Amoris Laetitia 197: This Larger Family

amoris laetitia memeThe question posed to Jesus echoes for us today: who is my neighbor? What persons will be in my extended Christian and sacramental family?

197. This larger family should provide love and support to teenage mothers, children without parents, single mothers left to raise children, persons with disabilities needing particular affection and closeness, young people struggling with addiction, the unmarried, separated or widowed who are alone, and the elderly and infirm who lack the support of their children. It should also embrace “even those who have made shipwreck of their lives”.(Catechesis (7 October 2015)) This wider family can help make up for the shortcomings of parents, detect and report possible situations in which children suffer violence and even abuse, and provide wholesome love and family stability in cases when parents prove incapable of this.

To be sure, I find the complaint of government control of what could or should be charity to be an empty excuse. Nothing exempts a Christian from extending the love and inclusion of family to those who are specially in need of assistance. Nothing whatsoever. For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 196: A Big Heart

amoris laetitia memeWhat does Pope Francis mean by a big heart? A pastor for whom I once worked often preached on this at weddings. Authentic sacramental love is self-giving, and ever-widening. It extends to friends and neighbors in need, and even to the poor and needy. Such additions to married love inspire others to notice and to remark, “This is good. This is of God.”:

196. In addition to the small circle of the couple and their children, there is the larger family, which cannot be overlooked. Indeed, “the love between husband and wife and, in a derivative and broader way, the love between members of the same family – between parents and children, brothers and sisters and relatives and members of the household – is given life and sustenance by an unceasing inner dynamism leading the family to ever deeper and more intense communion, which is the foundation and soul of the community of marriage and the family”.(Familiaris Consortio  18) Friends and other families are part of this larger family, as well as communities of families who support one another in their difficulties, their social commitments and their faith.

St John Paul refers to a “dynamism” in a family that looks outside of its four walls of home. I would agree. In our world in which so many people are adrift from the nearness of extended family, such associations are especially important. Check Amoris Laetitia online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 195: More On Sisters and Brothers

amoris laetitia memeThis isn’t the first time Pope Francis has discussed the important of siblings:

195. Growing up with brothers and sisters makes for a beautiful experience of caring for and helping one another. For “fraternity in families is especially radiant when we see the care, the patience, the affection that surround the little brother or sister who is frail, sick or disabled”.(Catechesis (18 February 2015))

One of the stories from the foster years of my young miss involves her placement in a home with severely handicapped children. She watched the foster mom clean out another child’s breathing tube and once, while the woman was occupied, noticed some discomfort on the part of her foster sibling, and had begun the procedure herself. I loved hearing that story when it was first related to me.

It must be acknowledged that “having a brother or a sister who loves you is a profound, precious and unique experience”.(Ibid.) Children do need to be patiently taught to treat one another as brothers and sisters. This training, at times quite demanding, is a true school of socialization. In some countries, where it has become quite common to have only one child, the experience of being a brother or sister is less and less common. When it has been possible to have only one child, ways have to be found to ensure that he or she does not grow up alone or isolated.

Yes, this is an issue for our family and our only child. Any experiences of your own that shed light to share?

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

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The High Queen of Late Night

One of the first star patterns I recognized as a young lad was the “W” (or “M,” from another perspective) opposite Ursa Major (The Big Dipper) from the north star’s constellation, Ursa Minor. These days, a northern hemisphere viewer will see this star formation directly overhead in the early evening.

Many of us northern hemisphere stargazers have learned to locate the direction north at night by following the two stars at the end of the Big Dipper and tracing them to Polaris. If one permits one’s gaze to continue about the same distance (and if the skies are not horribly washed out by city lights), one will behold a queen among constellations, Cassiopeia.

cassiopeia_iauIn this International Astronomical Union/Sky & telescope chart, you can see the “W” of the five brightest stars. Also check members of the royal family: the king to the upper right in this view, daughter Andromeda to the south, next to the heroic son-in-law Perseus. If you recall one of the film versions of “Clash of the Titans,” you’ll get something of the gist of this family’s dysfunctional history and conflict with the gods of ancient Greece/Rome.

mary-magdaleneI’ve read of post-Reformation attempts to replace the pagan mythology of the heavens with Judeo-Christian associations. Various efforts to associate the northern “M” with Mary Magdalene (among others) came to nought. The African royal stayed put in astronomers’ minds and books.

A few bits of trivia:

If a human travelers went to Alpha Centauri and looked back toward Earth, they would see our sun crowning Queen Cass, easily the brightest star in the area.

The nearest visible star in the constellation isn’t even part of the “W.” Eta Cassiopeia (look for the Greek letter η near the middle of the formation. How near is near? Only about 120 trillion miles.

Nice picture, eh:

heart_and_soul_nebulaeMeet the Heart Nebula and the Soul Nebula, in infrared light. Image credit. These two are much farther away than Eta Cass, about 45 quadrillion miles.

