Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 212

The preparation of the celebration

121.  Short-term preparations for marriage tend to be concentrated on invitations, clothes, the party and any number of other details that tend to drain not only the budget but energy and joy as well.  The spouses come to the wedding ceremony exhausted and harried, rather than focused and ready for the great step that they are about to take.  The same kind of preoccupation with a big celebration also affects certain de facto unions; because of the expenses involved, the couple instead of being concerned above all with their love and solemnizing it in the presence of others, never get married. Here let me say a word to fianc├ęs.  Have the courage to be different.  Don't let yourselves get swallowed up by a society of consumption and empty appearances.  What is important is the love you share, strengthened and sanctified by grace.  You are capable of opting for a more modest and simple celebration in which love takes precedence over everything else.  Pastoral workers and the entire community can help make this priority the norm rather than the exception.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 211

211.  Both short-term and long-term marriage preparation should ensure that the couple do not view the wedding ceremony as the end of the road, but instead embark upon marriage as a life-long calling based on a firm and realistic decision to face all trials and difficult moments together.  The pastoral care of engaged and married couples should be centered on the marriage bond, assisting couples not only to deepen their love but also to overcome problems and difficulties.  This involves not only helping them to accept the Church's teaching and to have recourse to her valuable resources, but also offering practical programmes, sound advice, proven strategies and psychological guidance.  All this calls for a pedagogy of love, attuned to the feelings and needs of young people and capable of helping them to grow interiorly.  Marriage preparation should also provide couples with the names of places, people and services to which they can turn for help when problems arise.  It is also important to remind them of the availability of the sacrament of Reconciliation, which allows them to bring their sins and past mistakes, and their relationship itself, before God, and to receive in turn his merciful forgiveness and healing strength.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 210

210.  In any event, if one partner clearly recognizes the other's weak points, he or she needs to have a realistic trust in the possibility of helping to develop the good points that counterbalance them, and in this way to foster their human growth.  This entails a willingness to face eventual sacrifices, problems and situations of conflict; it demands a firm resolve to be ready for this.  Couples need to be able to detect danger signals in their relationship and to find, before the wedding, effective ways of responding to them.  Sadly, many couples marry without really knowing one another.  They have enjoyed each other's company and done things together, but without facing the challenge of revealing themselves and coming to know who the other person truly is.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 209

209.  The timely preparation of engaged couples by the parish community should also assist them to recognize eventual problems and risks.  In this way, they can come to realize the wisdom of breaking off a relationship whose failure and painful aftermath can be foreseen.  In their initial enchantment with one anther, couples can attempt to conceal or relativize certain things and to avoid disagreements; only later do problems surface.  For this reason, they should be strongly encouraged to discuss what each expects from marriage, what they understand by love and commitment, what each wants from the other and what kind of life they would like to build together.  Such discussions would help them to see if they in fact have little in common and to realize that mutual attraction alone will not suffice to keep them together.  Nothing is more volatile, precarious and unpredictable than desire.  The decision to marry should never be encouraged unless the couple has discerned deeper reasons that will ensure a genuine and stable commitment.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 208

208.  With the help of missionary families, the couple's own families and a variety of pastoral resources, ways should also be found to offer a remote preparation that, by example and good advice, can help their love to grow and mature.  Discussion groups and optional talks on a variety of topics of genuine interest to young people can also prove helpful.  All the same, some individuals meetings remain essential, since the primary objective is to help each to learn how to love this very real person with whom he or she plans to share his or her whole life.  Learning to love someone does not happen automatically, nor can it be taught in a workshop just prior to the celebration of marriage.  For every couple,  marriage preparation begins at birth.  What they received from their family should prepare them to know themselves and to make a full and definitive commitment.  Those best prepared for marriage are probably those who learned what Christian marriage is from their own parents, who chose each other unconditionally and daily renew this decision.  In this sense, pastoral initiatives aimed at helping married couples to grow in love and in the Gospel of the family also help their children, by preparing them for their future married life.  Nor should we underestimate the pastoral value of traditional religious practices.  To give just one example:  I think of Saint Valentine's Day; in some countries, commercial interests are quicker to see the potential of this celebration than are we in the Church.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 207

