Misericordia et Misera 14: Careful, Profound, Far-Sighted Discernment

john-8At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter. Follow this link for the full document, Misericordia et Misera.

When in troubled times, two instincts come to the fore. One, people can be chided. Two, leaders can offer comfort. It often doesn’t matter if the targets of these are victims, perpetrators, or bystanders.

14. At a time like our own, marked by many crises, including that of the family, it is important to offer a word of comfort and strength to our families. The gift of matrimony is a great calling to which spouses, with the grace of Christ, respond with a love that is generous, faithful and patient. The beauty of the family endures unchanged, despite so many problems and alternative proposals: “The joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church”.[Cf. Amoris Laetitia 1] The journey of life that leads a man and a woman to meet one other, to love one another and to promise mutual fidelity before God, is often interrupted by suffering, betrayal and loneliness. Joy at the gift of children is accompanied by concern about their growth and education, and their prospects for happiness and fulfilment in life.

It’s pretty clear Pope Francis lands solidly in option #2 where families are concerned. If chiding some people is on his list, perhaps he doesn’t feel such persons are in any particular weakness. Clearly, spouses and parents have obstacles to a life of virtue. This is true across many cultures, nations, and other situations.

Can we hope in sacramental grace?

The grace of the sacrament of Marriage not only strengthens the family to be a privileged place for practising mercy, but also commits the Christian community and all its pastoral activity to uphold the great positive value of the family. This Jubilee Year cannot overlook the complexity of the current realities of family life. The experience of mercy enables us to regard all human problems from the standpoint of God’s love, which never tires of welcoming and accompanying.[Cf. Amoris Laetitia 291-300]

Whether one chides or comforts, the Holy Father suggests a demand of pastoral leaders: discernment. Note three qualities listed below: careful, profound, far-sighted

We have to remember each of us carries the richness and the burdens of our personal history; this is what makes us different from everyone else. Our life, with its joys and sorrows, is something unique and unrepeatable that takes place under the merciful gaze of God. This demands, especially of priests, a careful, profound and far-sighted spiritual discernment, so that everyone, none excluded, can feel accepted by God, participate actively in the life of the community and be part of that People of God which journeys tirelessly towards the fullness of his kingdom of justice, love, forgiveness and mercy.

Any comments?

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Amoris Laetitia 247: “Mixed” Marriages and Eucharistic Sharing

amoris laetitia memeToday, the first of six paragraphs that deal with “certain complex situations” Let’s read of one concern from Pope John Paul II:

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).

What are these good elements? One, an opportunity for a married person to share faith and to listen attentively to the experiences of the spouse. There persists a myth that subdivisions of Christianity are religions in their own right. They are not. The “mixed” marriage, in many cases, is part of that myth. Even among people who are each deeply connected to and active in different Christian traditions. More of a challenge would be one person who is very active in their church tradition, and a spouse who is far less so in their own.

As for the wedding, what about Eucharistic sharing? The synod bishops cited a 1993 Vatican document:

With regard to sharing in the Eucharist, ‘the decision as to whether the non-Catholic party 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 Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, 25 March 1993, 159-160)”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 72)

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

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Misericordia et Misera 13: Consolation

john-8At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter. Follow this link for the full document, Misericordia et Misera.

Significant sections of two major prophetic books, Jeremiah and Isaiah, are devoted to the message of consolation. The context is for a Jewish community in Exile in need of a message of hope after an unimaginable dismantling of homeland and culture. Sounds familiar for some people today, right? Even in these United States. Many people are exiled from work, home, loved ones, and culture. This through various experiences of death, loss of job and relocation, homelessness, serious illness in one’s own body or of a family member. What is this to us? If one is not in  Exiole, I would say the Christian imperative is to offer concrete hope to those who are.

13. Another face of mercy is consolation. “Comfort, comfort my people” (Is 40:1) is the heartfelt plea that the prophet continues to make today, so that a word of hope may come to all those who experience suffering and pain. Let us never allow ourselves to be robbed of the hope born of faith in the Risen Lord. True, we are often sorely tested, but we must never lose our certainty of the Lord’s love for us. His mercy finds expression also in the closeness, affection and support that many of our brothers and sisters can offer us at times of sadness and affliction. The drying of tears is one way to break the vicious circle of solitude in which we often find ourselves trapped.

