Amoris Laetitia 81: Human Love and God’s Love

amoris laetitia memeWe know that human beings see children as possessions. In the Bible and among Christian aristocracy, royalty, and even among ordinary people, children have also been seen as legacies–carrying on the family business be it farm, business, or something royal. Still the Church ascribes to a higher ideal:

81. A child deserves to be born of that love, and not by any other means, for “he or she is not something owed to one, but is a gift”,(Catechism 2378) which is “the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of the parents”.(CDF, Instruction Donum Vitae (1987) II, 8) This is the case because, “according to the order of creation, conjugal love between a man and a woman, and the transmission of life are ordered to each other (cf. Gen 1:27-28). Thus the Creator made man and woman share in the work of his creation and, at the same time, made them instruments of his love, entrusting to them the responsibility for the future of mankind, through the transmission of human life”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 63)

Notice the love acknowledged by the synod bishops in this last quote is that of both people and of God. This is an important consideration that rescues what can sometimes be a muddled area of teaching. Comments?

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 80: The Transmission of Life and the Rearing of Children

amoris laetitia memeParagraphs 80 through 85 discuss “The Transmission of Life and the Rearing of Children.” Seven footnotes from documents remind us of the literal word of Church teaching. The basics:

80. Marriage is

  • firstly an “intimate partnership of life and love”(Gaudium et Spes 48)
  • which is a good for the spouses themselves,(canon law 1055 § 1)
  • while sexuality is “ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman”.(Catechism 2360)

Interesting that the phenomenon of childlessness is mentioned first, but Pope Francis cites the Catechism:

  • It follows that “spouses to whom God has not granted children can have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms”.(Catechism 1654)
  • Nonetheless, the conjugal union is ordered to procreation “by its very nature”.(Gaudium et Spes 48)
  • The child who is born “does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment”.(Catechism 2366)

And yet in the case of adoption, couples still provide for a child based on that mutual love. It’s also undeniable that some married couples conceive a child for reasons other than love. The heart of a right judgment here does not rest on sexuality alone, but on the active choice of both partners.

He or she does not appear at the end of a process, but is present from the beginning of love as an essential feature, one that cannot be denied without disfiguring that love itself. From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself. Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning,(Humanae Vitae 11-12) even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life.

We’ve discussed this before. Any comments today?

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 79: Difficult Situations

amoris laetitia memeTwo citations here. First, Pope John Paul II:

79. “When faced with difficult situations and wounded families, it is always necessary to recall this general principle: ‘Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations’ (Familiaris Consortio, 84).

How does one define careful? I would say it includes listening, research, and prayer.

The synod bishops:

The degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases and factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision. Therefore, while clearly stating the Church’s teaching, pastors are to avoid judgements that do not take into account the complexity of various situations, and they are to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 53-54)

Attention to the experiences of others: words from the bishops, but an Ignatian trait.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 78: Imperfections

amoris laetitia memeHow does the Church work with couples who are not married within the bounds of acceptable practice? The synod bishops’ final document is cited in this paragraph:

78. “The light of Christ enlightens every person (cf. Jn 1:9; Gaudium et Spes, 22). Seeing things with the eyes of Christ inspires the Church’s pastoral care for the faithful who are living together, or are only married civilly, or are divorced and remarried. Following this divine pedagogy, the Church turns with love to those who participate in her life in an imperfect manner:

  • she seeks the grace of conversion for them;
  • she encourages them to do good,
  • to take loving care of each other
  • and to serve the community in which they live and work…

I find it illustrative to organize such statements into bullet-point lists. How does the Church seek grace? That might mean direct confrontation and voiced criticism. But the Church seems more interested in positive support for families. None of these latter aspects are out of place in the formation of traditional families. As a parish minister, I ask myself: Do I encourage virtue? Do I demonstrate loving care and urge others likewise? Do I offer opportunities to serve?

Some might counter that imperfect people offer a flawed witness in the greater community, but I see where the bishops are headed with this one. The Church’s mission is aligned with that of the Lord: we are going to seek out and serve the lost. Not the self-styled upright.

