII/2 (1984), 1072.
175 Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25 December 2005), 8: AAS 98 (2006), 224.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 163

The Transformation of Love

163.  Longer life spans now mean that close and exclusive relationships must last for four, five or even six decades; consequently, the initial decision has to be frequently renewed.  While one of the spouses may no longer experience an intense sexual desire for the other, he or she may still experience the pleasure of mutual belonging and the knowledge that neither of them is alone but has a "partner" with whom everything in life is shared.  He or she is a companion on life's journey, one with whom to face life's difficulties and enjoy its pleasures.  This satisfaction is part of the affection proper to conjugal love.  There is no guarantee that we will feel the same way all though life.  Yet if a couple can come up with a shared and lasting life project, they can love one another and live as one until death do them part, enjoying an enriching intimacy.  The love the pledge is greater than any emotion, feeling or state of mind, although it may include all of these.  It is a deeper love, a lifelong decision of the heart.  Even amid unresolved conflicts and confused emotional situations, they daily reaffirm their decision to love, to belong to one another, to share their lives and to continue loving and forgiving.  Each progresses along the path of personal growth and development.  On this journey, love rejoices at every step and in every new stage.


Click here for full text

Monday, January 9, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 162

162.  Celibacy can risk becoming a comfortable single life that provides the freedom to be independent, to move from one residence, work or option to another, to spend money as one sees fit and to spend time with others as one wants.  In such cases, the witness of married people becomes especially eloquent.  Those called to virginity can encounter in some marriages a clear sign of God's generous and steadfast fidelity to his covenant, and this can move them to a more concrete and generous availability to others.  Many married couples remain faithful when one of them has become physically unattractive, or fails to satisfy the other's needs, despite of the voices in our society that might encourage them to be unfaithful or to leave the other.  A wife can care for her sick husband and thus, in drawing near to the Cross, renew her commitment to love unto death.  In such love, the dignity of the true lover shines forth, inasmuch as it is more proper to charity to love than to be loved.172  We could also point to the presence in many families of a capacity for selfless and loving service when children prove troublesome and even ungrateful.  This makes those parents a sign of the free and selfless love of Jesus.  Cases like these encourage celibate persons to live their commitment to the Kingdom with greater generosity and openness.  Today, secularization has obscured the value of a life-long union and the beauty of the vocation to marriage.  For this reason, it is "necessary to deepen an understanding of the positive aspects of conjugal love".173

172 Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 27, art.1.
173 Pontificial Council for the Family, Family, Marriage and "De Facto" Unions (26 July 2000), 40.


Click here for full text

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 161

161.  The value of virginity lies in its symbolizing a love that has no need to possess the other; in this way it reflects the freedom of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Virginity encourages married couples to live their own conjugal love against the backdrop of Christ's definitive love, journeying together towards the fullness of the Kingdom.  For its part, conjugal love symbolizes other values.  On the one hand, it is a particular reflection of that full unity in distinction found in the Trinity.  The family is also a sign of Christ.  It manifests the closeness of God who is a part of every human life, since he became one with us through his incarnation, death and resurrection.  Each spouse becomes "one flesh" with the other as a sign of willingness to share everything with him or her until death.  Whereas virginity is an "eschatological" sign of the risen Christ, marriage is a "historical" sign for us living in this world, a sign of the earthly Christ who chose to become one with us and gave himself up for us even to shedding his blood.  Virginity and marriage are, and must be, different ways of loving.  For "man cannot live without love.  He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him".171

171 Id., Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 10: AAS 71 (1979), 274.


Click here for full text

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 160

160.  Consequently, "it is not a matter of diminishing the value of matrimony in favour of continence".168 "There is no basis for playing one off against the other...   If, following a certain theological tradition, one speaks of a 'state of perfection' (status perfectionis), this has to do not with continence in itself, but with the entirety of a life based on the evangelical counsels".169  A married person can experience the highest degree of charity and this "reach the perfection which flows from charity, through fidelity to the spirit of those counsels.  Such perfection is possible and accessible to every man and woman".170

168 John Paul II, Catechesis (7 April 1982), 2: Insegnamenti V/1 (1982), 1127.
169 Id., Catechesis (14 April 1982), 3: Insegnamenti V/1 (1982), 1177
170 Ibid.


Friday, January 6, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 159

159.  Virginity is a form of love.  As a sign, it speaks to us of the coming of the Kingdom and the need for complete devotion to the cause of the Gospel (cf. 1 Cor 7:32).  It is also a reflection of the fullness of heaven, where "they neither marry nor are given in marriage" (Mt 22:30).  Saint Paul recommended virginity because he expected Jesus' imminent return and he wanted everyone to concentrate only on speading the Gospel: "the appointed time has grown very short" (1 Cor 7:29). Nonetheless, he made it clear that this was his personal opinion and preference (cf. 1 Cor 7:6-9), not something demanded by Christ:  "I have no command in the Lord" (1 Cor 7:25).  All the same, he recognized the value of the different callings: "Each has his or her own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another" (1 Cor 7:7).  Reflecting on this, Saint John Paul II noted that the biblical texts "give no reason to assert the 'inferiority' of marriage, nor the 'superiority' of virginity or celibacy"166 based on sexual abstinence.  Rather than speak absolutely of the superiority of virginity, it should be enough to point out that the different states of life complement one another, and consequently that some can be more perfect in one way and other in another.  Alexander of Hales, for example, stated that in one sense marriage may be considered superior to the other sacraments, inasmuch as it symbolizes the great reality of "Christ's union with the Church, or the union of his divine and human natures".167

166 Catechesis (14 April 1982), 1: Insegnamenti V/1 (1982), 1176.
167 Glossa in quatuor libros sententiarum Petri Lombardi, IV, XXVI, 2 (Quaracchi, 1957, 446).


