Amoris Laetitia 138: Relating To Another

amoris laetitia memeMore advice from Pope Francis, not just applicable to a spouse:

138. Develop the habit of giving real importance to the other person. This means appreciating them and recognizing their right to exist, to think as they do and to be happy. Never downplay what they say or think, even if you need to express your own point of view. Everyone has something to contribute, because they have their life experiences, they look at things from a different standpoint and they have their own concerns, abilities and insights. We ought to be able to acknowledge the other person’s truth, the value of his or her deepest concerns, and what it is that they are trying to communicate, however aggressively. We have to put ourselves in their shoes and try to peer into their hearts, to perceive their deepest concerns and to take them as a point of departure for further dialogue.

“What … they are trying to communicate, however aggressively.” Advice not just for marriages, but for many political realities we encounter.

Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard_of_ClairvauxThe name saint of my graduate school has a feast today. I suspect Trappists around the world today have a little festivity added to their austerity.

In his lifetime, Bernard was something of a wunderkind. Abbot at 25. More effective as an evangelizer for monastic life than Robert Barron and Fulton Sheen put together.

Despite his spiritual anchor being in the cloister, he seemed to be involved in a lot of conflict: addressing heretics and others supporting questionable theology. His Iraq War was the Second Crusade, an utter failure by anyone’s yardstick.

For me, the stronger witness is that of his descendants. My first retreat experiences were here as a college student and then fairly frequent visits while in my twenties. I had a particularly moving retreat in 1989 here. One of my favorite spiritual books is this loving treatment by theologian Michael Downey and photographer Michael Mauney.

Two things, one serious and one not. Centuries before the ice bucket challenge became a popular sensation, according to hagiographers, Bernard once threw himself into icy water to cool off a temptation.

Part of the 12th century Cistercian reforms he initiated involved a renewal of the practice of Lectio Divina. Bernard referred to it as the wine cellar of the Holy Spirit where one is anointed by the Spirit. Which reminds me … time to enjoy some of this cellar for awhile. I can think of no better way to observe a saint’s feast than to sample some of the nourishment they suggest.

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Amoris Laetitia 137: Listening

amoris laetitia memePope Francis elaborates on how to listen:

137. Take time, quality time. This means being ready to listen patiently and attentively to everything the other person wants to say. It requires the self-discipline of not speaking until the time is right. Instead of offering an opinion or advice, we need to be sure that we have heard everything the other person has to say. This means cultivating an interior silence that makes it possible to listen to the other person without mental or emotional distractions. Do not be rushed, put aside all of your own needs and worries, and make space. Often the other spouse does not need a solution to his or her problems, but simply to be heard, to feel that someone has acknowledge their pain, their disappointment, their fear, their anger, their hopes and their dreams. How often we hear complaints like: “He does not listen to me.” “Even when you seem to, you are really doing something else.” “I talk to her and I feel like she can’t wait for me to finish.” “When I speak to her, she tries to change the subject, or she gives me curt responses to end the conversation”.

Do these listed complaints sound familiar? Any comments?

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 136: Dialogue

amoris laetitia memeOne thinks dialogue is easy. And for some couples, that may be true. But for others, probably most, it takes practice:

136. Dialogue is essential for experiencing, expressing and fostering love in marriage and family life. Yet it can only be the fruit of a long and demanding apprenticeship. Men and women, young people and adults, communicate differently. They speak different languages and they act in different ways. Our way of asking and responding to questions, the tone we use, our timing and any number of other factors condition how well we communicate. We need to develop certain attitudes that express love and encourage authentic dialogue.

Dialogue is a centerpiece of the Marriage Encounter movement and its retreats and couple practices. These are some of the questions that couples consider. The method is pretty simple: we write down our answers, then share with our spouse. Then listening comes from there.

Pope Francis is not just talking about ME dialogue, but a broad approach. And listening is still key. But communication is probably the first weak spot wives and husbands encounter in one another. After twenty years of marriage, I know it still trips me up.