When a couple in an irregular union attains a noteworthy stability through a public bond – and is characterized by deep affection, responsibility towards the children and the ability to overcome trials – this can be seen as an opportunity, where possible, to lead them to celebrate the sacrament of Matrimony”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 53-54)

Seems to imply that not every couple should be urged to Marriage. Is this right?

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Too Much Deutero-Isaiah?

Two of the curious comments I read on the CMAA thread discussing my review of Worship 3 were these:

One way in which I might want to qualify (Todd’s) claim about depth would be to note a lack of breadth in G&P’s Scriptural engagement: there seems to be a strong preference for Deutero-Isaiah and a neglect of many other parts of Scripture.

I heartily agree! Thank you for saying this so clearly.

Deutero-Isaiah involves what we read today as chapters 40 through 55 of that book, a rather lyrical section attributed not to the original Isaiah, but to a post-Exile prophet/poet associated with the earlier figure. The basic message is one of mercy and comfort (Cf. Isaiah 40:1): God has rescued and saved his people and now desires their healing, restoration, and salvation.

These sixteen chapters of Isaiah are remarkable in many ways. They include four “songs” that depict a Suffering Servant that looks very much like Jesus Christ. Other lyrical passages are employed in the Liturgy of the Hours as morning canticles. Two Easter Vigil readings are taken from this section of Isaiah.

Did this “second” Isaiah just make it all up, slapping a happy face on what was, at times, a grim message from his predecessor? I don’t think so. The call of Isaiah (chapter 6), the virgin conceiving (7), the people that walked in darkness (9), the stump of Jesse (11), the Messianic banquet (25), the desert in bloom (35), and a few canticles of praise (12 and 26) have inspired not only contemporary songwriters, but also figures like George Frideric Handel.

Are nineteen Deutero-Isaiah songs (and thirty from Isaiah total) out of 243* too much? It’s more than 17 attributed to Matthew’s Gospel. Not as many as 25 from John.

In defense of the St Louis Jesuits, Carey Landry, and Gregory Norbet: many other parts of Scripture aren’t the easiest to set to music, especially law and history. And it is true that significant contemporary songs like “Hosea” and “One Bread, One Body” and “I Have Loved You” and “Jesus The Lord” look to the New Testament and to other prophets.

No doubt these Deutero-Isaiah songs are solidly in the US post-conciliar repertoire:

  • Be Not Afraid
  • Come To The Water
  • Turn To Me
  • Though The Mountains May Fall

And possibly “Seek the Lord”, “Like A Shepherd”, and Dan Schutte’s two valley songs.

Has it changed in thirty years? When I checked OCP’s 2016, Master Scriptural Index, Deutero-Isaiah was on a par with Romans, 1 Corinthians, Revelation, and Mark. The other three gospels just about lapped it. The Psalms trumped everything.

So what does it all mean? My sense is that by post-conciliar engagement with the Bible, composers were more alert to the Psalms and lyrical sections like Isaiah 40-55, the Beatitudes, the Magnificat, the Philippians canticle and the like. Somehow, we are a product of our culture, and what drew people to “Comfort ye my people” and “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” spraked something when they composed and heard “You shall cross the barren desert” and “O let all who thirst.”

I guess you could wish that 70’s composers were better. Or that chant hymnals would out-sell piano-based volumes. You can also say that G&P is a bygone fad, but two things: detractors can’t seem to stop talking about it and the songs that have resonated the deepest from those collections are very much with us still.

* The total number of songs, hymns, and psalm settings in G&P 1 through 3

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Amoris Laetitia 76-77: Seeds of the Word and Imperfect Situations

amoris laetitia memeFour paragraphs look at “Seeds of the Word and Imperfect Situations.” We start with the synod bishops from a few years ago:

76. “The Gospel of the family also nourishes seeds that are still waiting to grow, and serves as the basis for caring for those plants that are wilting and must not be neglected.” (Relatio Synodi 2014, 23)

And Pope John Paul II:

Thus, building on the gift of Christ in the sacrament, married couples “may be led patiently further on in order to achieve a deeper grasp and a fuller integration of this mystery in their lives”.(Familiaris Consortio 9)

