Amoris Laetitia 9: Husband and Wife

amoris laetitia memeToday, we begin the first of five paragraphs on the theme of “You and your wife.” An echo of another pope’s words as we pass through a doorway …

9. Let us cross the threshold of this tranquil home, with its family sitting around the festive table. At the center we see the father and mother, a couple with their personal story of love. They embody the primordial divine plan clearly spoken of by Christ himself: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Mt 19:4). We hear an echo of the command found in the Book of Genesis: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24)”.

The author of Tobit also puts this thought on the prayerful lips of Tobiah and Sarah on their wedding night. Do we assist engaged couples to explore this meaning fully, even if they don’t choose it for the wedding liturgy? Does human love feel like it’s part of a divine plan? Or just an incidental, like pre-conciliar congregational participation?

Remember to check the actual document Amoris Laetitia at the Vatican site.

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Amoris Laetitia 8: Introducing Psalm 128

amoris laetitia memeChapter One is a meditation on the 128th Psalm. We’ve covered it here in the wedding series. The Holy Father will devote considerably more in his commentary. This will span most of the chapter titled “In the Light of the Word” and take us to paragraph #30. As always, I recommend reading the actual document Amoris Laetitia.

Let’s waste no further keystrokes before diving in:

8. The Bible is full of families, births, love
stories and family crises. This is true from its very first page, with the appearance of Adam and Eve’s family with all its burden of violence but also its enduring strength (cf. Gen 4) to its very last page, where we behold the wedding feast of the Bride and the Lamb (Rev 21:2, 9). Jesus’ description of the two houses, one built on rock and the other on sand (cf. Mt 7:24-27), symbolizes any number of family situations shaped by the exercise of their members’ freedom, for, as the poet says, “every home is a lampstand”.(Jorge Luis Borges, “Calle Desconocida”, in Fervor de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, 2011, 23.)

I was struck by the beginning-to-end reminder I had never realized before reading this.

Let us now enter one of those houses, led by the Psalmist with a song that even today resounds in both Jewish and Christian wedding liturgies:
“Blessed is every one who fears the Lord,
who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
round your table.
Thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the Lord.
The Lord bless you from Zion!
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life!
May you see your children’s children!
Peace be upon Israel!” (Ps 128:1-6).

As a pastoral minister, I appreciate seeing myself entering a house in order to encounter a marriage and family. That is certainly the most usual place a person would encounter my family of three. No matter how troubled a family might be, most all have homes. The encounter presumes we are treading on important ground. Private, perhaps. But also sacred. Sacred to God in that the Scriptures recognize the family from beginning to end. And that is a point of respect, don’t you think?

 

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Ruth Shapes Up

Naomi, Ruth, and OrpahImage credit.

I have two big numbers left to finish. The finale has been started for a few years, but I’m still stuck. That usually means it’s an opportunity to junk it and start from scratch. But it’s hard to do.

I have approximate timings of the basic songs. Including the incomplete pieces, there seems to be about 65 minutes of music. I don’t know if that seems a bit short–I think of the longer works that are favorites, Fiddler or La Mancha. Depending on instrumentalists, or how the work is staged, there could be more. Some songs below are rather brief. Maybe that means one long act rather than something with an intermission.

The overall plan follows the book (Bible passages in brackets; chapter and verse only for the book of Ruth) and looks like this:

ACT ONE

Overture
“In The Days Of The Judges” (1:1-7) timed at 2:23 by Naomi

Naomi sings the intro of the book to her grandson, so the rest of the story is a flashback as I imagine the staging.

“Go Back” (1:8-15) 3:45, Naomi with Orpah and Ruth
“Where You Go, I Will Go” (1:16-17) 2:11, Ruth

Y’all did know that the celebrity spells it differently from the book, right?