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Rabbis on Christianity

One of my facebook friends posted this news on a statement from Orthodox Jewish rabbis on Christianity. Catholicism got a special shout-out:

We recognize that since the Second Vatican Council the official teachings of the Catholic Church about Judaism have changed fundamentally and irrevocably. The promulgation of Nostra Aetate fifty years ago started the process of reconciliation between our two communities. Nostra Aetate and the later official Church documents it inspired unequivocally reject any form of anti-Semitism, affirm the eternal Covenant between G-d and the Jewish people, reject deicide and stress the unique relationship between Christians and Jews, who were called “our elder brothers” by Pope John Paul II and “our fathers in faith” by Pope Benedict XVI. On this basis, Catholics and other Christian officials started an honest dialogue with Jews that has grown during the last five decades. We appreciate the Church’s affirmation of Israel’s unique place in sacred history and the ultimate world redemption. Today Jews have experienced sincere love and respect from many Christians that have been expressed in many dialogue initiatives, meetings and conferences around the world.

As I reflected on this document yesterday, it struck me how fruitful is the extension of the hand of friendship. And how hopeful we can be about the future, as the rabbis suggest in their final words:

In imitating G-d, Jews and Christians must offer models of service, unconditional love and holiness. We are all created in G-d’s Holy Image, and Jews and Christians will remain dedicated to the Covenant by playing an active role together in redeeming the world.


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Amoris Laetitia 135: Love Is Never A Finished Product

amoris laetitia memeThe bishops of Chile criticize what they see as consumerism. I think their assessment is spot on:

135. It is not helpful to dream of an idyllic and perfect love needing no stimulus to grow. A celestial notion of earthly love forgets that the best is yet to come, that fine wine matures with age. As the Bishops of Chile have pointed out, “the perfect families proposed by deceptive consumerist propaganda do not exist. In those families, no one grows old, there is no sickness, sorrow or death… Consumerist propaganda presents a fantasy that has nothing to do with the reality which must daily be faced by the heads of families”.(Chilean Bishops’ Conference, La vida y la familia: regalos de Dios para cada uno de nosotros (21 July 2014).) It is much healthier to be realistic about our limits, defects and imperfections, and to respond to the call to grow together, to bring love to maturity and to strengthen the union, come what may.

Romantic love gets the bad rap/rep. It seems to me that romance and initial attraction (infatuation, if you will) is how human beings use their socialization and their physical being (how we were made, if you will) to initiate a deeper relationship. Chemistry is nothing to be ashamed of–as long as we realize it is but a first step. Not the only step.

Pope Francis counsels we be realistic. Our beloved is a companion in growth (in pilgrimage, if you will). Joining with a spouse to make a sacred quest and journey seems quite romantic to me.

Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 134: Constant Growth

amoris laetitia memeIn Church circles, one sometimes hears phrases like “lifelong catechesis” or “continuing conversion” The implication is that we are never a finished product. In marriage, this is also likely to apply.

Pope Francis calls on Thomas Aquinas to present the notion in a very positive way:

134. All this occurs through a process of constant growth. The very special form of love that is marriage is called to embody what Saint Thomas Aquinas said about charity in general. “Charity”, he says, “by its very nature, has no limit to its increase, for it is a participation in that infinite charity which is the Holy Spirit… Nor on the part of the subject can its limit be fixed, because as charity grows, so too does its capacity for an even greater increase”.(Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 24, art. 7) Saint Paul also prays: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another” (1 Th 3:12), and again, “concerning fraternal love… we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more” (1 Th 4:9-10). More and more! Marital love is not defended primarily by presenting indissolubility as a duty, or by repeating doctrine, but by helping it to grow ever stronger under the impulse of grace. A love that fails to grow is at risk. Growth can only occur if we respond to God’s grace through constant acts of love, acts of kindness that become ever more frequent, intense, generous, tender and cheerful. Husbands and wives “become conscious of their unity and experience it more deeply from day to day”.(Gaudium et Spes, 48) The gift of God’s love poured out upon the spouses is also a summons to constant growth in grace.

Too often our culture of reason (which, sadly, infects the Church more deeply than some realize) thinks of love and relationships as a zero-sum affair. The more I give, the less I have. If I gave everything to my marriage, there would be nothing left of me. This presumes enough of a maturity to be able to give without expectation of return and without an intentional erasure of ourselves. What do you think?

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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