Sunday, April 30, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 273

273.  In proposing values, we have to proceed slowly, taking into consideration the child's age and abilities, without presuming to apply rigid and inflexible methods.  The valuable contributions of psychology and the educational sciences have shown that changing a child's behaviour involves a gradual process but also that freedom needs to be channeled and stimulated, since by itself it does not ensure growth in maturity.  Situated freedom, real freedom, is limited and conditioned.  It is not simply to ability to choose what is good with complete spontaneity.  A distinction is not always adequately drawn between "voluntary" and "free" acts.  A person may clearly and willingly desire something evil, but do so as the result of an irresistible passion or a poor upbringing.  In such cases, while the decision is voluntary, inasmuch as it does not run counter to the inclination of their desire, it is not free, since it is practically impossible for them not to choose that evil.  We see this in the case of compulsive drug addicts.  When they want a fix, they want it completely, yet they are so conditioned that at that moment no other decision is possible.  Their decision is voluntary but not free.  It makes no sense to "let them freely choose", since in fact they cannot choose, and exposing them to drugs only increases their addiction.  They need the help of others and a process of rehabilitation.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 272

272.  Ethical formation is at times frowned upon, due to experiences of neglect, disappointment, lack of affection or poor models of parenting.  Ethical values are associated with negative images of parental figures or the shortcomings of adults.  For this reason, adolescents should be helped to draw analogies: to appreciate that values are best embodied in a few exemplary persons, but also realized imperfectly and to different degrees in others.  At the same time, since their hesitation can be tied to bad experiences, they need help in the process of inner healing and in this way to grow in the ability to understand and live in peace with others and the larger community.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 271

Patient Realism

271.  Moral education entails asking of a child or a young person only those things that do not involve a disproportionate sacrifice, and demanding only a degree of effort that will not lead to resentment or coercion.  Ordinarily this is done by proposing small steps that can be understood, accepted and appreciated, while including a proportionate sacrifice.  Otherwise, by demanding too much, we gain nothing.  Once the child is free of our authority,  he or she may possibly cease to do good.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 270

270.  It is important that discipline not lead to discouragement, but be instead a stimulus to further progress.  How can discipline be best interiorized?  How do we ensure that discipline is a constructive limit placed on a child's actions and not a barrier standing in the way of his or her growth?  A balance has to be found between two equally harmful extremes.  One would be to try to make everything revolve around the child's desires; such children grow up with a sense of their rights but not their responsibilities.  The other would be to deprive the child of an awareness of his or her dignity, personal identity and rights; such children end up overwhelmed by their duties and a need to carry out other people's wishes.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 269

269.  Correction is also an incentive whenever children's efforts are appreciated and acknowledged, and they sense their parents' constant, patient trust.  Children who are lovingly corrected feel cared for; they perceive that they are individuals whose potential is recognized.  This does not require parents to be perfect, but to be able humbly to acknowledge their own limitations and make efforts to improve.  Still, one of the things children need to learn from their parents is not to get carried away by anger.  A child who does something wrong must be corrected, but never treated as an enemy or an object on which to take out one's own frustrations.  Adults also need to realize that some kinds of misbehaviour have to do with the frailty and limitations typical of youth.  An attitude constantly prone to punishment would be harmful and not help children to realize that some actions are more serious than others.  It would lead to discouragement and resentment:  "Parents, do not provoke your children" (Eph 6:4; cf. Col 3:21).


