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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Amoris Laetitia 238: Can a Permanent Choice Be Reaffirmed?

amoris laetitia memeMaybe people misinterpret that a renewal of choice implies a thought of not renewing. For whatever reason, the notion of renewal is sometimes avoided. It might be especially important to engage that renewal when forces from outside or within a marriage threaten:

238. In such situations, some have the maturity needed to reaffirm their choice of the other as their partner on life’s journey, despite the limitations of the relationship. They realistically accept that the other cannot fulfill all their cherished dreams. Persons like this avoid thinking of themselves as martyrs; they make the most of whatever possibilities family life gives them and they work patiently at strengthening the marriage bond. They realize, after all, that every crisis can be a new “yes”, enabling love to be renewed, deepened and inwardly strengthened. When crises come, they are unafraid to get to the root of it, to renegotiate basic terms, to achieve a new equilibrium and to move forward together. With this kind of constant openness they are able to face any number of difficult situations. In any event, while realizing that reconciliation is a possibility, we also see that “what is urgently needed today is a ministry to care for those whose marital relationship has broken down”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 78)

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

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Advent, Always

advent-header-2013.jpgThe 20th century French Jesuit Jean Daniélou on this season:

We live always during Advent. We are always waiting for the messiah to come. The messiah has come, but is not yet fully manifest. The messiah is not fully manifest in each of our souls, not fully manifest in humankind as a whole: that is to say, that just as Christ was born according to the flesh in Bethlehem of Judah, so must he be born according to the spirit in each of our souls. (from Advent, 1950, later translated and published by Sheed and Ward in 1962.)

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Amoris Laetitia 237: At The First Experience Of Dissatisfaction

amoris laetitia memeOn the topic of the quick exit from marriage:

237. It is becoming more and more common to think that, when one or both partners no longer feel fulfilled, or things have not turned out the way they wanted, sufficient reason exists to end the marriage. Were this the case, no marriage would last. At times, all it takes to decide that everything is over is a single instance of dissatisfaction, the absence of the other when he or she was most needed, wounded pride, or a vague fear. Inevitably, situations will arise involving human weakness and these can prove emotionally overwhelming. One spouse may not feel fully appreciated, or may be attracted to another person. Jealousy and tensions may emerge, or new interests that consume the other’s time and attention. Physical changes naturally occur in everyone. These, and so many other things, rather than threatening love, are so many occasions for reviving and renewing it.

I’ve observed that even couples who lack the communication skills and the courage to self-examine, there remains a strong desire for a permanent relationship. Just consider the number of co-dependents who stick with an addicted or abusive spouse, prepared to make excuses, to cover up, and to blame themselves for the fault of another. Rather than swallow whole the notion of impermanence, I’d rather approach each couple in crisis with a fresh set of eyes and ears. What do you think?

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

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Misericordia et Misera 4: Looking Back at the Jubilee

john-8Continuing today with a look back on the Jubilee of Mercy in Pope Francis’s apostolic letter. Follow this link for the full document, Misericordia et Misera.

4. We have celebrated an intense Jubilee Year in which we have received the grace of mercy in abundance. Like a gusting but wholesome wind, the Lord’s goodness and mercy have swept through the entire world. Because each of us has experienced at length this loving gaze of God, we cannot remain unaffected, for it changes our lives.

Not all embraced the Jubilee. One criticism I read suggested we’ve had too many years. A year for St Paul, a year for families, a year for priests, a year for religious, etc.. A jubilee, by definition, is something different. It doesn’t happen every year. It does occur for Catholics more often than twice a century. I doubt we will see another soon, not before 2025 or 2050 at least.

Mercy, also, is a different phenomenon in the Church. It was a favored virtue by Pope John Paul II. One could go back further to the roots of the devotion of Divine Mercy with St Faustina. I’d say mercy has been getting a significant build-up in the spiritual life of the Church. Naysayers may feel they have a point to make. On the other hand, they might be lagging behind.

Mercy is deeply rooted in the Scriptures, especially the Psalms and the Prophets:

We feel the need above all to thank the Lord and to tell him: “Lord, you have been favorable to your land… You have forgiven the iniquity of your people” (Ps 85:1-2). So it is. God has subdued our iniquities and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (cf. Mic 7:19). He no longer remembers them, since he has cast them behind his back (cf. Is 38:17). As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (cf. Ps 103:12).

Mercy is also part of the “Great Commission” at the end of John’s Gospel:

In this Holy Year, the Church listened attentively and experienced intensely the presence and closeness of the Father, who with the Holy Spirit has enabled her to see with greater clarity the gift and mandate of Jesus Christ regarding forgiveness. It has truly been like a new visitation of the Lord among us. We have felt his life-giving breath poured out upon the Church and, once again, his words have pointed out our mission: “Receive the Holy Spirit: if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23).

Any experiences from your prayer life or your faith community to share?

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