207.  I encourage Christian communities to recognize the great benefit that they themselves receive from supporting engaged couples as they grow in love.  As the Italian bishops have observed, those couples are "a valuable resource because, as they sincerely commit themselves to grow in love and self-giving, they can help renew the fabric of the whole ecclesial body.  Their special form of friendship can prove contagious and foster the growth of friendship and fraternity in the Christian community of which they are a part".239  There are a number of legitimate ways to structure programmes of marriage preparation, and each local Church will discern how best to provide a suitable formation without distancing young people from the sacrament.  They do not need to be taught the entire Catechism or overwhelmed with too much information.  here too, "it is not great knowledge, but rather the ability to feel and relish things interiorly that contents and satisfies the soul".240  Quality is more important than quantity, and priority should be given - along with a renewed proclamation of the kerygma - to an attractive and helpful presentation of information that can help couples to live the rest of their lives together "with great courage and generosity".241 Marriage preparation should be a kind of "initiation" to the sacrament of matrimony, providing couples with the help they need to receive the sacrament worthily and to make a solid beginning of life as a family.

239  Italian Bishops' Conference, Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, Orientamenti pastorali sulla preparazione al matrimonio e alla famiglia (22 October 2012), 1.
240  Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, Annotation 2.
241  Ibid., Annotation 5.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 206

206.  "The complexity of today's society and the challenges faced by the family require a greater effort on the part of the whole Christian community in preparing those who are about to be married. The importance of the virtues  needs to be included.  Among these, chastity proves invaluable for the genuine growth of love between persons.  In this regard, the Synod Fathers agreed on the need to involve the entire community more extensively by stressing the witness of families themselves and by grounding marriage preparation in the process of Christian initiation by bringing out the connection between marriage, baptism and the other sacraments.  The Fathers also spoke of the need for specific programmes of marriage preparation aimed at giving couples a genuine experience of participation in ecclesial life and a complete introduction to various aspects of family life".238 

238 Ibid., 39.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 205

Preparing Engaged Couples for Marriage

205.  The Synod Fathers stated in a number of ways that we need to help young people discover the dignity and beauty of marriage.237  They should be helped to perceived the attraction of a complete union that elevates and perfects the social dimension of existence, gives sexuality its deepest meaning, and benefits children by offering them the best context for their growth and development.

237  Cf. Relatio Synodi 2014, 26.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 204

204.  The response to the consultation also insisted on the need for training lay leaders who can assist on the need for training lay leaders who can assist in the pastoral care of families, with the help of teachers and counsellors, family and community physicians, social workers, juvenille and family advocates, and drawing upon the contributions of psychology, sociology, marital therapy and counselling. Professionals, especially those with practical experience, help keep pastoral initiatives grounded in the real situations and concrete concern of families.  "Courses and programmes, planned specifically for pastoral workers, can be of assistance by integrating the premarital preparation programme into the broader dynamic of ecclesial life".235  Good pastoral training is important "especially in light of particular emergency situations arising from cases of domestic violence and sexual abuse".236  All this in no way diminishes, but rather complements, the fundamental value of spiritual directions, the rich spiritual treasures of the Church, and sacramental Reconciliation.

235  Ibid.
236  Ibid.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 203

203.  Seminarians should receive a more extensive interdisciplinary, and not merely doctrinal, formation in the areas of engagement and marriage.  Their training does not always allow them to explore their own psychological and affective background and experiences.  Some come from troubled families, with absent parents and a lack of emotional stability.  There is a need to ensure that the formation process can enable them to attain the maturity and psychological balance needed for their future ministry.  Family bonds are essential for reinforcing healthy self-esteem.  It is important for families to be part of the seminary process and priestly life, since they can help reaffirm these and to keep them well grounded in reality.  It is helpful for seminarians to combine time in the seminary with time spent in parishes.  There they can have greater contact with the concrete realities of family life, since in their future ministry they will largely be dealing with families.  "The presence of lay people, families and especially the presence of women in priestly formation, promotes an appreciation of the diversity of complementarity of the different vocations in the Church".234

234  Ibid.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 202

202.  "The main contribution to the pastoral care of families is offered by the parish, which is the family of families, where small communities, ecclesial movements and associations live in harmony".232  Along with pastoral outreach aimed specifically at families, this shows the  need for "a more adequate formation...of priests, deacons, men and women religious, catechists and other pastoral workers".233  In the replies given to the worldwide consultation, it became clear that ordained ministers often lack the training needed to deal with the complex problems currently facing families.  The experience of the broad oriental tradition of a married clergy could also be drawn upon.