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 268

The Value of Correction as an Incentive

268.  It is also essential to help children and our adolescents to realize that misbehaviour has consequences.  They need to be encouraged to put themselves in other people's shoes and to acknowledge the hurt they have caused.  Some punishments - those for aggressive, antisocial conduct - can partially serve this purpose.  It is important to train children firmly to ask forgiveness and to repair the harm done to others.  As the educational process bears fruit in the growth of personal freedom, children come to appreciate that it was good to grow up in a family and even to put up with the demand that every process of formation makes.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 267

267.  Freedom is something magnificent, yet it can also be dissipated and lost.  Moral education has to do with cultivating freedom through ideas, incentives, practical applications, stimuli, rewards, examples, models, symbols, reflections, encouragement, dialogue and a constant rethinking of our way of doing things; all these can help develop those stable interior principles that lead us spontaneously to do good.  Virtue is a conviction that has become a steadfast inner principle of operation.  The virtuous life thus builds, strengthens and shapes freedom, lest we become slaves of dehumanizing and antisocial inclinations.  For human dignity itself demands that each of us "act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within".293

293  Second Vatican  Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 17.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 266

266.  Good habits need to be developed.  Even childhood habits can help to translate important interiorized values into sound and steady ways of acting.  A person may be sociable and open to others, but if over a long period of time he has not been trained by his elders to say "Please", "Thank You", and "Sorry", his good interior disposition will not easily come to the fore.  The strengthening of the will and the repetition of specific actions are the building blocks of moral conduct; without the conscious, free and valued repetition of certain patterns of good behaviour, moral education does not take place.  Mere desire, or an attraction to a certain value, is not enough to instil a virtue in the absence of those properly motivated acts.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 265

265.  Doing what is right means more than "judging what seems best" or knowing clearly what needs to be done, as important as this is.  Often we prove inconsistent in our own convictions, however firm they may be; even when our conscience dictates a clear moral decision, other factors sometimes prove more attractive and powerful.  We have to arrive at the point where the good that the intellect grasps can take root in us as a profound affective inclination, as a thirst for the good that outweighs other attractions and helps us to realize that what we consider objectively good is also good "for us" here and now.  A good ethical education includes showing a person that it is in his own interest to do what is right.  Today, it is less and less effective to demand something that calls for effort and sacrifice, without clearly pointing to the benefits which it can bring.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 264

264.  Parents are also responsible for shaping the will of their children, fostering good habits and a natural inclination to goodness.  This entails presenting certain ways of thinking and acting as desirable and worthwhile, as part of a gradual process of growth.  The desire to fit into society, or the habit of foregoing an immediate pleasure for the sake of a better and more orderly life in common, is itself a value that can then inspire openness to greater values.  Moral formation should always take place with active methods and dialogue that teaches through sensitivity and by using a language children can understand.  It should also take place inductively, so that children can learn for themselves the importance of certain values, principles and norms, rather than by imposing these as absolute and unquestionable truths.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 263

The Ethical Formation of Children

263.  Parents rely on schools to ensure the basic instruction of their children, but can never completely delegate the moral formation of their children to others.  A person's affective and ethical development is ultimately grounded in a particular experience, namely, that his or her parents can be trusted.  This means that parents, as educators, are responsible, by their affection and example, for instilling in their children trust and loving respect.  When children no longer feel that, for all their faults, they are important to their parents, or that their parents are sincerely concerned about them, this causes deep hurt and many difficulties along their path to maturity.  This physical or emotional absence creates greater hurt than any scolding which a child may receive for doing something wrong.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 262

262.  Were maturity merely the development of something already present in our genetic code, not much would have to be done.  But prudence, good judgement and common sense are dependent not on purely quantitative growth factors, but rather on a whole series of things that come together deep within each person, or better, at the very core of our freedom.  Inevitably, each child will surprise us with ideas and projects born of that freedom, which challenges us to rethink our own ideas.  This is a good thing.  Education includes encouraging the responsible use of freedom to face issues with good sense and intelligence.  It involves forming persons who readily understand that their own lives, and the life of the community, are in their hands, and that freedom is itself a great gift.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 261

261.  Obsession, however, is not education.  We cannot control every situation that a child may experience.  Here it remains true that "time is greater than space".291  In other words, it is more important to start processes than to dominate spaces.  If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space. But this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges.  What is most important is the ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy.  Only in this way will children come to possess the wherewithal needed to fend for themselves and to act intelligently and prudently whenever they meet with difficulties.  The real question, then, is not where our children are physically, or whom they are with at any given time, but rather where they are existentially, where they stand in terms of their convictions, goals desires and dreams.  The questions I would put to parents are these: "Do we seek to understand 'where' our children really are in their journey?  Where is their soul, do we really know?  And above all, do we want to know?"292

291 Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (24 November 2013), 222: AAS 105 (2013), 1111.
292 Catechesis (20 May 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 21 May 2015, p.8.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 260

Where are our children?