Thursday, January 5, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - par. 158

Marriage and virginity

158. "Many people who are unmarried are not only devoted to their own family but often render great service in their group of friends, in the Church community and in their professional lives.  Sometimes their presence and contributions are overlooked, causing in them a sense of isolation.  Many put their talents at the service of the Christian community through charity and volunteer work.  Others remain unmarried because they consecrate their lives to the love of Christ and neighbour.  Their dedication greatly enriches the family, the Church and society".165

165 Relatio Finalis 2015, 22.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 157

157.  All the same, the rejection of distortions of sexuality and eroticism should never lead us to a disparagement or neglect of sexuality and eros in themselves.  The ideal of marriage cannot be seen purely as generous donation and self-sacrifice, where each spouse renounces all personal needs and seeks only the other's good without concern for person satisfaction.  We need to remember that authentic love also  needs to be able to receive the other, to accept one's own vulnerability and needs, and to welcome with sincere and joyful gratitude the physical expressions of love found in a caress, an embrace, a kiss and sexual union.  Benedict XVI stated this very clearly: "Should man aspire to be pure spirit and to reject the flesh as pertaining to his animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity".163  For this reason, "man cannot live by oblative, descending love alone.  He cannot always give, he must also receive.  Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift".164  Still, we must never forget that our human equilibrium is fragile: there is a part of us that resists real human growth, and any moment it can unleash the most primitive and selfish tendencies.

163 Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25 December 2005), 5: AAS 98 (2006), 221.
164 Ibid., 7.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 156

156.  Every form of sexual submission must be clearly rejected.  This includes all improper interpretations of the passage in the Letter to the Ephesians where Paul tells women to "be subject to your husbands" (Eph 5:22).  This passage mirrors the cultural categories of the time, but our concern is not with its cultural matrix but with the revealed message that it conveys.  As Saint John Paul II wisely observed: "Love excludes every kind of subjection whereby the wife might become a servant or a slave of the husband... The community or unity which they should establish through marriage is constituted by a reciprocal donation of self, which is also a mutual subjection".162  Hence Paul goes on to say that "husbands should love their wives as their own bodies" (Eph 5:28).  The biblical text is actually concerned with encouraging everyone to overcome a complacent individualism and to be constantly mindful of others:  "Be subject to one another" (Eph 5:21).  In marriage, this reciprocal "submission" takes on a special meaning, and is seen as a freely chosen mutual belonging marked by fidelity, respect and care.  Sexuality is inseparably at the service of this conjugal friendship, for it is meant to aid the fulfillment of the other.

162 Catechesis (11 August 1982), 4: Insegnamenti V/3 (1982), 205-206.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 155

155.  Saint John Paul II very subtly warned that a couple can be "threatened by insatiability"158.  In other words, while called to an increasingly profound union, they can risk effacing their differences and the rightful distance between the two.  For each possesses his or her own proper and inalienable dignity.  When reciprocal belonging turns into domination, "the structure of communion in interpersonal relations is essentially changed".159  It is part of the mentality of domination that those who dominate end up negating their own dignity.160 Ultimately, they no longer "identify themselves subjectively with their own body",161 because they take away its deepest meaning.  They end up using sex as form of escapism and renounce the beauty of conjugal union.

157 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 49.
158 Catechesis (18 June 1980), 5: Insegnamenti III/1 (1980), 1778.
159 Ibid., 6.
160 Cf. Catechesis (30 July 1980), 1: Insegnamenti III/2 (1980), 311.
161 Catechesis (8 April 1981), 3: Insegnamenti IV/1 (1981), 904.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 154

154.  We also know that, within marriage itself, sex can become a source of suffering and manipulation.  Hence it must be clearly reaffirmed that "a conjugal act imposed on one's spouse without regard to his or her condition, or personal and reasonable wishes in the matter, is no true act of love, and therefore offends the moral order in its particular application to the intimate relationship of husband and wife".156  The acts proper to the sexual union of husband and wife correspond to the nature of sexuality as willed by God when they take place in "a manner which is truly human".157 Saint Paul insists: "Let no one transgress and wrong his brother or sister in this matter" (Th 4:6).  Even though Paul was writing in the context of a patriarchal culture in which women were considered completely subordinate to men, he nonetheless taught that sex must involve communication between the spouses: he brings up the possibility of postponing sexual relations for a period, but "by agreement" (1 Cor 7:5).

157 Second Vatican Ecumentical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 49.