Once and future supernovae hang with the queen. Astronomers didn’t notice one supergiant star blow about 300 years ago–dust between there and here got in the way. How do we know? Cass A is the brightest (some would say loudest) radio source outside the solar system. Jodie Foster’s character in Contact mentions it. Rho Cassiopeia is a rarity–only twelve yellow supergiants are known among the Milky Way’s hundred billion stars. It will go supernova eventually–if it hasn’t already done so and the light from the explosion has yet to reach Earth.

Lots going on around that humble but high “W” in the northern skies. Keep your eyes open around there, and you might see something amazing someday.

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Amoris Laetitia 194: Siblings

amoris laetitia memeToday, we explore what it means to be brothers and sisters:

194. Relationships between brothers and sisters deepen with the passing of time, and “the bond of fraternity that forms in the family between children, if consolidated by an educational atmosphere of openness to others, is a great school of freedom and peace. In the family, we learn how to live as one. Perhaps we do not always think about this, but the family itself introduces fraternity into the world. From this initial experience of fraternity, nourished by affection and education at home, the style of fraternity radiates like a promise upon the whole of society”.(Catechesis (18 February 2015))

Does this ring true for your experiences, readers, and for your culture? I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about my relationship with brothers and sister as an apprenticeship in how to get along with others in society. What about you?

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

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Newest Swan

swansea city afcThe current longest serving Premier League manager speaking of his newest counterpart:

He’s not a beginner, he has traveled a lot and has accumulated experience in the United States. He has been in Egypt, France (recently) and is now in England, which is a fantastic opportunity for him. It’s also good for the Premier League because the Premier League is taking off in the United States.

To have an American here will create even more interest for the Premier League in the United States. He is equipped to deal with what is asked of him. … What is important is that you’re qualified for the job you do, no matter where you’re from.

I’ll be up for this match tomorrow. Then, weather permitting, off to Liturgy Commission at the parish.

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More Concern on Pope Francis and Proselytizing

One of my good friends from St Blog’s (and an occasional foil) is concerned about remarks by Pope Francis on proselytizing. According to CatholicCulture:

It’s not right to convince someone of your faith. Proselytism is the strongest venom against the path of ecumenism.

I treat the relaying of remarks like this with skepticism. In speaking with German Christians, Catholics and Lutherans, it’s likely the Holy Father had a certain context. I wondered also what he said in the actual language. Rather than an ad-libbed remark as was reported, there was a question from a fifteen-year-old girl (translated):

My friends don’t go to church, but they are my friends. Should I try to encourage them to go to church or is it enough that they remain good friends?

And a reply:

Listen – the last thing you need to do is “to speak.” You should live as a Christian man, as a Christian woman, chosen, forgiven, and on a journey. It is not allowed to convince them of your faith. Proselytism is the strongest poison against the ecumenical path. You should give the testimony of/by your Christian life. The witness stirs the hearts of those who see you. And from this concern, the question arises: why does this man, this woman, live so? And this is to prepare the ground because the Holy Spirit, who is the one who works in the hearts. Do what you must do, but he [the Holy Spirit] has to speak, not you. Grace is a gift, and the Holy Spirit is the gift of God from whom comes grace, and it is a gift that Jesus has saved us with his passion and resurrection. It will be the Holy Spirit to move this heart, with your testimony-because he asks it of you-and there you are able, with much delicacy, to say why. But without wanting to convince.

He did use the Italian verb convincere. As I encounter non-believers and seekers, do I want to convince, or do I want to show? That doesn’t strike me as a problem with indifferentism. And if some Christians or even Catholics possess a faulty definition of “proselytism,” then that isn’t the pope’s problem. The US bishops spoke against it years ago:

At the same time, we Catholics cannot proselytize—that is, manipulate or pressure anyone to join our Church. Such tactics contradict the Good News we announce and undermine the spirit of invitation that should characterize all true evangelization.

Pope Francis is suggesting testimony, not pressure. I see nothing wrong with that. Likewise the action of grace–the reliance on God, and not my golden-mouthed words.

Testimony suggests the person has great faith, and there is no need or urgency to convince someone of a stance. This isn’t out of keeping with the thinking of the Council bishops when they penned Ad Gentes at Vatican II. Testimony as suggested by the pope and bishops doesn’t lack discipline, knowledge, or a certain demand on the disciple. It also requires that trust be removed from our own abilities and placed squarely on the Holy Spirit. We cooperate with the Spirit, to be sure. We use our God-given talents as well as the blessing of supernatural spiritual charisms.

A problem appears, I suppose, if one sees faith and conversion as an act of the mind and will. If a person “decides” to follow Jesus (or the Roman Catholic Church) then that could be a matter of reason. And no doubt, there are many Christians who give witness to qualities such as truth. It seems to undergird much of the apologetics movement in which one is prepared to “argue” in favor of Christ or Catholicism.

Speaking from my own experience, I can’t say that has ever worked.

In sum, to evangelize is something different from the act of proselytizing.

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