Amoris Laetitia 17: Family Responsibilities

amoris laetitia memeRemember that Amoris Laetitia is online in pdf format here. If one paragraph a day is too slow a pace for your personal curiosity, go there to read in full.

Today, a short reminder about not rights, but responsibility:

17. Parents have a serious responsibility for this work of education, as the Biblical sages often remind us (cf. Prov 3:11-12; 6:20-22; 13:1; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:17). Children, for their part, are called to accept and practice the commandment: “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). Here the verb “to honor” has to do with the fulfilment of family and social commitments; these are not to be disregarded under the pretense of religious motives (cf. Mk 7:11-13). “Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure” (Sir 3:3-4).

Pope Francis frames the family as a community with mutual responsibilities. Do parents have a “right” to be obeyed? Some children are more capable of this than others. Do children have a “right” to good formation? Some parents have good intentions and yet they seem to provide less well than others. It doesn’t seem fair, but it is a reality of being human. We are not perfect.

The wisdom in this brief passage is the Holy Father’s focus on what a person can do for her or his family members. Instead of focusing on what is “owed,” the believer concentrates on personal commitments. This seems to make things simple and manageable.

Speaking for myself, I concentrate on providing for my wife and daughter, on loving them, on making their life easy, on giving them honor and respect. If they were totally inattentive to that, my responsibility would not change.

Any readers have their observations about this passage?

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Amoris Laetitia 16: Raising Children

amoris laetitia memeI don’t know how the rearing of children adjusted to the move from house churches to the basilicas of late antiquity. The West has never been more child-focused than it is today, yet some Christians seem to struggle with matching society’s efforts in indoctrination.

In this paragraph, Pope Francis draws on the Old Testament tradition to remind us that Passover, at the center of Jewish identity, was a locus for the formatino of children:

16. The Bible also presents the family as the place where children are brought up in the faith. This is evident from the description of the Passover celebration (cf. Ex 12:26-27; Deut 6:20-25) and it later appears explicitly in the Jewish haggadah, the dialogue accompanying the rite of the Passover meal.

The Bible too long to read or teach? Go to this psalm for a musical synopsis and the encouragement to form young ones in faith:

One of the Psalms celebrates the proclamation of faith within families: “All that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us, we will not hide from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought. He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children” (Ps 78:3-6).

The years convince me more and more that the classroom is the wrong setting for faith formation. In speaking of a “trade,” Pope Francis alludes to an apprenticeship:

The family is thus the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith. They learn this “trade”, passing it down from one person to another: “When in time to come your son asks you… You shall say to him…” (Ex 13:14). Thus succeeding generations can raise their song to the Lord: “young men and maidens together, old and young together!”(Ps 148:12).

Remember to check the actual document Amoris Laetitia for the full scoop on this document.

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Amoris Laetitia 15: A Domestic Church

Our discussion amoris laetitia memeturns to the idea of the domestic church. Meeting in homes for prayer and worship is a Judeo-Christian tradition, not just in the Pauline citations, but going back at least to the Passover.

15. Here too, we can see another aspect of the family. We know that the New Testament speaks of “churches that meet in homes” (cf. 1 Cor 16:19; Rom 16:5; Col 4:15; Philem 2). A family’s living space could turn into a domestic church, a setting for the Eucharist, the presence of Christ seated at its table.

I wonder if Pope Francis is speaking less of home Masses and more a broad experience of the Eucharist. I was thinking of the way the Lord drew in a certain two disciples. As they came to reflect, the realization came: Jesus has been in our midst. The aim I think is less the home as a liturgical setting, but a deeper experience of the presence of Christ in the midst of the family.

We can never forget the image found in the Book of Revelation, where the Lord says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). Here we see a home filled with the presence of God, common prayer and every blessing. This is the meaning of the conclusion of Psalm 128, which we cited above: “Thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion!” (Ps 128:4-5).

Remember to check online for the full document Amoris Laetitia. But a question for you readers: why does Pope Francis refer to the “setting for the Eucharist” rather than something like a chapel for the reservation of the Eucharist? What do you suppose that means?

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Amoris Laetitia 14: Shoots of an Olive Tree

amoris laetitia memeRemember to check the actual link to Amoris Laetitia for the full document. This section and the four that follow (14-18) fall under a subtitle of “Your Children are as the Shoots of an Olive Tree.” We return to the 128th psalm, where Pope Francis interprets the image of greenery around a shared table:

14. Let us once more take up the song of the Psalmist. In the home where husband and wife are seated at table, children appear at their side “like olive shoots” (Ps 128:3), that is, full of energy and vitality. If the parents are in some sense the foundations of the home, the children are like the “living stones” of the family (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). Significantly, the word which appears most frequently in the Old Testament after the name of God (YHWH, “the Lord”), is “child” (ben, “son”), which is itself related to the verb “to build” (banah). Hence, Psalm 128, in speaking of the gift of children, uses imagery drawn from the building of a house and the social life of cities: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain… Lo, sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate” (Ps 127:1, 3-5). These images reflect the culture of an ancient society, yet the presence of children is a sign of the continuity of the family throughout salvation history, from generation to generation.