All of us need consolation because no one is spared suffering, pain and misunderstanding. How much pain can be caused by a spiteful remark born of envy, jealousy or anger! What great suffering is caused by the experience of betrayal, violence and abandonment! How much sorrow in the face of the death of a loved one! And yet God is never far from us at these moments of sadness and trouble. A reassuring word, an embrace that makes us feel understood, a caress that makes us feel love, a prayer that makes us stronger… all these things express God’s closeness through the consolation offered by our brothers and sisters.

Offering hope doesn’t always mean “doing things” for another person. Simple accompaniment can be simple enough: wordless companionship:

Sometimes too, silence can be helpful, especially when we cannot find words in response to the questions of those who suffer. A lack of words, however, can be made up for by the compassion of a person who stays at our side, who loves us and who holds out a hand. It is not true that silence is an act of surrender; on the contrary, it is a moment of strength and love. Silence also belongs to our language of consolation, because it becomes a concrete way of sharing in the suffering of a brother or sister.


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Amoris Laetitia 246: Support for Children

amoris laetitia memeThe Church faces a difficult, yet sometimes self-imposed shackle when dealing with children who have experienced “irregular” situations in their parents’ marriages, unions or other choices. Some pastors vacate the opportunity, denying student placement or sacraments. It’s a telling move because it sets up Church membership or school enrollment as a reward for good behavior. The reality is that any person who has any sort of contact with the Church or its institutions is an opportunity for ministry, not membership cards.

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?”(Catechesis (24 June 2015))

For some Catholics, the answer is, “No, we do not feel the burden. We are uncomfortable with it, and think more of our own problems.”

The Church cannot abandon parents who have divorced and remarried:

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!”(Catechesis (5 August 2015))

Pope Francis asked this question, and then proceeds to answer:

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.

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

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Star Dawn

In a liturgy/music/astronomy/science fiction mash-up, I’d like to nominate Alan Hovhaness’ mini-symphony “Star Dawn” for your December listening experience. From the review at a tribute site for the composer:

In this work evoking space travel, bells symbolize the stars, flowing melodies a sense of journey, and chorales symbolize (humankind). The first movement describes a journey from Earth, the second mankind’s arrival at a distant planet. The first movement contains a noteworthy chromatic vibraphone passage of some length. The work’s ‘symphonic’ credentials, however, are somewhat questionable, with a second movement clocking in at a mere 4 minutes (the first movement is 9 minutes). Indeed, the work was originally cast in three movements, but one was discarded. Notwithstanding this, there is an excellent recording of ‘Star Dawn’ on Naxos.

I think that interstellar travel would take something longer than thirteen minutes. But for an Advent reflection, maybe it suits.

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When The Cup Is All Empty


PrayTell reports on the word from above in New Hampshire. One commenter there offered this opinion, which pretty much sums it up for me:

I also wish pastors and bishops would not withhold the chalice from me during flu outbreaks. It should be up to me to decide whether or not it is a risk I want to take. I don’t need daddy telling me when it’s too dangerous.

Modern life, even in churches, are full of more serious disease-spreading opportunities. The best single thing a pastor could do is outfit ushers with gloves and forbid people from opening doors. Still, lay people are not children. Pronouncements like Bishop Libasci’s are juvenile at best.

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Misericordia et Misera 12: An Extension of Penance Faculties

john-8One notable bit picked up by various media from the Mercy Jubilee was the faculty to forgive abortions. This faculty continues from here on out:

12. Given this need, lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year,[Cf. Letter According to Which an Indulgence is Granted to the Faithful on the Occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, 1 September 2015] is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary. I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.

In the US, confessors have long had this ability. I’m not sure how well bishops and local clergy make this broadly known. Pope Francis gets credit here for an initiative some bishops and conferences have already extended.

No problem also for the Holy Father to encourage the practice of confession to a priest of the SSPX:

For the Jubilee Year I had also granted that those faithful who, for various reasons, attend churches officiated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X, can validly and licitly receive the sacramental absolution of their sins.[Cf. ibid] For the pastoral benefit of these faithful, and trusting in the good will of their priests to strive with God’s help for the recovery of full communion in the Catholic Church, I have personally decided to extend this faculty beyond the Jubilee Year, until further provisions are made, lest anyone ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the Church’s pardon.

Follow this link for the full document, Misericordia et Misera.

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