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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Amoris Laetitia 75: Who Ministers, Who Supports

amoris laetitia memeMore reviewing of Church teaching. Something of a view distinct from that of Eastern Christianity, that the wife and husband are the ministers of the sacrament:

75. In the Church’s Latin tradition, the ministers of the sacrament of marriage are the man and the woman who marry;(Cf. Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis Christi 202: “Matrimonio enim quo coniuges sibi invicem sunt ministri gratiae …”) by manifesting their consent and expressing it physically, they receive a great gift.

It’s not something pelagian. How Pope Francis describes it is traditional: two persons make a choice and in cooperating with the Lord they are open to grace.

Their consent and their bodily union are the divinely appointed means whereby they become “one flesh”.

What sacrament enables and supports this? Baptism:

By their baptismal consecration, they were enabled to join in marriage as the Lord’s ministers and thus to respond to God’s call.

Baptism “activates” the sacramentality of a non-Christian marriage:

Hence, when two non-Christian spouses receive baptism, they need not renew their marriage vows; they need simply not reject them, since by the reception of baptism their union automatically becomes sacramental.

The witness of the ordained is not always necessary:

Canon Law also recognizes the validity of certain unions celebrated without the presence of an ordained minister.(Cf. Code of Canon Law, cc. 1116; 1161-1165; Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, 832; 848-852.) The natural order has been so imbued with the redemptive grace of Jesus that “a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament”.(Code of Canon Law 1055 §2)

Church requirements do not detract from the primary ministers of the sacrament:

The Church can require that the wedding be celebrated publicly, with the presence of witnesses and other conditions that have varied over the course of time, but this does not detract from the fact that the couple who marry are the ministers of the sacrament. Nor does it affect the centrality of the consent given by the man and the woman, which of itself establishes the sacramental bond.

Perhaps Roman Catholics lack some awareness of the role of God in the marriage liturgy:

This having been said, there is a need for further reflection on God’s action in the marriage rite; this is clearly manifested in the Oriental Churches through the importance of the blessing that the couple receive as a sign of the gift of the Spirit.

This is not a novel thought from Pope Francis. Overlooking the role of the Holy Spirit is not an exclusive error in our views on marriage.

Lots of churchy talk. Any comments?

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

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Guns and Poses

1280px-Modern_Hunting_RifleOn retreat last week, I did hear a bit about Orlando. The monastic community prayed. We got a brief homily that touched on it, too. In looking at the gospel reading from last Monday, the preacher also mentioned that if an objecting pastry chef is asked to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding, perhaps two could be given. That had never occurred to me, but maybe it’s a bit too deeply theological for the run-of-the-mill Christian frowning at rainbows. Or needing to raise funding for the culturewar.

Getting back into the real world unfortunately means a return to various discussions of politics. I always find Rand Richards Cooper’s commentary apt, and his writing is even better. Like here on guns. I had no heart to read through 140-plus comments though.

I think Mr Cooper’s questions are well-given. But to be honest, I have no desire to ask them of anyone on the side of Amendment Two. It’s like talking to many of our political pro-lifers and pro-choice folks. The issue seems more about respective Maginot lines and fundraising. And feel-good chumming with the pack flock swarm peeps.

For me, it’s time to stop writing anything about guns. Like I did much anyway. The whole discussion is just cray-cray. It might even be counter-productive. Last time the president spoke out against a massacre, a bit of my facebook feed was insisting the Prez is taking away their guns so the natural order of things is to go out and buy a few more. I’m sure arms dealers love the activists collectors.

I think it may be time for advocates of background checks and whatnot to just remain silent for the next mass murder(s). Let the gun people have the stage. Let them ask their own questions, provide answers with a smile and keep their narrative running. The rest of us can pray, light candles, and build community. I for one have no interest in any public opposition to massive gun ownership. And pacifism can be well-cultivated in the hearts and lives of one’s own circle. Or especially self.

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Amoris Laetitia 74: Physical Union

amoris laetitia memeLet’s talk about sex … with Pope Leo the Great:

74. Sexual union, lovingly experienced and sanctified by the sacrament, is in turn a path of growth in the life of grace for the couple. It is the “nuptial mystery”.*

Consent is essential here. The presumption is that consent has taken place unless there is evidence otherwise.

