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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Amoris Laetitia 133: A Love That Reveals Itself and Increases

amoris laetitia memeLove isn’t defined by outward acts and by spoken words, but the virtue is assisted when people practice the outward signs of that interior reality. Pope Francis are cites some recent words:

133. The love of friendship unifies all aspects of marital life and helps family members to grow constantly. This love must be freely and generously expressed in words and acts. In the family, “three words need to be used. I want to repeat this! Three words: ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Sorry’. Three essential words!”.(Address to the Pilgrimage of Families during the Year of Faith (26 October 2013)) “In our families when we are not overbearing and ask: ‘May I?’; in our families when we are not selfish and can say: ‘Thank you!’; and in our families when someone realizes that he or she did something wrong and is able to say ‘Sorry!’, our family experiences peace and joy”.(Angelus Message (29 December 2013)) Let us not be stingy about using these words, but keep repeating them, day after day. For “certain silences are oppressive, even at times within families, between husbands and wives, between parents and children, among siblings”.(Address to the Pilgrimage of Families during the Year of Faith (26 October 2013)) The right words, spoken at the right time, daily protect and nurture love.

Those three words are decidedly counter-cultural, even within the confines of the Church. How much suffering, financial loss, and moral credibility would have been saved the past few decades if only certain people were able to say not just “Sorry!” but “I am sincerely sorry.”

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 132: Judging When To Commit

amoris laetitia memeA priest with whom I once worked often commented on a significant flaw in our culture: the unwillingness or inability to commit. He wasn’t just talking about sex and marriage. Jobs, friendships, volunteer work, college majors. And he’s right. When the options are so many, it can be difficult to settle into one, then simmer with envy as others get a more choice portion of life.

In this section, Pope Francis speaks of marriage, and of finding the right time to make that commitment:

132. To opt for marriage in this way expresses a genuine and firm decision to join paths, come what may. Given its seriousness, this public commitment of love cannot be the fruit of a hasty decision, but neither can it be postponed indefinitely. Committing oneself exclusively and definitively to another person always involves a risk and a bold gamble. Unwillingness to make such a commitment is selfish, calculating and petty. It fails to recognize the rights of another person and to present him or her to society as someone worthy of unconditional love. If two persons are truly in love, they naturally show this to others. When love is expressed before others in the marriage contract, with all its public commitments, it clearly indicates and protects the “yes” which those persons speak freely and unreservedly to each other. This “yes” tells them that they can always trust one another, and that they will never be abandoned when difficulties arise or new attractions or selfish interests present themselves.


Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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