“So Sweet To See You” (1:19) 2:03, townswomen
“Call Me Bitter” (1:20-21) 1:21, Naomi with townswomen

Then there’s a long scene that incorporates a few passages from the Torah into the second chapter of the book:

“The Good Land” 2:06 instrumental
“God Has Given A Good Land” (Dt 8:7-10) 3:18 by the workers
“Let Me Go To The Field” (2:2, 7) 2:12 Ruth, Naomi
“The Favor of the Lord” (Lev 19:9-10) 2:17 overseer & workers
“The Lord Be With You” (2:4; Num 6:24-26) 1:34 Boaz & workers
“Who Is She?” (2:5-7) 1:13 Boaz and overseer
“Under His Wings” (2:8-12) 4:06 Boaz and Ruth
“The Heart of Your Servant” (2:13) 0:56 Ruth
“Ruth’s Work Song” a vocalise 2:33 Ruth
“Abundance” (2:14-15; Ps 104:13, 15; 132:13-15) 2:38 Boaz & workers
“Do Not Bother Her” (2:15b-16) 0:33 Boaz

Psalms? you ask. I figure “David” might have gotten the inspiration somewhere, and I couldn’t resist a bit of anachronism, especially since the texts seemed so fitting and lacking a librettist collaborator, I feel less sure about making things up from scratch.

“Where Did You Work?” (2:19-22) 2:25 Naomi and Ruth

ACT TWO

“Harvest” 2:23 band
“Seek Some Security” (3:1-5) 3:04 Naomi and Ruth

“Spread Your Wing” (Ps 101:1-3a; Ruth 3:9-13) 4:54 Boaz and Ruth
“No Other Soul” (3:14-15) 0:51 Boaz

“The Man Will Not Rest” (3:16-18) 1:38 Naomi

“At The Gate” (4:1-12) 4:02+ Boaz, elders, and the near-relative Tob

These last three remain unfinished:

“The Wedding,” an instrumental

This one will pick up the theme of the first song exchanged between Naomi and the townswomen in act one:

“Blessed Be The Lord” (4:14-15) townswomen

And a finale, which will incorporate some of the themes of the songs:

“The Path of Loyalty” (Ps 68:4b-6a, Ps 22:22-31) cast

Over the years, this has expanded from about 20 songs to thirty, and now it’s been compressed a bit to 27. I hope to gather a few friends in June for a reading session and sort through their input. About a year before Tobit was done, I had a similar session that helped to trim that production and inspired some last ideas.

Ruth is going to be more like Dreamcoat, in that it’s more of an operetta with almost everything sung and very little dialogue. I’m excited about the final push to completion. Maybe a late Spring 2017 production.

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Amoris Laetitia 7: A Careful Reading

amoris laetitia memeRemember to check the actual document Amoris Laetitia. With this post, we come to the end of the introduction, and Pope Francis provides a bit of background along with a few sample recommendations.

It strikes me that many naysayers on the topic of divorced and remarried, for example, will rush to a section intended for pastoral ministers (which they are not) for a situation in which they do not (currently) participate. Why? Why not look instead to Scripture, prayer, or spirituality? Lots of harping here and there on scandal. But it is also a scandal to be seeking words that rile up the inner reaches of a person, a self-inflicted righteousness that justifies noone and nothing.

7. Given the rich fruits of the two-year Synod process, this Exhortation will treat, in different ways, a wide variety of questions. This explains its inevitable length. Consequently, I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text. The greatest benefit, for families themselves and for those engaged in the family apostolate, will come if each part is read patiently and carefully, or if attention is paid to the parts dealing with their specific needs. It is likely, for example, that married couples will be more concerned with Chapters Four and Five, and pastoral ministers with Chapter Six, while everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight. It is my hope that, in reading this text, all will feel called to love and cherish family life, for “families are not a problem; they are frst and foremost an opportunity”. (Address at the Meeting of Families in Santiago de Cuba (22 September 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, 24 September 2015, p. 7.)

As I’ve hinted elsewhere, it is possible for people to refuse the suggestions here, and look for outrage or justification. The Holy Father suggests the aim is not the reading of the document as such. The aim is to love and cherish family life. If this document doesn’t float that boat for someone, they are better off going elsewhere.