232  Relatio Finalis 2015, 77.
233  Ibid., 61.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 201

201.  "This effort calls for missionary conversion by everyone in the Church, that is, one that is not content to proclaim a merely theoretical message without connection to people's real problems".229 Pastoral care for families "needs to make it clear that the Gospel of the family responds to the deepest expectations of the human person:  a response to each one's dignity and fulfilment in reciprocity, communion and fruitfulness.  This consists not merely in presenting a set of rules, but in proposing values that are clearly needed today, even in the most secularized of countries".230  The Synod Fathers also "high-lighted the fact that evangelization needs unambiguously to denounce cultural, social, political and economic factors - such as the excessive importance given to market logic - that prevent authentic family life and lead to discrimination, poverty, exclusion, and violence. Consequently, dialogue and cooperation need to be fostered with societal structures and encouragement given to lay people who are involved, as Christians, in the cultural and socio-political fields".231

229  Relatio Synodi 2014, 32.
230  Ibid., 33.
231  Ibid, 38.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 200

Proclaiming the Gospel of the Family Today

200.  The Synod Fathers emphasized that Christian families, by the grace of the sacrament of matrimony, are the principal agents of the family apostolate, above all through "their joy-filled witness as domestic churches".225  Consequently, "it is important that people experience the Gospel of the family as a joy that 'fills hearts and lives', because in Christ we have been 'set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness' (Evangelii Gaudium, 1).  As in the parable of the sower (cf. Mt 13:3-9), we are called to help sow seeds; the rest is God's work.  Nor must we forget that, in her teaching on the family, the Church is a sign of contradiction".226  Married couples are grateful that their pastors uphold the high ideal of a love that is strong, solid, enduring and capable of sustaining them through whatever trials they may have to face.  The Church wishes, with humility and compassion, to reach out to families and "to help each family to discover the best way to overcome any obstacles it encounters".227  It is not enough to show generic concern for the family in pastoral planning.  Enabling families to take up their role as active agents of the family apostolate calls for "an effort at evangelization and catechesis inside the family".228

225  Relatio Synodi 2014, 30.
226  Ibid., 31.
227  Relatio Finalis 2015, 56.
228  Ibid., 89.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 199

 199.  The dialogue that took place during the Synod raised the need for new pastoral methods.  I will attempt to mention some of these in a very general way.  Different communities will have to devise more practical and effective initiatives that respect both the church's teaching and local problems and needs.  Without claiming to present a pastoral plan for the family, I would now like to reflect on some more significant pastoral challenges.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 198

198.  Finally, we cannot forget that this larger family includes fathers-in-law, mothers-in-law and all the relatives of the couple.  One particularly delicate aspect of love is learning not to view these relatives as somehow competitors, threats or intruders.  The conjugal union demands respect for their traditions and customs, an effort to understand their language and to refrain from criticism, caring for them and cherishing them while maintaining the legitimate privacy and independence of the couple. Being willing to do so is also an exquisite expression of generous love for one's spouse.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 197

197.  This larger family should provide love and support to teenage mothers, children without parents, single mothers left to raise children, persons with disabilities needing particular affection and closeness, young people struggling with addiction, the unmarried, separated or widowed who are alone, and the elderly and inform who lack the support of their children.  It should also embrace "even those who have made shipwreck of their lives".224  This wider family can help make up for the shortcomings of parents, detect and report possible situations in which children suffer violence and even abuse, and provide wholesome love and family stability in cases when parents prove incapable of this.

224 Catechesis (7 October 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 8 October 2015), p.8.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 196

A big heart

196.  In addition to the small circle of the couple and their children, there is the larger family, which cannot be overlooked.  Indeed, "the love between a husband and wife and, in a derivative and broader way, the love between members of the same family - between parents and children, brothers and sisters and relatives and members of the household - is give life and sustenance by an unceasing inner dynamism leading the family to ever deeper and more intense communion,  which is the foundation and soul of the community of marriage and the family".223  Friends and other families are part of this larger family, as well as communities of families who support one another in their difficulties, their social commitments and their faith.