The citation of the previous psalm is correct. Both are at the literal heart and center of a set of psalms (120-134) utilized for pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Perhaps we have a reminder that even though we may have an experience of pilgrimage, or even of exile, the family with its children remain at the center of life’s journey. The human impulse for settlement and stability is part of our heart.


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Amoris Laetitia 13: Intimate Harmony

amoris laetitia memeThe face to face encounter of Adam and Eve, of the lovers in the Song of Solomon is more than a physical reality, something to be seen by an observer or modern Bible reader. Pope Francis describes a reality described as “harmony,” an “interior” closeness. What do you make of this:

13. This encounter, which relieves man’s solitude, gives rise to new birth and to the family. Significantly, Adam, who is also the man of every time and place, together with his wife, starts a new family. Jesus speaks of this by quoting the passage from Genesis: “The man shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one” (Mt 19:5; cf. Gen 2:24). The very word “to be joined” or “to cleave”, in the original Hebrew, bespeaks a profound harmony, a closeness both physical and interior, to such an extent that the word is used to describe our union with God: “My soul clings to you” (Ps 63:8).

The passage cited here oozes with the intimacy God desires of his people; the psalmist prays from a bed at night. This suggests to me the restlessness of Adam in searching for a helper, and the basic human need for a deeper intimacy than any eyes might behold in the physical universe.

The marital union is thus evoked not only in its sexual and corporal dimension, but also in its voluntary self-giving in love. The result of this union is that the two “become one flesh”, both physically and in the union of their hearts and lives, and, eventually, in a child, who will share not only genetically but also spiritually in the “flesh” of both parents.

Glad to see that the bearing of a child is not just a genetic and biological reality, but one of the spirit as well. Thoughts?

Remember to check the actual document Amoris Laetitia for the full scoop on this document.

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Redesigning With Women

I read that a musical has saved Alexander Hamilton’s bust on the $10 bill. President #7 will be replaced by an abolitionist on the $20.

I think we’re way overdue for an overhaul on redesigns on US paper money. My own preference is for a complete overhaul. Replace all the dead presidents (and secretaries) with a few artists (like Mary Cassatt) or writers (like Willa Cather) or activists (like Anne Hutchinson) or explorers (like Sally Ride) or founders (like Clara Barton). I get the move for political women, but maybe we’ve had our fill of politics.

Let’s wait till the 22nd century for women presidents and such on money.

I do like the notion of redesigning the bill reverses with scenes from history, like putting “I Have A Dream” on the flip side of the $5. Otherwise, Harriet Tubman smells like tokenism to me. At the very least, an overhaul of paper money reverse sides would seem a possible palatable proposal. How many Americans can name the building on the hind side of our paper presidents (and secretary).

By the way, who can recall the last president to be removed from a circulating issue coin or bill?

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Amoris Laetitia 12: That Personal Encounter

amoris laetitia memeYou can find the full document Amoris Laetitia on the Vatican site. Remember, this is just your second-place stop for discussion once you’ve read and reflected there.

In paragraph 12, the second Creation story finds Adam lacking companionship in animals and other created things. Pope Francis shares an idea not new to him, that of a personal encounter with another. Would that in helping and being helped, we would seek that more intently.

12. In speaking of marriage, Jesus refers us to yet another page of Genesis, which, in its second chapter, paints a splendid and detailed portrait of the couple. First, we see the man, who anxiously seeks “a helper fit for him” (vv. 18, 20), capable of alleviating the solitude which he feels amid the animals and the world around him. The original Hebrew suggests a direct encounter, face to face, eye to eye, in a kind of silent dialogue, for where love is concerned, silence is always more eloquent than words. It is an encounter with a face, a “thou”, who reflects God’s own love and is man’s “best possession, a helper fit for him and a pillar of support”, in the words of the biblical sage (Sir 36:24). Or again, as the woman of the Song of Solomon will sing in a magnificent profession of love and mutual self-bestowal: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (2:16; 6:3).

A priest friend of mine once shared one thing he hopes to see in couples preparing for marriage. Many young people look for that helper to bring a “completion” in their life. How often do lovers seek to help the other, to make the beloved’s life extraordinary? Not just one’s own.


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