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Amoris Laetitia 6: Document Outlined

amoris laetitia memeIn paragraph 6, Pope Francis gives the reasoning behind the organization of Amoris Laetitia. We posted the table of contents here last week, if you want a closer look or a reminder. Starting with paragraph 8, we start with Psalm 128 and move from there.

6. I will begin with an opening chapter inspired by the Scriptures, to set a proper tone. I will then examine the actual situation of families, in order to keep firmly grounded in reality. I will go on to recall some essential aspects of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family, thus paving the way for two central chapters dedicated to love. I will then highlight some pastoral approaches that can guide us in building sound and fruitful homes in accordance with God’s plan, with a full chapter devoted to the raising of children. Finally, I will offer an invitation to mercy and the pastoral discernment of those situations that fall short of what the Lord demands of us, and conclude with a brief discussion of family spirituality.

The emphasis is clear. The Bible. Some essential teaching. Love. Pastoral ministry. Mercy. Then discernment. Then spirituality. Nothing surprising for a practitioner of an Ignatian style of a Gospel life.

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We Are

assembly Easter VigilA most unconvincing meme is the one suggesting Catholic liturgy has too much of people and not enough of God. I’ve seen variations on the theme from cardinals and bishops to skeptics on liturgical reform. How do such people reconcile with Scripture passages like this weekend’s Psalm, and its refrain:

We are his people; the sheep of his flock.

Granted, the entire text of the Psalm is about the praise of God. But the whole short piece addresses people, not God. Five verses of a psalmist telling people what to do: shout, serve, come, know, enter, give thanks, bless. And who is the object of God’s actions of making, possessing, shepherding? And beneficiary of everlasting faithfulness and–yes–mercy? We are, as the Lectionary has us sing it.

I’m as much a skeptic on too-much-people of this decade as I was on the discredited notion of voice-of-God in the last. Especially given the context of the Mass. The Mass makes it clear that we are focused on Christ.

That said, there are sometimes poor formulations during the liturgy. Sometimes the new translation clouds the message. And sometimes the homily or music is weaker than it could be. Somehow, I doubt the pre-1960’s preaching and hymn texts were one-hundred-percent spot-on every Sunday. So that’s not on Vatican II. It’s the human condition.

I think for this weekend, we can recognize that God is concerned about us. God wants to guide us on a path of faith, hope, and love. If the message is directed to our direction now and then, that’s okay.

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Amoris Laetitia 5: Aiming To Virtues

amoris laetitia memeAs always, I recommend going to the source here: Amoris Laetitia. The Jubilee we observe these days is the context for this document:

5. This Exhortation is especially timely in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. First, because it represents an invitation to Christian families to value the gifts of marriage and the family, and to persevere in a love strengthened by the virtues of generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience. Second, because it seeks to encourage everyone to be a sign of mercy and closeness wherever family life remains imperfect or lacks peace and joy.

A small paragraph, but a good one. Consider those four virtues mentioned for the strengthening of the family. If I were leading a group discussion in my parish, I would ask the participants to ponder the ways they are generous, committed, faithful, and patient. Which is the strongest quality in your family? Which needs the most work? Reflecting on the positive question is important, as family members first need to see where their inherent strengths lie.

In Marriage Encounter, my wife and I learned how to dialogue in their system. Partners separate to write a response to a reflection question. They then come back together, exchange notes, read, and reflect from there. It would be interesting for a couple to see where their strongest virtue is and the one that needs the most work. How many couples would agree? Even if in disagreement, it would be a movement of drawing closer.

We might be getting ahead of ourselves talking about marriage prep, but engaged couples also can utilize a reflection on these four virtues as they explore their mutual love. The application for the pastoral minister would be to explore the Scriptures, especially the ones that could be selected for the Rite of Marriage. Making connections like this is vital for the spiritual formation of the Church: people, Scripture, virtues–they all interconnect, and invite us to go deeper.

Other thoughts on these virtues, or anything else we’ve read so far?

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