Amoris Laetitia 102: Thomas Aquinas and Generosity

amoris laetitia memeThomas Aquinas launches this paragraph into three citations of Jesus that describe the extravagance of a generous love:

102. Saint Thomas Aquinas explains that “it is more proper to charity to desire to love than to desire to be loved”;(Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 27, art. 1, ad 2) indeed, “mothers, who are those who love the most, seek to love more than to be loved”.(Ibid., q. 27, art. 1)Consequently, love can transcend and overflow the demands of justice, “expecting nothing in return” (Lk 6:35), and the greatest of loves can lead to “laying down one’s life” for another (cf. Jn 15:13). Can such generosity, which enables us to give freely and fully, really be possible? Yes, because it is demanded by the Gospel: “You received without pay, give without pay” (Mt 10:8).

Demanded by the Gospel, it may be, but we are still human beings troubled by some aspects of this, especially when it touches on our own sense of fair play. For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 101: Love Is Generous

amoris laetitia memeSaint Paul says love is generous. The “same idea” cited in this passage is a prelude to the Kensosis Canticle of Philippians 2:6-11. If you want a sidebar, check Saint John Paul’s catechesis on it here. Then come back and read:

101. We have repeatedly said that to love another we must first love ourselves. Paul’s hymn to love, however, states that love “does not seek its own interest”, nor “seek what is its own”. This same idea is expressed in another text: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). The Bible makes it clear that generously serving others is far more noble than loving ourselves. Loving ourselves is only important as a psychological prerequisite for being able to love others: “If a man is mean to himself, to whom will he be generous? No one is meaner than the man who is grudging to himself” (Sir 14:5-6).

Agree?

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

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Amoris Laetitia 100: A Kind Look

amoris laetitia memeJesuits get a rep for being intellectual, but the truth is that the Ignatian tradition is quite balanced, including this plea for a gentle gaze, a “kind look,” as the Holy Father puts it:

100. To be open to a genuine encounter with others, “a kind look” is essential. This is incompatible with a negative attitude that readily points out other people’s shortcomings while overlooking one’s own. A kind look helps us to see beyond our own limitations, to be patient and to cooperate with others, despite our differences.

Loving-kindness, that term “hesed” from the Old Testament; how God looks at us:

Loving kindness builds bonds, cultivates relationships, creates new networks of integration and knits a firm social fabric. In this way, it grows ever stronger, for without a sense of belonging we cannot sustain a commitment to others; we end up seeking our convenience alone and life in common becomes impossible. Antisocial persons think that others exist only for the satisfaction of their own needs. Consequently, there is no room for the gentleness of love and its expression. Those who love are capable of speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation, and encouragement. These were the words that Jesus himself spoke: “Take heart, my son!” (Mt 9:2); “Great is your faith!” (Mt 15:28); “Arise!” (Mk 5:41); “Go in peace” (Lk 7:50); “Be not afraid” (Mt 14:27). These are not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn. In our families, we must learn to imitate Jesus’ own gentleness in our way of speaking to one another.

Spouses speaking to one another: that is the first mastery we are called to emulate. If we don’t get it, heaven help our children. Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 99: Love Is Not Rude

amoris laetitia memePope Francis refers to a “school of sensitivity.”

99. To love is also to be gentle and thoughtful, and this is conveyed by the next word, aschemonéi. It indicates that love is not rude or impolite; it is not harsh. Its actions, words and gestures are pleasing and not abrasive or rigid. Love abhors making others suffer. Courtesy “is a school of sensitivity and disinterestedness” which requires a person “to develop his or her mind and feelings, learning how to listen, to speak and, at certain times, to keep quiet”.(Octavio Paz, La Llama Doble, Barcelona, 1993, 35)

The angelic doctor would affirm:

It is not something that a Christian may accept or reject. As an essential requirement of love, “every human being is bound to live agreeably with those around him”.(Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 114, art. 2, ad 1) Every day, “entering into the life of another, even when that person already has a part to play in our life, demands the sensitivity and restraint which can renew trust and respect. Indeed, the deeper love is, the more it calls for respect for the other’s freedom and the ability to wait until the other opens the door to his or her heart”.(Catechesis (13 May 2005): L’Osservatore Romano, 14 May 2015, p. 8)

The difficulty is discernment. We are not always patient, and restraint may well dredge up questions. When is the time to pull back, especially when the urge is often to jump in and change things.

