Amoris Laetitia 255: Accompanying Those Who Grieve

amoris laetitia memeI mentioned it in yesterday’s post; accompaniment is a recurring theme for the Holy Father. Ministers and disciples would do well to attend to it.

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.

An extended sojourn in the land of lament does little good. It might come to nudging a mourner forward:

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 on 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.

In today’s culture, we often see the loss of a loved one inspire a new direction in one’s life. Sometimes, being a champion for a cause of the deceased: a certain work, a mission, a charitable endeavor. Frequently we see dedication to curing a disease that led to the death of someone special.

I like Pope Francis’ suggestion to envision a deceased person as changed. Some Catholic approaches would highlight how many should fall short of cashing a heaven card early in the afterlife, but I’m not sure that this is widely productive. There is a balance between canonizing a dead person and consigning them to a mild experience of purgation. Each approach appeals to a certain part of human affect, however much it might be cloaked in devotion or proper catechesis. It strikes me that mourning and learning don’t often make for a good blend. In any event, what happens beyond death is a mystery.

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


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Amoris Laetitia. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s