Amoris Laetitia 241: After Breakdown and Divorce

amoris laetitia memeBeginning with this paragraph, we look with Pope Francis at accompaniment after breakdown and divorce. Two positions are in balance here. When does the end of a marriage become a last resort and the only alternative to abuse?

241. In some cases, respect for one’s own dignity and the good of the children requires not giving in to excessive demands or preventing a grave injustice, violence or chronic ill-treatment. In such cases, “separation becomes inevitable. At times it even becomes morally necessary, precisely when it is a matter of removing the more vulnerable spouse or young children from serious injury due to abuse and violence, from humiliation and exploitation, and from disregard and indifference”.(Catechesis (24 June 2015)) Even so, “separation must be considered as a last resort, after all other reasonable attempts at reconciliation have proved vain”.(Familiaris Consortio 83)

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

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Misericordia et Misera 7: Celebrate, Know, and Spread the Word

john-8Here is a link for the full document, Misericordia et Misera. Pope Francis explored in section 6 the preaching of the Word of God at Mass and in sacramental liturgies. The theme continues here, emphasizing the place of mercy in both the Old and New Testament.

7. The Bible is the great story of the marvels of God’s mercy. Every one of its pages is steeped in the love of the Father who from the moment of creation wished to impress the signs of his love on the universe. Through the words of the prophets and the wisdom writings, the Holy Spirit shaped the history of Israel as a recognition of God’s closeness and love, despite the people’s infidelity. Jesus’ life and preaching decisively marked the history of the Christian community, which has viewed its mission in terms of Christ’s command to be a permanent instrument of his mercy and forgiveness (cf. Jn 20:23). Through Sacred Scripture, kept alive by the faith of the Church, the Lord continues to speak to his Bride, showing her the path she must take to enable the Gospel of salvation to reach all (humankind). I greatly desire that God’s word be increasingly celebrated, known and disseminated, so that the mystery of love streaming from this font of mercy may be ever better understood. As the Apostle tells us clearly: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).

Let’s umpack that desire to “celebrate, know, and disseminate.” Celebration happens at Mass, but also in gatherings perhaps less of a catechetical nature and more in a sense of encounter. A service of the Word, in other words.

Knowledge of and about the Word we do better in some instances, perhaps. Since Vatican II there has been undeniable interest in bible study among Catholics. Even among traditional Catholics I’ve known and encountered online, there is a far deeper willingness to engage the Bible for prayer as well as study.

This second paragraph in section 7 struck me:

It would be beneficial if every Christian community, on one Sunday of the liturgical year, could renew its efforts to make the Sacred Scriptures better known and more widely diffused. It would be a Sunday given over entirely to the word of God, so as to appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people. Creative initiatives can help make this an opportunity for the faithful to become living vessels for the transmission of God’s word. Initiatives of this sort would certainly include the practice of lectio divina, so that the prayerful reading of the sacred text will help support and strengthen the spiritual life. Such a reading, centered on themes relating to mercy, will enable a personal experience of the great fruitfulness of the biblical text – read in the light of the Church’s spiritual tradition – and thus give rise to concrete gestures and works of charity.[Cf. Verbum Domini 86-87]

One creative initiative developed in my own parish are nights set aside for a “mercy event.” We had originally designed these to be part of the community’s observance of the Jubilee, but because of popular demand, have decided to continue them indefinitely every few months.

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Amoris Laetitia 240: The Need For Healing

amoris laetitia memeMore on old wounds:

240. Many people leave childhood without ever having felt unconditional love.

Some have never really left childhood.

This affects their ability to be trusting and open with others. A poor relationship with one’s parents and siblings, if left unhealed, can re-emerge and hurt a marriage. Unresolved issues need to be dealt with and a process of liberation must take place. When problems emerge in a marriage, before important decisions are made it is important to ensure that each spouse has come to grips with his or her own history.

A certain persistence is suggested. along the lines of Luke 11:

This involves recognizing a need for healing, insistent prayer for the grace to forgive and be forgiven, a willingness to accept help, and the determination not to give up but to keep trying. A sincere self-examination will make it possible to see how one’s own shortcomings and immaturity affect the relationship. Even if it seems clear that the other person is at fault, a crisis will never be overcome simply by expecting him or her to change. We also have to ask what in our own life needs to grow or heal if the conflict is to be resolved.

This brings to mind a frequent discussion the Lord has with a person about to be healed. His question, “What do you want me to do for you?” is significant. Some people choose not to be healed. For too many, pain and resentment are such familiar companions that any alternative strikes us with fear or a lack of surety.

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

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Misericordia et Misera 6: Encountering the Word

john-8Follow this link for the full document, Misericordia et Misera. In the sixth section of his apostolic letter, Pope Francis cites two Vatican II documents in writing of the importance of the Word of God. For you liturgy geeks, Sunday’s important:

6. In this context, hearing the word of God takes on particular significance. Each Sunday, God’s word is proclaimed in the Christian community so that the Lord’s Day may be illuminated by the paschal mystery.[Sacrosanctum Concilium, 106] In the Eucharistic celebration, we seem to witness a true dialogue between God and his people. In the biblical readings, we retrace the history of our salvation through the proclamation of God’s tireless work of mercy. The Lord continues to speak to us today as to friends; he dwells in our midst,[Dei Verbum 2] in order to accompany us and show us the path of life. His word gives a voice to our inmost needs and worries, and offers a fruitful response, so that we can concretely experience his closeness to us.