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Culture of Complaint Surfaces

Anonymity is the best policy. Edward Pentin at NCReg:

Such is the climate in much of today’s Church, one of the appeal’s chief organizers told the Register that most of the signatories prefer to remain publicly anonymous because they “fear reprisals, or they are concerned about repercussions on their religious community, or if they have an academic career and a family, they fear they might lose their jobs.”

I seem to remember a significant number of reprisals in the past two papacies. I also remember a number of very public stances with very public persons attaching their names.

The thing about this anonymous appeal: we have no idea who is behind it. Catholic scholars could be university professors, grad students, or even bloggers who have read the Catechism.

“Concerned” Catholics often get things wrong. The definition of a troll for example, which now means somebody who brings me bad news I don’t want to hear.

As for complaining, it is often a cottage industry in many Catholic parishes. Good pastors know that anonymous mail is best left as company for empty styrofoam cups, candy wrappers, and outdated software.

There is a way to give complaints, and a way to address them. Healthy communities don’t lack them. The difference between a holy Church and a dysfunctional one is the degree of openness conflict is handled and resolved.

Personally, I see no problem with people who state their difficulties with Amoris Laetitia. I would hope to seem them here. Certainly, they are welcome to discuss on this site, preferably with real names. Honesty is nearly always a superior policy, especially in the long-term. By no means should a person lose a job over something as minor as misinterpreting a Church document.

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Amoris Laetitia 98: Avoiding Arrogance

amoris laetitia memePope Francis seems to have a handle on our Catholic misbehavior:

98. It is important for Christians to show their love by the way they treat family members who are less knowledgeable about the faith, weak or less sure in their convictions. At times the opposite occurs: the supposedly mature believers within the family become unbearably arrogant.

From there, it can devolve into a personal perspective of suffering. Seriously, I think we lose the witness, “But I am a sinner.” And we lose the ability to be patient and with God, play the long game.

Love, on the other hand, is marked by humility; if we are to understand, forgive and serve others from the heart, our pride has to be healed and our humility must increase. Jesus told his disciples that in a world where power prevails, each tries to dominate the other, but “it shall not be so among you” (Mt 20:26).

I confess. This includes me.

The inner logic of Christian love is not about importance and power; rather, “whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (Mt 20:27). In family life, the logic of domination and competition about who is the most intelligent or powerful destroys love. Saint Peter’s admonition also applies to the family: “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another, for ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pet 5:5).

In our families, this is admittedly difficult. Loved ones see us when we are vulnerable. Sometimes we have a hard time admitting they love us in spite of this.

Comments? Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Clarification, and Reform2 Too

Some clarification from the Vatican on Cardinal Sarah. Translation from the Italian is here. From the press release:

There are not, therefore, any new liturgical directives beginning next Advent as some have wrongly inferred from the words of Cardinal Sarah, and it is best to avoid using the expression “reform of the reform”, referring to the liturgy, as sometimes it has been a source of misunderstanding. This was the agreed view expressed during a recent audience granted by the Pope to the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship.

A few things on this …

First, I think the meaning of the term hasn’t been that much of a misunderstanding. I think the term is wrong-headed in that it removes “reformability” from the liturgy as a whole and into an aspect of liturgy that is deemed changeable. It’s also a flag on a hill, part of a worldview that sets elements of the Church in opposition to one another.

Mainly, I think this is less an opportunity to gloat. Perhaps the more gullible among us can exhale in relief. I didn’t think a conference speaker making a suggestion to a sympathetic audience elevated this recommendation beyond the four walls of the room in which it was given. The celebration of this point of view was premature. Let it be.

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