Amoris Laetitia 289: From Children to Mission

amoris laetitia memeLet’s read:

289. The work of handing on the faith to children, in the sense of facilitating its expression and growth, helps the whole family in its evangelizing mission. It naturally begins to spread the faith to all around them, even outside of the family circle.

On the negative side, I suppose we can ask if a family can’t or doesn’t evangelize its own children, what hope is there for the missionary discipleship for the future?

Children who grew up in missionary families often become missionaries themselves; growing up in warm and friendly families, they learn to relate to the world in this way, without giving up their faith or their convictions.

My problem with the apologetics movement is the inherent presumption of opposition to the faith. Dealing with people in warmth and friendliness isn’t pollyanna or wishful thinking; it is a way of being. The very notion that one has to defend one’s faith sets up the assumption that everyone/many people/a solid minority are attacking it. I don’t find that is true nearly as much as a basic lack of knowledge of what Christianity is about. Even from Christians themselves.

Pope Francis offers the example of the Lord:

We know that Jesus himself ate and drank with sinners (cf. Mk 2:16; Mt 11:19), conversed with a Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:7-26), received Nicodemus by night (cf. Jn 3:1-21), allowed his feet to be anointed by a prostitute (cf. Lk 7:36-50) and did not hesitate to lay his hands on those who were sick (cf. Mk 1:40-45; 7:33). The same was true of his apostles, who did not look down on others, or cluster together in small and elite groups, cut off from the life of their people. Although the authorities harassed them, they nonetheless enjoyed the favor “of all the people” (Acts 2:47; cf. 4:21, 33; 5:13).

It seems the harassers were the religious leaders or the elites. Not the “usual” suspects: Samaritans, sinners, or sick people.

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 288: Adapting To Individual Young Persons

amoris laetitia memeOne reason why the home is optimal is the opportunity for parents who know each of their children to tailor a young person’s formation to individual need:

288. Education in the faith has to adapt to each child, since older resources and recipes do not always work. Children need symbols, actions and stories. Since adolescents usually have issues with authority and rules, it is best to encourage their own experience of faith and to provide them with attractive testimonies that win them over by their sheer beauty.

On prayer, proposition, not imposition:

Parents desirous of nurturing the faith of their children are sensitive to their patterns of growth, for they know that spiritual experience is not imposed but freely proposed. It is essential that children actually see that, for their parents, prayer is something truly important. Hence moments of family prayer and acts of devotion can be more powerful for evangelization than any catechism class or sermon. Here I would like to express my particular gratitude to all those mothers who continue to pray, like Saint Monica, for their children who have strayed from Christ.

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 287: Passing on the Faith

amoris laetitia memeNo smart-aleck comments on the title of the final theme of Chapter Seven. We’re talking about the faith formation of young people.

287. Raising children calls for an orderly process of handing on the faith. This is made difficult by current lifestyles, work schedules and the complexity of today’s world, where many people keep up a frenetic pace just to survive.(Cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 13-14)

Faith formation is difficult, but it is also somewhat far down the list of the priorities of many people. Pope Francis urges the importance of the home as a setting for this formation:

Even so, the home must continue to be the place where we learn to appreciate the meaning and beauty of the faith, to pray and to serve our neighbor. This begins with baptism, in which, as Saint Augustine said, mothers who bring their children “cooperate in the sacred birthing”.(Augustine, De sancta virginitate 7,7: PL 40, 400)

An interesting metaphor: a living child has yet another birth to experience. Natural birth if painful, anxious, yet hopeful. How do we bring faith to birth in our children? With similar emotions?

Thus begins the journey of growth in that new life. Faith is God’s gift, received in baptism, and not our own work, yet parents are the means that God uses for it to grow and develop. Hence “it is beautiful when mothers teach their little children to blow a kiss to Jesus or to Our Lady. How much love there is in that! At that moment the child’s heart becomes a place of prayer”.(Catechesis (26 August 2015))

I don’t believe these kinds of examples aren’t meant to be prescriptive. It is the responsibility of every Christian parent to ponder, discern, and pass on gestures like these.

Handing on the faith presumes that parents themselves genuinely trust God, seek him and sense their need for him, for only in this way does “one generation laud your works to another, and declare your mighty acts” (Ps 144:4) and “fathers make known to children your faithfulness” (Is 38:19). This means that we need to ask God to act in their hearts, in places where we ourselves cannot reach. A mustard seed, small as it is, becomes a great tree (cf. Mt 13:31-32); this teaches us to see the disproportion between our actions and their effects. We know that we do not own the gift, but that its care is entrusted to us. Yet our creative commitment is itself an offering which enables us to cooperate with God’s plan.

The synod bishops endorse active parents:

For this reason, “couples and parents should be properly appreciated as active agents in catechesis… Family catechesis is of great assistance as an effective method in training young parents to be aware of their mission as the evangelizers of their own family”. (Relatio Finalis 2015, 89)

Comments on this, especially from parents?

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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What Another Month May Bring

computer_monitorI’m less inclined than I was at the dawn of this blog to share much personal stuff. The most interesting aspects of church ministry involve things that are either privileged and confidential information or just better unshared with the populace at large. For family stuff, you can check my facebook and “friend” me, though I’d rather enjoy real friends in real life. Or at least in a phone conversation now and then.