260.  Families cannot help but be places of support, guidance and direction, however much they may have to rethink their methods and discover new resources.  Parents need to consider what they want their children to be exposed to, and this necessarily means being concerned about who is providing their entertainment, who is entering their rooms through television and electronic devices, and with whom they are spending their free time.  Only if we devote time to our children, speaking of important things with simplicity and concern, and finding healthy way for them to spend their time, will we be able to shield them from harm.  Vigilance is always necessary and neglect is never beneficial.  Parents have to help prepare children and adolescents to confront the risk, for example, of aggression, abuse or drug addiction.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 259

259.  Parents always influence the moral development of their children, for better or for worse.  It follows that they should take up this essential role and carry it out consciously, enthusiastically, reasonably and appropriately.  Since the educational role of families is so important, and increasingly complex, I would like to discuss it in detail.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 258

258.  If we accept death, we can prepare ourselves for it.  The way is to grow in our love for those who walk at our side, until that day when "death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more" (Rev 21:4).  We will thus prepare ourselves to meet once more our loved ones who have died.  just as Jesus "gave back to his mother" (cf. Lk 7:15) her son who had died, so it will be with us. Let us not waste energy by dwelling on the distant past.  The better we live on this earth, the greater the happiness we will be able to share with our loved ones in heaven.  The more we are able to mature and develop in this world, the more gifts will we be able to bring to the heavenly banquet.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 257

257.  One way of maintaining fellowship with our loved ones is to pray for them.285  The Bible tells us that "to pray for the dead" is "holy and pious" (2 Macc 12:44-45).  "Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective".286  The book of Revelation portrays the martyrs interceding for those who suffer injustice on earth (cf. Rev 6:9-11), in solidarity with this world and its history.  Some saints, before dying, consoled their loved ones by promising them that they would be near to help them.  Saint Therese of Lisieux wished to continue doing good from heaven.287  Saint Dominic stated that "he would be more helpful after death...more powerful in obtaining graces".288  These are truly "bonds of love",289 because "the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who sleep in the Lord is in no way interrupted...[but] reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods".290

285 cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 958.
286 Ibid.
287 Cf. Therese of Lisieux, Derniers Entretiens: Le "carnet jaune" de Mère Agnès, 17 July 1897, in Oeuvres Complètes, Paris, 1996, 1050. Her Carmelite sisters spoke of a promise made by Saint Therese that her departure from this world would be "like a shower of roses" (ibid., 9 June 1897, 1013).
288 Jordan of Saxony, Libellus de principiis Ordinis Praedicatorum, 93: Monumenta Historica Sancti Patris Nostri Dominici, XVI, Rome, 1935, p.69.
289 cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 957.
290 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 49.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 256

256.  It consoles us to know that those who die do not completely pass away, and faith assures us that the risen Lord will never abandon us.  Thus we can "prevent death from poisoning life, from rendering vain love, from pushing us into the darkest chasm".283  The Bible tells us that God created us out of love and made us in such a way that our life does not end with death (cf. Wis 3:3-2).  Saint Paul speaks to us of an encounter with Christ immediately after death: "My desire is to depart and be with Christ" (Phil 1:23).  With Christ, after death, there awaits us "what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9).  The Preface of the Liturgy of the Dead puts it nicely: "Although the certainty of death saddens us, we are consoled by the promise of future mortality.  For the life of those who believe in you, Lord, is not ended but changed".  Indeed, "our loved ones are not lost in the shades of nothingness; hope assures us that they are in the good strong hands of God".284

283  Catechesis (17 June 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 18 June 2015, p.8.
284 Ibid.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 255