The meaning and value of their physical union is expressed in the words of consent, in which they accepted and offered themselves each to the other, in order to share their lives completely. Those words give meaning to the sexual relationship and free it from ambiguity.

Moving forward from sex and consent, note the importance given by the Holy Father to sacramental grace. In other words, God’s power provides when ours falters, and expands our hearts when our own vision is limited:

More generally, the common life of husband and wife, the entire network of relations that they build with their children and the world around them, will be steeped in and strengthened by the grace of the sacrament. For the sacrament of marriage flows from the incarnation and the paschal mystery, whereby God showed the fullness of his love for humanity by becoming one with us. Neither of the spouses will be alone in facing whatever challenges may come their way. Both are called to respond to God’s gift with commitment, creativity, perseverance and daily effort. They can always invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit who consecrated their union, so that his grace may be felt in every new situation that they encounter.

*Leo The Great, Epistula Rustico Narbonensi Episcopo, Inquis. IV: PL 54, 1205A; cf. hincmar of rheims, Epist. 22: PL 126, 142.

What do you make of the mention of creativity here? That quality gets a bad rap–unjustified–from many conservative Catholics. The older I get, the more essential I find that element. And not just because my wife and I are musicians.

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

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The Armchair Liturgist: Slowing Prayers

The Benedictine monks at St Martin’s Abbey have a careful pace to the psalms and certain texts, like the Lord’s Prayer. I was caught a few times, but even in a smallish community of twenty-something, it’s easy to get back to the pace.

I did note that at Mass, the Eucharistic Prayers went at the pace I usually hear in my parish. Readings, too. Certainly not too fast. But notably more rapid than the communal parts. If I were a monk in that community, I might make a suggestion to the abbot or somebody.

I remembered a priest who did occasional service at my Kansas City parish those years ago. His big thing was getting people to slow down. It never worked. The Lord’s Prayer was his pet peeve. But his attempts to slow the pace of the words Jesus taught us seemed more like a distraction than a mindfulness. I appreciated the notion, but I wasn’t sure his target was the best. His efforts were largely fruitless.

Sit in the purple chair and draw on your vast experience in worship. Would you strive to get people in the pews to slow down their recitations? If so, how? Are clergy exempt from this effort? Lectors? Musicians?

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Amoris Laetitia 73: Mutual Self-Giving

amoris laetitia memeHere, a paragraph full of citations, starting with the first synod document where the bishops cite baptism as a foundational touchstone for the promises of the sacrament of marriage:

73. “Mutual self-giving in the sacrament of matrimony is grounded in the grace of baptism, which establishes the foundational covenant of every person with Christ in the Church. In accepting each other, and with Christ’s grace, the engaged couple promise each other total self- giving, faithfulness and openness to new life. The couple recognizes these elements as constitutive of marriage, gifts offered to them by God, and take seriously their mutual commitment, in God’s name and in the presence of the Church. Faith thus makes it possible for them to assume the goods of marriage as commitments that can be better kept through the help of the grace of the sacrament… Consequently, the Church looks to married couples as the heart of the entire family, which, in turn, looks to Jesus”.(Relatio Synodi 2014, 21)

Marriage is certainly a challenge. Sacramental grace is always appreciated. Christ’s role in the marriage is cited, from the Catechism:

The sacrament is not a “thing” or a “power”, for in it Christ himself “now encounters Christian spouses… He dwells with them, gives them the strength to take up their crosses and so follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens”.(CCC 1642)

Not a surprise for a Jesuit, the connection to the cross:

Christian marriage is a sign of how much Christ loved his Church in the covenant sealed on the cross, yet it also makes that love present in the communion of the spouses. By becoming one flesh, they embody the espousal of our human nature by the Son of God. That is why “in the joys of their love and family life, he gives them here on earth a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb”.(Catechism 1642)

The analogy is often cited, but the Holy Father concedes the parallel is not exact:

Even though the analogy between the human couple of husband and wife, and that of Christ and his Church, is “imperfect”,(Catechesis (6 May 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 7 May 2015, p. 8) it inspires us to beg the Lord to bestow on every married couple an outpouring of his divine love.

Comments? Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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