This last sentence above is essential. Assisting people to find the human impulse in the Scriptures is essential. It’s not so much about a sense of “relevance.” It’s more our belief that Christ’s voice speaks in the Scriptures. He became a human being to associate with the human condition and experience all that we experience. Therefore, we should be able to find him and ourselves in the closeness of the Word.

Advice for the preacher:

Hence the importance of the homily, in which “truth goes hand in hand with beauty and goodness”[Evangelii Gaudium 142] so that the hearts of believers may thrill before the grandeur of mercy! I strongly encourage that great care be given to preparing the homily and to preaching in general. A priest’s preaching will be fruitful to the extent that he himself has experienced the merciful goodness of the Lord. Communicating the certainty that God loves us is not an exercise in rhetoric, but a condition for the credibility of one’s priesthood. The personal experience of mercy is the best way to make it a true message of consolation and conversion in the pastoral ministry. Both homiletics and catechesis need to be sustained by this pulsing heart of the Christian life.

So … how do we rate? Your preachers and catechists, certainly. As music directors, do we hold ourselves accountable in the same way?

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Amoris Laetitia 239: Old Wounds

amoris laetitia memeToday and tomorrow we’ll look at the topic of emotional damage that hasn’t really healed, only inspired avoidance. With so much emphasis these days on emotional healing, it is surprising that so many people are still stuck in old habits and hurts.

239. Understandably, families often experience problems when one of their members is emotionally immature because he or she still bears the scars of earlier experiences. An unhappy childhood or adolescence can breed personal crises that affect one’s marriage. Were everyone mature and normal, crises would be less frequent or less painful. Yet the fact is that only in their forties do some people achieve a maturity that should have come at the end of adolescence. Some love with the selfish, capricious and self-centered love of a child: an insatiable love that screams or cries when it fails to get what it wants. Others love with an adolescent love marked by hostility, bitter criticism and the need to blame others; caught up in their own emotions and fantasies, such persons expect others to fill their emptiness and to satisfy their every desire.

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

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These Days in the Culture of Complaint

town-crierIn an eight-year-old thread, a new visitor, David Meyer, left a comment addressed to a one-time visitor here from long ago. Comboxes on blogs are public spaces. Like an old town square. If one is sure somebody lives within earshot, one could issue a message in a loud voice and likely be heard by many people, possibly even the target of one’s communication. If said target came and left eight years ago, I’d suppose the chances of the intended recipient hearing the message are near nil.

(M)y point was to leave a comment that others doing a similar search might find, and they could see something reasonable, rather than the pandering from you and others here.

I think I get this. A traveler arrives in a new town, searching for a person 104 months removed. He dislikes that the local innkeep gave him a room, and the local barkeep gave him a drink. It was bad that others withheld criticism of his minstrelsy. So the village mayor is found objectionable. And the hope is that others who hang around the community will find the newcomer “reasonable.”

Do I have it right?

From Mr Meyer:

I really don’t get your bizarre insistence on this. No, my children will not likely be exposed to his music, other than the occasional funeral or wedding. And when they are on occasion, they are embarrassed to hear it in a mass, as all non-brainwashed people are embarrassed of it. So yes, there is something small I can do to change things. 6 children is small but its the best I can do.

I think it is laudable to wish the best for one’s children. People play Mozart while the child is in the womb. They invest in the best schools, food, and often, store the tv set in the closet, if one is in the house at all.

For a relativist you sure believe what you are saying is absolute. Sheesh. Ironic really.

I’m not sure what relativity has to do with the topic. Even a re-definition of the word to mean “a way of conversing with me that I don’t like.” I suggested that the offered comment was objectively insulting. Mr Meyer doesn’t see it that way. I suggested there is no way for a modern Catholic to avoid music composed by Marty Haugen. For most people at weddings and funerals, they shrug and move along–the focus is on the couple or deceased and their attendant families and friends. Not many people make a point of protesting on such occasions. I can imagine a conversation in the Meyer pew at Aunt Susie’s wedding …

“Kids, do you hear that music? It is puerile campfire crap composed by a hippie.”

“What’s a hippie?”

“Shh; I want to see the dress.”

I characterize such efforts as part of a general “culture of complaint.” Cardinals complain about the pope. A New York Times columnist complains said red hats don’t get the time of day from the pope. Supporters of Mr Trump complain their vanquished foe won’t be jailed. Supporters of the election’s loser complain about a two-hundred-year old idea that balances out power between large political entities like Texas and Florida, and small ones like Rhode Island and a federal district. The winner fusses that he really won after all because a few million people cheated.

It’s all part of a narrative in which a modern person can have what she or he wants when she or he wants it the way she or he wants it. Frankly, it doesn’t strike me as all that Christian, religious, spiritual, or even mature. Tantrum-ish, I would say.