255. Ordinarily, the grieving process takes a fair amount of time,  and when a pastor must accompany that process, he has to adapt to the demands of each of its stages.  The entire process is filled with questions:  about the reasons why the loved one had to die, about all the things that might have been done, about what a person experiences at the moment of death.  With a sincere and patient process of prayer and interior liberation, peace returns.  At particular times, we have to help the grieving person to realize that, after the loss of a loved one, we still have a mission to carry out, and that it does us no good to prolong the suffering, as if it were a form of tribute.  Our loved ones have no need of our suffering, nor does it flatter them that we should ruin our lives.  Nor is it the best expression of love to dwell on them and keep bringing up their name, because this is to be dependent of the past instead of continuing to love them now that they are elsewhere.  They can no longer be physically present to us, yet for all death's power, "love is strong as death" (Song 8:6).  Love involves an intuition that can enable us to hear without sounds and to see the unseen.  This does not mean imagining our loved ones as they were, but being able to accept them changed as they now are.  The risen Jesus, when his friend Mary tried to embrace him, told her not to hold on to him (cf. Jn 20:17), in order to lead her to a different kind of encounter.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 254

254.  I can understand the anguish felt by those who have lost a much-loved person, a spouse with whom they have shared so much.  Jesus himself was deeply moved and began to weep a the death of a friend (cf. Jn 11:33, 35).  And how can we even begin to understand the grief of parents who have lost a child?  "It is as if time stops altogether; a chasm opens to engulf both past and future". and "at times we even go so far as to lay the blame on God.  How many people - I can understand them - get angry with God".281  "Losing one's spouse is particularly difficult...  From the moment of enduring a loss, some display an ability to concentrate their energies in a greater dedication to their children and grandchildren, finding in this experience of love a renewed sense of mission in raising their children...  Those who do not have relatives to spend time with and to receive affection from, should be aided by the Christian community with particular attention and availability, especially if they are poor".282

281 Catechesis (17 June 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 18 June 2015, p. 8.
282 Relatio Finalis 2015, 19.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 253

When Death Makes Us Feel Its Sting

253.  At times family life is challenged by the death of a loved one.  We cannot fail to offer the light of faith as a support to families going through this experience.280  To turn our backs on a grieving family would show a lack of mercy, mean the loss of a pastoral opportunity, and close the door to other efforts at evangelization.

280  Cf. ibid., 20.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 252

252.  Single-parent families often result from "the unwillingness of biological mothers or fathers to be part of a family; situations of violence, where one parent is forced to flee with the children; the death of one of the parents; the abandonment of the family by one parent, and others situations. Whatever the cause, single parents must receive encouragement and support from other families in the Christian community, and from the parish's pastoral outreach.  Often these families endure other hardships, such as economic difficulties, uncertain employment prospects, problems with child support and lack of housing".279

279 Ibid., 80.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 251

251.  In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, "as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family".  It is unacceptable "that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish 'marriage' between persons of the same sex".278

278 Relatio Finalis 2015, 76; cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons (3 June 2003), 4.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Amoris Letitia - Par. 250

250.  The Church makes her own the attitude of the Lord Jesus, who offers his boundless love to each person without exception.275  During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children.  We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while every sign of unjust discrimination is to be carefully avoided,276 particularly any form of aggression and violence.  Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God's will in their lives.277

275 Cf. Bull Misericordiae Vultus, 12: AAS 107 (2015), 407.
276 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358; cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 76.
277 Ibid.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 249

249.  "Particular problems arise when persons in a complex marital situation wish to be baptized. These persons contracted a stable marriage at a time when at least one of them did not know the Christian faith.  In such cases, bishops are called to exercise a pastoral discernment which is commensurate with their spiritual good".274

