Amoris Laetitia 320: Healthy Autonomy

amoris laetitia memeWhat do you make of Pope Francis’s interpretation of healthy autonomy?

320. There comes a point where a couple’s love attains the height of its freedom and becomes the basis of a healthy autonomy. This happens when each spouse realizes that the other is not his or her own, but has a much more important master, the one Lord. No one but God can presume to take over the deepest and most personal core of the loved one; he alone can be the ultimate center of their life. At the same time, the principle of spiritual realism requires that one spouse not presume that the other can completely satisfy his or her needs. The spiritual journey of each – as Dietrich Bonhoeffer nicely put it – needs to help them to a certain “disillusionment” with regard to the other,(Cf. Gemeinsames Leben, Munich, 1973, p. 18. English: Life Together, New York, 1954, p. 27) to stop expecting from that person something which is proper to the love of God alone. This demands an interior divestment. The space which each of the spouses makes exclusively for their personal relationship with God not only helps heal the hurts of life in common, but also enables the spouses to find in the love of God the deepest source of meaning in their own lives. Each day we have to invoke the help of the Holy Spirit to make this interior freedom possible.

A few things …

Many couples experience or fear “drifting apart.” It takes some careful discernm,ent to ensure that the claim to autonomy isn’t an excuse for drifting.

Looking to one’s spouse to fulfill all needs: I’d say we’re looking across the board of all human experiences. Perhaps a better orientation is to be outward looking. In other words, how can I fulfill some of my partner’s needs and allow an independence to let the other search for additional support?

I noticed that phrase “interior divestment.” Reminds me of the Ignatian principle of detachment.

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

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Amoris Laetitia 319: Spirituality of Married Love

amoris laetitia memeToday, a discussion starter on the topic of a spirituality of exclusive and free love. Pope John Paul II assists us:

319. Marriage is also the experience of belonging completely to another person. Spouses accept the challenge and aspiration of supporting one another, growing old together, and in this way reflecting God’s own faithfulness. This firm decision, which shapes a style of life, is an “interior requirement of the covenant of conjugal love”,(Familiaris Consortio 11) since “a person who cannot choose to love for ever can hardly love for even a single day. (John Paul II, Homily at Mass with Families, Cordoba, Argentina (8 April 1987), 4: Insegnamenti X/1 (1987), 1161-1162)

Pope Francis adds that marriage is not about appearances. The Lord sees our deepest heart. If we are withholding qualities such as devotion, joy, self-sacrifice, we are seen and outed to the Lord’s eyes.

At the same time, such fidelity would be spiritually meaningless were it simply a matter of following a law with obedient resignation. Rather, it is a matter of the heart, into which God alone sees (cf. Mt 5:28). Every morning, on rising, we reaffirm before God our decision to be faithful, come what may in the course of the day. And all of us, before going to sleep, hope to wake up and continue this adventure, trusting in the Lord’s help. In this way, each spouse is for the other a sign and instrument of the closeness of the Lord, who never abandons us: “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).

In addition to marking Sunday as a day of renewal for marriages (Cf. Amoris Laetitia 318) the Holy Father counsels the two hinges of the day as appropriate times to take spiritual stock and seek interior faithfulness. Lauds and Vespers oriented to the domestic Church, it would seem. Any comments?

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Amoris Laetitia 318: Family Prayer

amoris laetitia memeFor many families, my own included, prayer is often rote. The facility to pray spontaneously, as if one were speaking in real time to an actual friend, is not well-cultivated. Do we think to “come together” and include God in family discussions and discernment as if God were an actual person? Or do we each tend to petition directly and individually, especially when there is some estrangement?

Pope Francis writes of family prayer being a moment, not a lasting burden of time:

318. Family prayer is a special way of expressing and strengthening this paschal faith.(Cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 87) A few minutes can be found each day to come together before the living God, to tell him our worries, to ask for the needs of our family, to pray for someone experiencing difficulty, to ask for help in showing love, to give thanks for life and for its blessings, and to ask Our Lady to protect us beneath her maternal mantle. With a few simple words, this moment of prayer can do immense good for our families. The various expressions of popular piety are a treasure of spirituality for many families.

Popular piety is good. An observance of Sunday, in some way, is laudable too:

The family’s communal journey of prayer culminates by sharing together in the Eucharist, especially in the context of the Sunday rest. Jesus knocks on the door of families, to share with them the Eucharistic supper (cf. Rev 3:20). There, spouses can always seal anew the paschal covenant which united them and which ought to reflect the covenant which God sealed with mankind in the cross.(Familiaris Consortio  57) The Eucharist is the sacrament of the new covenant, where Christ’s redemptive work is carried out (cf. Lk 22:20). The close bond between married life and the Eucharist thus becomes all the more clear.* For the food of the Eucharist offers the spouses the strength and incentive needed to live the marriage covenant each day as a “domestic church”.(Lumen Gentium, 11)

*Nor should we forget that God’s covenant with his people is expressed as an espousal (cf. Ez 16:8, 60; Is 62:5; Hos 2:21-22), and that the new covenant is also presented as a betrothal (cf. Rev 19:7; 21:2; Eph 5:25).

Sunday as a day to renew vows of marriage: now there’s a thought I have yet to see promoted. Perhaps those who fuss a bit about “confusion” are attending to their marriages in this way. Are you?

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

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Amoris Laetitia 317: Family Life and the Paschal Mystery

amoris laetitia memeToday and tomorrow, we look at the theme, Gathered in prayer in the light of Easter. This continues on AL 316, and the aspiration not only for family love and harmony, but the mutual assistance of members to assist one another into sanctity.