As of this writing, about half of what is left of Amoris Laetitia is written up and scheduled for getting dropped on you daily at 6am-ish. The other half is neatly set up in posts with drafts of commentary or ready for it. You may have noticed that whole stretches of days go by with nothing besides Amoris. There are no new wedding or funeral readings. And when various bloggers break stories on the roll-back of Liturgiam Authenticam or what some clown did at liturgy, I find myself more and more disinterested in commenting on such. I was testing the waters with a bit of facebook activity at the end of last year, but I find that likewise lacking any energy for me.

The young miss will come of age come to a certain significant age in a few months. In a few weeks, my wife and I will observe a wedding anniversary for the twenty-first time. While I feel fairly fit these days, I recognize that I’m shifting out of middle-age into old. Crises don’t seem to hit me as hard. I also recognize I’m closer to death than to birth, to my funeral than my baptism, and definitely to retirement than my entry into full-time ministry.

At this point, my oldest instrument and I have enjoyed/endured about ninety-percent of our collaborations, judging that I played a lot more when I was young. Along with other matters, these realizations give me a perspective that seem to be moving me away from writing on the internet.

I’ve asked my wife to pray and discern with me some new directions. I think these new directions are not another parish change, but ventures that deal more with my creative and leisure time. Another piece of life’s puzzle, as it were.

More people make a living from playing professional football than from blogging. And since blogging isn’t a passion anymore, I think I can promise you will see less novelty from me when Lent rolls around. Other writers do the daily readings better. Other writers are more connected to what more people want to read. I feel okay with that.

I can share I’m not getting much action in publishing, and I’m okay with keeping at various writing projects as a creative outlet that balances parish ministry. And keeps me happily on the road of discipleship.

I think I’m finally grasping something that has to do with what Saint Ignatius of Loyola means by “indifference.” Not a bad thing at all.

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Amoris Laetitia 286: Dialogue Beyond Just Words

amoris laetitia memeFace it: human beings are complex creatures. Each one of us brings multiple aspects of nature and nurture into the person we are:

286. Nor can we ignore the fact that the configuration of our own mode of being, whether as male or female, is not simply the result of biological or genetic factors, but of multiple elements having to do with temperament, family history, culture, experience, education, the influence of friends, family members and respected persons, as well as other formative situations. It is true that we cannot separate the masculine and the feminine from God’s work of creation, which is prior to all our decisions and experiences, and where biological elements exist which are impossible to ignore. But it is also true that masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories. It is possible, for example, that a husband’s way of being masculine can be flexibly adapted to the wife’s work schedule. Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make him any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or cause for shame. Children have to be helped to accept as normal such healthy “exchanges” which do not diminish the dignity of the father figure. A rigid approach turns into an overaccentuation of the masculine or feminine, and does not help children and young people to appreciate the genuine reciprocity incarnate in the real conditions of matrimony. Such rigidity, in turn, can hinder the development of an individual’s abilities, to the point of leading him or her to think, for example, that it is not really masculine to cultivate art or dance, or not very feminine to exercise leadership. This, thank God, has changed, but in some places deficient notions still condition the legitimate freedom and hamper the authentic development of children’s specific identity and potential.

I think the big takeaway here is the affirmation of “healthy exchanges.” This is part of dialogue, not just the sharing of words. Pope Francis suggests something more than a conversation. The metaphor of dance comes to mind. What do you readers see in this?

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Praying With Music Ministries: Rehearsals

healing-mass-22nov16Those who sing pray twice, according to Saint Augustine.

When I arrived at my new parish two years ago, I was advised that the choir likes to pray, and expects to pray. My predecessors set a good tone, it seemed to me.

Over the months, we’ve settled into a good pattern, I think. The two weekly rehearsals each have a sign-up list. Members may sign up to lead prayer at the very start of practice. I keep a list about two months in advance and try to remind people as we get to the bottom of the column of names. I tell them it was be as simple as two words. Something like “Our Father,” and everybody clearly knows what comes next. It can be more involved–a Scripture reading, a saint’s testimony, a poen, or a page from a devotional book. Their choice.

At the end of our time, I lead. I offer a brief invitation, and here the members really get into intercessory prayer. By name they mention people who are sick, travelling, in the family, or the parish at large. Sometimes this goes on as long as six or seven minutes. This is fine. The names and causes mentioned are not just filler.

For myself, I’ve come to a new acceptance of and appreciation for intercessory prayer. I value the good spiritual foundation set by the two women who served these people before I came into the picture. I hope you readers have similar experiences in your music ministries.

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Amoris Laetitia 285: Respecting Differences

amoris laetitia memeToday, it seems the Holy Father suggests respect for differences between the sexes. I’d say that’s less a problem than some think. More a problem still, would be respect for individuals being somewhat outside the mainstream. I mean that sexually, of course, but also as a reality of the human condition, that God has made each person unique. We still have too much stake in trying to corral people into a limited set of ways of being.

That said, let’s read:

285. Sex education should also include respect and appreciation for differences, as a way of helping the young to overcome their self-absorption and to be open and accepting of others. Beyond the understandable difficulties which individuals may experience, the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for “thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation… An appreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment”.(Laudato Si’ 155) Only by losing the fear of being different, can we be freed of self-centeredness and self-absorption. Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension “to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it”.(Catechesis (15 April 2015))

A seeming contradiction, that losing fear leads to a freedom from narcissism. I’m inclined to agree. You?

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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