223 John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (22 November 1981), 18: AAS 74 (1982), 101.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 195

195.  Growing up with brothers and sisters makes for a beautiful experience of caring for and helping one another.  For "fraternity in families is especially radiant when we see the care, the patience, the affection that surround the little brother or sister who is frail, sick or disabled".221  It must be acknowledged that "having a brother or sister who loves you is a profound, precious and unique experience".222  Children do need to be patiently taught to treat one another as brothers and sisters. This training, at times quite demanding, is a true school of socialization.  In some countries, where it has become quite common to have only one child, the experience of being a brother or sister is less and less common.  When it has been possible to have only one child, ways have to be found to ensure that he or she does not grow up alone or isolated.

221 Ibid.
222 Ibid.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Amoris Laetitia -Par. 194

Being brothers and sisters

194.  Relationships between brothers and sisters deepen with the passing of time, and "the bond of fraternity that forms in the family between children, if consolidated by an educational atmosphere of openness to others, is a great school of freedom and peace.  In the family, we lean how to live as one. Perhaps we do not always think about this, but the family itself introduces fraternity into the world. From this initial experience of fraternity, nourished by affection and education at home, the style of fraternity radiates like a promise upon the whole of society".220

220 Catechesis (18 February 2015):  L'Osservatore Romano, 19 February 2015, p.8.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - par. 193

193.  The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society.  A mentality that can only say, "Then was then, now is now", is ultimately immature.  Knowing and judging past events is the only way to build a meaningful future.  Memory is necessary for growth:  "Recall the former days" (Heb 10:32).  Listening to the elderly tell their stories is good for children and young people;  it makes them feel connected to the living history of their families, their neighborhoods and their country.  A family that fails to respect and cherish its grandparents, who are its living memory, is already in decline, whereas a family that remembers has a future.  "A society that has no room for the elderly or discards them because they create problems, has a deadly virus",218 "it is torn from its roots".219  Our contemporary experience of being orphans as a result of cultural discontinuity, uprootedness and the collapse of the certainties that shape our lives, challenges us to make our families places where children can sink roots in the rich soil of a collective history.

218 Ibid.
219 Address at the Meeting with the Eldelry (28 September 2014): L'Osservatore Romano, 29-30 September 2014,p.7.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 192

192.  Saint John Paul II asked us to be attentive to the role of the elderly in our families, because there are cultures which, "especially in the wake of disordered industrial and urban development, have both in the past and in the present set the elderly aside in unacceptable ways".214  The elderly help us to appreciate "the continuity of the generations", by their "charism of bridging the gap".215 Very often it is grandparents who ensure that the most important values are passed down to their grandchildren, and "many people can testify that they owe their initiation into the Christian life to their grandparents".216  Their words, their affection or simply their presence help children to realize that history did not begin with them, that they are now part of an age-old pilgrimage and that they need to respect all that came before them.  Those who would break all ties with the past will surely find it difficult to build stable relationships and to realize that reality is bigger than they are. "Attention to the elderly makes the difference in a society.  Does a society show concern for the elderly?  Does it make room for the elderly?  Such a society will move forward if it respects the wisdom of the elderly".217

214 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio, 27 (22 November 1981): AAS 74 (1982), 113.
215 ID., Address to Participants in the "International Forum on Active Aging" ( 5 September 1980), 5: Insegnamenti III/2 (1980), 539.
216 Relatio Finalis 2015, 18.
217 Catechesis (4 March 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 5 March 2015, p.8.


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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 191

The elderly

191.  "Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent" (Ps 71:9). This is the plea of the elderly, who fear being forgotten and rejected.  Just as God asks us to be his means of hearing the cry of the poor, so too he wants us to hear the cry of the elderly.211  This represents a challenge to families and communities, since "the Church cannot and does not want to conform to a mentality of impatience, and much less of indifference and contempt, towards old age. We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elderly feel like a living part of the community.  Our elderly are men and women, fathers and mothers, who came before us on our own road, in our own house, in our daily battle for a worthy life".212  Indeed, "how I would like a Church that challenges the throw-away culture by the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old!"213

211 Cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 17-18.
212 Catechesis (4 March 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 12 March 2015, p.8.
213 Catechesis (11 March 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 12 March 2015, p.8.