No doubt, this is a difficult read for many people, even the religious-minded. Good examples would help us. Saints, for one thing. Also, the benefit of couples long married who can authentically witness to the triumph over difficulties. What do you make of the link between the Paschal Mystery and the Sacrament of Marriage? How often is that preached in preparation events?

317. If a family is centered on Christ, he will unify and illumine its entire life. Moments of pain and difficulty will be experienced in union with the Lord’s cross, and his closeness will make it possible to surmount them. In the darkest hours of a family’s life, union with Jesus in his abandonment can help avoid a breakup. Gradually, “with the grace of the Holy Spirit, [the spouses] grow in holiness through married life, also by sharing in the mystery of Christ’s cross, which transforms difficulties and sufferings into an offering of love”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 87) Moreover, moments of joy, relaxation, celebration, and even sexuality can be experienced as a sharing in the full life of the resurrection. Married couples shape with different daily gestures a “God-enlightened space in which to experience the hidden presence of the risen Lord”.(Vita Consecrata 42)

That last quote is from John Paul II’s 1996 apostolic exhortation. For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 316: Family As Path To Mystical Union

amoris laetitia memeToday, the Holy Father leans on his two predecessors to convey the aspiration for daily and gradual growth in holiness:

316. A positive experience of family communion is a true path to daily sanctification and mystical growth, a means for deeper union with God. The fraternal and communal demands of family life are an incentive to growth in openness of heart and thus to an ever fuller encounter with the Lord. The word of God tells us that “the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness” (1 Jn 2:11); such a person “abides in death” (1 Jn 3:14) and “does not know God” (1 Jn 4:8). My predecessor Benedict XVI pointed out that “closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God”,(Deus Caritas Est 16) and that, in the end, love is the only light which can “constantly illuminate a world grown dim”.(Deus Caritas Est 39) If only we “love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 Jn 4:12). Since “the human person has an inherent social dimension”,(Christifideles Laici 40) and “the first and basic expression of that social dimension of the person is the married couple and the family”,(Ibid.) spirituality becomes incarnate in the communion of the family. Hence, those who have deep spiritual aspirations should not feel that the family detracts from their growth in the life of the Spirit, but rather see it as a path which the Lord is using to lead them to the heights of mystical union.

So frequently in ministry I’ve heard regrets from people who cannot be as involved as they would like to be because of family commitments. Perhaps our spirituality on this front is somewhat impoverished, but I think Pope Francis is right. Caring for family members is a route to holiness. It may not be as obvious as the public acts of worship and what worship leaders do. But it is a holy pilgrimage nonetheless.

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

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Amoris Laetitia 314-315: A Spirituality of Supernatural Communion

amoris laetitia memeLet’s examine the theme “A Spirituality of Supernatural Communion”

314. We have always spoken of how God dwells in the hearts of those living in his grace. Today we can add that the Trinity is present in the temple of marital communion. Just as God dwells in the praises of his people (cf. Ps 22:3), so he dwells deep within the marital love that gives him glory.

The expression of marriage and family responds to how we have been made as biological, social, and spiritual beings. It makes sense that a deep gaze into our relationships with others will reveal something of God there too.

We are not just talking about when human beings manage to be virtuous:

315. The Lord’s presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes. Living in a family makes it hard for us to feign or lie; we cannot hide behind a mask. If that authenticity is inspired by love, then the Lord reigns there, with his joy and his peace. The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures. In that variety of gifts and encounters which deepen communion, God has his dwelling place. This mutual concern “brings together the human and the divine”,(Gaudium et Spes 49) for it is filled with the love of God. In the end, marital spirituality is a spirituality of the bond, in which divine love dwells.

One takeaway for me is that the boundaries between sacred and secular seem less important, especially if we can encounter God dwelling within our most precious relationships. What do you think?

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

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A Film About Friendship

learning_to_drive_posterMy wife and I surfed around the great and mighty Amazon the other night and found an enjoyable film that we thought was surprisingly good. At least compared to the dregs that appear on the listings I see there.

The wiki-listing is here. I found their quote from Rotten Tomatoes interesting:

The story’s a bit predictable, but Learning to Drive is elevated by typically strong work from stars Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley.

And I found that a perky comment. RT is right about the leads. But the Hollywood predictable element might have had two mismatched persons fall in love and get married. But the last bit doesn’t quite happen here, at the risk of spoiling a film you readers might want to see.

I thought the emotional lives of two middle-aged people were very well-written. Ms Clarkson’s character has been abandoned by her husband for a younger woman. Mr Kingsley portrays a Sikh emigre from India who is about to receive a bride from the old country.

The film touches on loneliness, family relationships, racism, class, anger, isolation, fear, and especially friendship. The viewer is drawn pretty deeply into the characters’ lives, so much so that I found myself cringing as I would if I were exposed to real abuse or embarrassment for a friend. Perhaps that makes for a successful effort in cinema.

The filmmaker/screenwriter present the final scene between the two leads with great honesty and sensitivity. I think studios are making movies with more subltlety these days, but I was still surprised at this ending, which left me pleased.

There’s one bedroom scene of casual sex which at first I didn’t think added anything to the overall narrative. But on second thought, it seems to serve to contrast the deeper friendship between Wendy and Darwan. There’s a much deeper intimacy between friends who have lifted up each other in turn out of a situation of being mostly lost. And that, if you can find it among friends, is something very good indeed.

Sirach 6:14-16 comes to mind:

Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price;
no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
and those who fear the Lord will find them.

Learning to Drive is about that.

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