274 Ibid., 75.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 248

248.  "Marriages involving disparity of cult represent a privileged place for interreligious dialogue in everyday life...  They involve special difficulties regarding both the Christian identity of the family and the religious upbringing of the children...  The number of households with married couples with disparity of cult, on the rise in mission territories, and even in countries of long Christian tradition, urgently required providing a differentiated pastoral care according to various social and cultural contexts.  In some countries where freedom of religion does not exist, the Christian spouse is obliged to convert to another religion in order to marry, and, therefore, cannot celebrate a canonical marriage involving disparity of cult or baptize the children.  We must therefore reiterate the necessity that the religious freedom of all be respected".272  "Attention needs to be given to the persons who enter such marriages, not only in the period before the wedding.  Unique challenges face couples and families in which one partner is Catholic and the other is a non-believer.  In such cases, bearing witness to the ability of the gospel to immerse itself in these situations will make possible the upbringing of their children in the Christian faith".273

272 Ibid., 73.
273 Ibid., 74.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 247

Certain complex situations

247.  "Issues involving mixed marriages require particular attention.  Marriages between Catholics and other baptized persons 'have their own particular nature, but they contain numerous elements that could well be made good use of and developed, both for their intrinsic value and for the contribution that they can make to the ecumenical movement'.  For this purpose, 'an effort should be made to establish cordial cooperation between the Catholic and the non-Catholic ministers from the time that preparations begin for the marriage and the wedding ceremony' (Familiaris Consortio, 78).  With regard to sharing in the Eucharist, 'the decision as to whether the non-Catholic part of the marriage may be admitted to Eucharistic communion is to be made in keeping with the general norms existing in the matter, both for Eastern Christians and for other Christians, taking into account the particular situation of the reception of the sacrament of matrimony by two baptized Christians. Although the spouses in a  mixed marriage share the sacraments of baptism and matrimony, eucharistic sharing can only be exceptional and in each case according to the stated norms' (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for the Applications of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, 25 March 1993, 159-160)".271

271 Relatio Finalis 2015, 72.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 246

246.  The Church, while appreciating the situations of conflict that are part of marriage, cannot fail to speak out on behalf of those who are most vulnerable: the children who often suffer in silence. Today, "despite our seemingly evolved sensibilities and all our refined psychological analyses, I ask myself if we are not becoming numb to the hurt in children's souls... Do we feel the immense psychological burden borne by children in families where the members mistreat and hurt one another, to the point of breaking the bonds of marital fidelity?"269  Such harmful experiences do not help children to grow in the maturity needed to make definitive commitments.  For this reason, Christian communities must not abandon divorced parents who have entered a new union, but should include and support them in their efforts to bring up their children.  "How can we encourage those parents to do everything possible to raise their children in the Christian life, to give them an example of committed and practical faith, if we keep them at arm's length from the life of the community, as if they were somehow excommunicated?  We must keep from acting in a way that adds even more to the burdens that children in these situations already have to bear!"270  Helping heal the wounds of parents and supporting them spiritually is also beneficial for children, who need the familiar face of the church to see them through this traumatic experience.  Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling.  Hence, our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to prevent the spread of this drama of our times.

269 Catechesis (24 June 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 25 June 2015, p.8.
270 Catechesis (5 August 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 6 August 2015, p. 7.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Amoris Laetitia - Par. 245

245.  The Synod Fathers also pointed to "the consequences of separation or divorce on children, in every case the innocent victims of the situation".267  Apart from every other consideration, the good of children should be the primary concern, and not overshadowed by any ulterior interest or objective.  I make this appeal to parents who are separated: "Never, ever take your child hostage!  You separated for many problems and reasons.  Life gave you this trial, but your children should not have to bear the burden of this separation or be used as hostages against the other spouse.  they should grow up hearing their mother speak well of their father, even though they are not together, and their father speak well of their mother".238  It is irresponsible to disparage the other parent as a means of winning a child's affection, or out of revenge or self-justification.  Doing so will affect the child's interior tranquility and cause wounds hard to heal.

167 Relatio Synodi 2014, 47.
268 Catechesis (20 June 2015): L'Osservatore Romano, 21 May 2015, p.8.