Marriages and families are works in progress. Even among the best of us. The Holy Father cites the final synod document, which in turn leaned on Vatican II:

77. Appealing to the Bible’s teaching that all was created through Christ and for Christ (cf. Col 1:16), the Synod Fathers noted that “the order of redemption illuminates and fulfils that of creation.  Natural marriage, therefore, is fully understood in the light of its fulfillment in the sacrament of Matrimony: only in contemplating Christ does a person come to know the deepest truth about human relationships.  ‘Only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light…  Christ, the new Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear’ (Gaudium et Spes, 22).  It is particularly helpful to understand in a Christocentric key… the good of the spouses (bonum coniugum)”,(Relatio Finalis 2015, 47) which includes unity, openness to life, fidelity, indissolubility and, within Christian marriage, mutual support on the path towards complete friendship with the Lord.  “Discernment of the presence of ‘seeds of the Word’ in other cultures (cf. Ad Gentes 11) can also apply to the reality of marriage and the family.  In addition to true natural marriage, positive elements exist in the forms of marriage found in other religious traditions”,(Relatio Finalis 2015, 47) even if, at times, obscurely. 

Lots of theology. Pope Francis and the bishops suggest that marriage has a fulfilled aspect in the grace of Christ. So there is something beyond just marital fertility and the generation of children. Our “supreme calling” is union with Christ and a participation in his mission. Maybe we can start asking how marriages further the mission of the Gospel (cf Matthew 28:19-20).

Pope Francis from Philly last year:

We can readily say that “anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation.  Whatever the people, religion or region to which they belong!”*

*Homily for the Concluding Mass of the Eighth World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia (27 September 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 28-29 September 2015, p. 7.

One good gesture is something to get excited about, surely.

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Worship, Third, Points of View II

worship thirdI noticed CMAA is onto this series, at least the first post. Their opinions in a growing thread there:

This is a strange conversation.

Yea, even bizarre!

Largely agreed.

And then there’s:

Troll by proxy

Indeed. They sure spent more than a collective fifteen minutes writing and discussing. Seems I’m not dead yet. I’m rather surprised chant folks would even be interested in W3. There are a lot of contemporary texts represented in this tome. At any rate, GIA still offers the third edition of Worship on its website. Why look at it? It’s history. A snapshot of the post-conciliar Church in the US in the 80’s.

The past few days I’ve been looking at a section under the heading of Praise, and it’s interesting. If you’re following in your book at home, these are numbers 527 through 551–another 25 selections.

Here’s what I found:

  • Nine pieces cited Scripture explicitly. Most of those were psalms. Total so far: forty-ish percent. A nice setting of Psalm 98 I’ve always loved: Timothy Dudley Smith’s “Sing A New Song to the Lord” set by David Wilson. It’s a great jazzy tune and GIA was wise to include it in Gather To Remember, its contemporary effort from the early 80’s. An overlooked gem. A non-explicit example: “Praise To The Lord” owes much to Psalm 103, though the editors don’t acknowledge that.
  • Just like last week’s 25 selections, twenty-one were clearly hymns with stanzas. Three had refrains/choruses/antiphons–however you want to call it. One more was Taize. So far, more than 80% stanza hymnody.

How do “praise” hymns address God? Eighteen refer to God as “Him,” like he’s eavesdropping on our sung conversations. Three go with “You.” One of those is Michael Perry’s fine text “O God Beyond All Praising.” Maybe this is my prejudice, but I wonder about a clear two-third’s majority of hymns not bothering to address God directly. Isn’t that worship? Maybe you have other ideas.

Six of these texts speak of Christians as “you.” Ten have the “we” perspective. Some mix it up.

To be clear, I’m not offering a traditional review, at least not in a way I’ve ever read. And just because a particular hymn is a certain way–I’m not necessarily critical of that. This survey really looks at the big picture of this hymnal. So far, I’d say my beef is with the indirect reference to God. And I notice a lot of 20th century texts do this. Is this a flaw like that pop song “From A Distance”? Are we so unsure of our place in the family of God that we keep a distance? No wonder Catholics sit in the back pew. Or stay away. Or maybe you have another observation.

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