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Monday, February 6, 2017

Amoris Laetitia-Par. 190

190.  There is, however, another side to the coin.  As the word of God tells us, "a man leaves his father and his mother" (Gen 2:24).  This does not always happen, and a marriage is hampered by the failure to make this necessary sacrifice and surrender.  Parents must not be abandoned or ignored, but marriage itself demands that they be "left", so that the new home will be a true hearth, a place of security, hope and future plans, and the couple can truly become "one flesh" (ibid.).  In some marriages, one spouse keeps secrets from the other, confiding them instead to his or her parents.  As a result, the opinions of their parents become more important than the feelings and opinions of their spouse.  This situation cannot go on for long, and even if it takes time, both spouses need to make the effort to grow in trust and communication.  Marriage challenges husbands and wives to find new ways of being sons and daughters.


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Sunday, February 5, 2017

Amoris Laetitia-Par. 189

189.  Hence, "the fourth commandment asks children... to honour their father and mother (cf. Ex 20:12).  This commandment comes immediately after those dealing with God himself.  Indeed, it has to do with something sacred, something divine, something at the basis of every other kind of human respect.  The biblical formulation of the fourth commandment goes on to say: 'that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you'.  The virtuous bond between generations in the guarantee of the future, and is the guarantee of a truly  humane society.  A society with children who do not honour parents is a society without honour... It is a society destined to be filled with surly and greedy young people".210

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


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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Amoris Laetitia-Par. 188

Beings sons and daughters

188.  First, let us think of our parents.  Jesus told the Pharisees that abandoning one's parents is contrary to God's law (cf. Mk 7:8-13).  We do well to remember that each of us is a son or daughter.  "Even if one becomes an adult, or an elderly person, even if one becomes a parent, if one occupies a position of responsibility, underneath all of this is still the identity of a child.  We are all sons and daughters.  And this always brings us back to the fact that we did not give ourselves life but that we received it.  The great gift of life is the first gift that we received".209

209 Catechesis (18 March 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 19 March 2015, p. 8.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 187

Life in the Wider Family

187.  The nuclear family  needs to interact with the wider family made up of parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and even neighbors.  This greater family may have members who require assistance, or at least companionship and affection, or consolation amid suffering.208  The individualism so prevalent today can lead to creating small nests of security, where others are perceived as bothersome or a threat.  Such isolation, however, cannot offer greater peace or happiness; rather, it straitens the heart of a family and makes its life all the more narrow.

208 Cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 11.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 186

186.  The Eucharist demands that we be members of the one body of the Church.  Those who approach the Body and Blood of Christ may not wound that same Body by creating scandalous distinctions and divisions among its members.  This is what it means to "discern" the body of the Lord, to acknowledge it with faith and charity both in the sacramental signs and in the community; those who fail to do so eat and drink judgement against themselves (cf. v.29).  The celebration of the Eucharist thus becomes a constant summons for everyone "to examine himself or herself" (v. 28), to open the doors of the family to greater fellowship with the underprivileged, and in this way to received the sacrament of that eucharistic love which makes us one body.  We must not forget that "the 'mysticism' of the sacrament has a social character".207  When those who receive it turn a blind eye to the poor and suffering, or consent to various forms of division, contempt and inequality, the Eucharist is received unworthily.  On the other hand, families who are properly disposed and receive the Eucharist regularly, reinforce their desire for fraternity, their social consciousness and their commitment to those in need.

207  Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (25 December 2005), 14: AAS 98 (2006), 228.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 185

Discerning the body

185.  Along these same lines, we do well to take seriously a biblical text usually interpreted outside of its context or in a generic sense, with the risk of overlooking its immediate and direct meaning, which is markedly social.  I am speaking of  1 Cor 11:17-34, where Saint Paul faces a shameful situation in the community.  The wealthier members tended to discriminate against the poorer ones, and this carried over even to the agape meal that accompanied the celebration of the Eucharist.  While the rich enjoyed their food, the poor looked on and went hungry: "One is hungry and another is drunk.  Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?  Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?" (vv. 21-22).


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