To be sure, complaints aren’t just for two-year-olds. They often serve a useful purpose to right wrongs, address grievances, and express a positive self-esteem in the face of persecution.

On the other hand, there is a great virtue spoken of by saints. Prudence. It suggests that just because something can be said doesn’t mean it should be uttered. The believer who aspires to the spiritual life might also practice an interior serenity: things I cannot change might concern me less or not at all. There is something in the wisdom of knowing how to discern the difference in one’s life.

People are free here to comment. Even when the Google sends them my way. Marty Haugen is long gone. I am sure that a diligent search of the internet will uncover a means of communicating with him directly, even if it means traveling some distance and holding up a placard outside of one of his engagements. It might even teach some children a lesson. But I would be cautious about a possible difference between the intended learning and the actual catechesis rendered.

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Misericordia et Misera 5: Mercy in the Liturgy

john-8We continue with Pope Francis’s apostolic letter. Follow this link for the full document, Misericordia et Misera. We begin with an appeal to continue the “new evangelization.”

5. Now, at the conclusion of this Jubilee, it is time to look to the future and to understand how best to continue, with joy, fidelity and enthusiasm, experiencing the richness of God’s mercy. Our communities can remain alive and active in the work of the new evangelization in the measure that the “pastoral conversion” to which we are called [Evangelii Gaudium 27] will be shaped daily by the renewing force of mercy. Let us not limit its action; let us not sadden the Spirit, who constantly points out new paths to take in bringing to everyone the Gospel of salvation.

The occasional complaint about singing that “new” church doesn’t get much traction when it comes to a “new” evangelization, which isn’t all that new. The newness of either Church or evangelization is the utilization of new ways to achieve an old goal.

Note the Holy Father mentioning the emphasis on “celebration.” When I read that word, I think: liturgy. If we need any convincing, consider the multiple and constant references to mercy in the Mass:

First, we are called to celebrate mercy. What great richness is present in the Church’s prayer when she invokes God as the Father of mercies! In the liturgy, mercy is not only repeatedly implored, but is truly received and experienced. From the beginning to the end of the Eucharistic celebration, mercy constantly appears in the dialogue between the assembly at prayer and the heart of the Father, who rejoices to bestow his merciful love. After first pleading for forgiveness with the invocation “Lord have mercy”, we are immediately reassured: “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and lead us to everlasting life”. With this confidence, the community gathers in the presence of the Lord, particularly on the holy day of the resurrection. Many of the “Collect” prayers are meant to remind us of the great gift of mercy. In Lent, for example, we pray: “O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness, who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving have shown us a remedy for sin, look graciously on this confession of our lowliness, that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy”.[Roman Missal, Opening Prayer for the Third Sunday of Lent] We are immersed in the great Eucharistic Prayer with the Preface that proclaims: “You so loved the world that in your mercy you sent us the Redeemer, to live like us in all things but sin”.[Ibid., Preface for Sundays in Ordinary Time VII] The Fourth Eucharistic Prayer is a hymn to God’s mercy: “For you came in mercy to the aid of all, so that those who seek might find you”. “Have mercy on us all”[Ibid., Eucharistic Prayer II] is the insistent plea made by the priest in the Eucharistic Prayer to implore a share in eternal life. After the Our Father, the priest continues by invoking peace and liberation from sin by the “aid of your mercy”. And before the sign of peace, exchanged as an expression of fraternity and mutual love in the light of forgiveness received, the priest prays: “Look not upon on our sins but on the faith of your Church”.[Ibid., Communion Rite] In these words, with humble trust we beseech the gift of unity and peace for Holy Mother Church. The celebration of divine mercy culminates in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the memorial of Christ’s paschal mystery, the source of salvation for every human being, for history and for the whole world. In a word, each moment of the Eucharistic celebration refers to God’s mercy.

Not just the Eucharist, but Penance and Anointing:

In the sacramental life, mercy is granted us in abundance. It is not without significance that the Church mentions mercy explicitly in the formulae of the two “sacraments of healing”, namely, the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. In the first, the formula of absolution reads: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace”.[Rite of Penance 46] In the second, the formula of anointing reads: “Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit”.[Sacrament of Anointing and Pastoral Care of the Sick 76]

When I first read this, I was skeptical of the notion of “perform.” but I see where Pope Francis is going with this:

In the Church’s prayer, then, references to mercy, far from being merely exhortative, are highly performative, which is to say that as we invoke mercy with faith, it is granted to us, and as we confess it to be vital and real, it transforms us. This is a fundamental element of our faith, and we must keep it constantly in mind. Even before the revelation of sin, there is the revelation of the love by which God created the world and human beings. Love is the first act whereby God reveals himself and turns towards us. So let us open our hearts and trust in God’s love for us. His love always precedes us, accompanies us and remains with us, despite our sin.

Using liturgy as a springboard into its disciplines, I wonder about the application of mercy to two aspects: music and preaching. Do the texts of what we sing express as fully as they can the elements of mercy and God’s love as explored here? Likewise our preaching: is the message of mercy presented often enough? What goes on in your faith community?

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