Amoris Laetitia 193: Historical Memory

amoris laetitia memeWe think of history as a rational discipline, looking to books and websites to give us the facts. The truth is that shared memories, whiloe perhaps not wholly accurate, involve more than the sharing of events. In sharing memories, we share much of ourselves, good or bad, in the recounting of how we experienced the past.

193. The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society. A mentality that can only say, “Then was then, now is now”, is ultimately immature. Knowing and judging past events is the only way to build a meaningful future. Memory is necessary for growth: “Recall the former days” (Heb 10:32). Listening to the elderly tell their stories is good for children and young people; it makes them feel connected to the living history of their families, their neighborhoods and their country. A family that fails to respect and cherish its grandparents, who are its living memory, is already in decline, whereas a family that remembers has a future. “A society that has no room for the elderly or discards them because they create problems, has a deadly virus”;(Catechesis (4 March 2015))“it is torn from its roots”.(Address at the Meeting with the Elderly (28 September 2014)) Our contemporary experience of being orphans as a result of cultural discontinuity, uprootedness and the collapse of the certainties that shape our lives, challenges us to make our families places where children can sink roots in the rich soil of a collective history.

We might have parents and an extended elderly contingent in our families, but do we function as orphans for the lack of the narrative? What do you think? How is it in your family? For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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26 Days

Maybe it’s that my facebook feed is getting more hammered than before with political posts, but I’m bothered more by some of the followers than by the candidates. Though it’s still a close race between the two groups. A few random thoughts on the election for the few crickets out there.

First, I find the poster-style memes not as entertaining as they once were. More annoying than anything else.

One of those memes ponders the women who read 50 Shades and suggest they shouldn’t bad-mouth Mr Trump. Frankly, I think they should feel free to do so. The books of E. L. James are romance novels about consensual sex with fetishes attached. Not my cup of tea on either front. Mr Trump’s self-stated attitudes to women in 2005 or whenever it was … are not quite about bad language or sex by dominants. Said attitudes are adolescent, demeaning, and quite believable. They are revelatory with regard to his character. Likewise his recent apologies.

Another popular drop on my page cites Mrs Clinton’s statements about the unborn. She’s probably the most unattractive Democratic candidate for president since at least 1972. But when she says the unborn have no constitutional rights, she is stating a legal fact. Read section one of the 14th:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

As a largely Republican-appointed Supreme Court decided in 1973, this section is the basis for what many pro-life people consider an extremely unfortunate ruling. Mrs Clinton is enough of a legal professional to render an impartial communication (not necessarily a personal opinion) on a matter of constitutional law. She’s also enough of a politician never to get caught describing abortion as a good thing. Except maybe in leaked emails. Many Democratic politicians have trotted out the “safe, legal, and rare” sentiment. Make of that what you will.

Except for the influence of husbands, boyfriends, parents, and the occasional domineering friend, abortion is largely a personal choice for hundreds of thousands of American women and girls each year. My own sense of the politics is that each major party has its constituents just where they want them: not-so-happily watching pitchforks and torches, donating, and voting with the flock.

Check this statement: abortion law in the US will never change. I write this not because I favor abortion on demand. I write because I’m a cynic and a realist. I notice how politics seem to work. I know the issue is fraught with fear and loathing for the opponents on both sides. That’s why things will never change. I don’t think that’s good news. But it doesn’t stop me from being a pro-life Catholic because I can promote alternatives–like adoption. I can also support candidates of either party who advocate for said alternatives. And I can talk people out of having abortions. Or assisting my faith community to work more directly with people struggling over the choice and encourage at-risk women to consider their alternatives, no matter how dark the situation seems.

In essence, I think this year’s presidential election comes down to a choice.

Candidate #1 is fit and qualified for the office, but is deeply flawed and unattractive to a significant swath of the voting public. This candidate wonders why she’s not polling in landslide country, and even now, has about a ten percent chance of blowing the contest. She should wonder.

Candidate #2 is attractive to a wide swath of the electorate for a number of reasons, few to none of which relate to his appearance or abilities. But he is even more flawed and very likely unfit for political office on any level. Any other year, and any decent GOP nominee–John Kasich, for example–and this election would be in 1980-84 territory.

In conclusion, I simply repeat (giving no attention to Mr Putin’s plan to unleash The Day After on us) that the sun will rise on the second Wednesday in November. Many millions of Americans will sigh in relief that this reality show masquerading as a federal election is over. People on facebook can think about TBT. People slogging it out in the work force can dream about TGIF. Our corporate masters can turn their full and undivided attention to commercializing the birth of the Savior and selling their product.

If people are truly interested in making America great or greater, then the best strategy is to participate in local and neighborhood politics starting on November 9th. If not sooner. Otherwise, we’re likely to see more celebrity politicians horning in on what should be public service, not self-service.

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Amoris Laetitia 192: Bridging Gaps

amoris laetitia memeOne of Pope Francis’s predecessors addressed the plight of the elderly in a 1981 apostolic exhortation. He gets the first word in today’s section:

192. Saint John Paul II asked us to be attentive to the role of the elderly in our families, because there are cultures which, “especially in the wake of disordered industrial and urban development, have both in the past and in the present set the elderly aside in unacceptable ways”.(Familiaris Consortio, 27) The elderly help us to appreciate “the continuity of the generations”, by their “charism of bridging the gap”.(Id., Address to Participants in the “International Forum on Active Aging” (5 September 1980), 5)

The synod bishops, next:

Very often it is grandparents who ensure that the most important values are passed down to their grandchildren, and “many people can testify that they owe their initiation into the Christian life to their grandparents”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 18)

As human longevity extends, grandparents can often have a significant impact for decades. I’ve found this to be especially true in American circles where cultural traditions reinforce the value of extended families in closer relationship, if not proximity.

Their words, their affection or simply their presence help children to realize that history did not begin with them, that they are now part of an age-old pilgrimage and that they need to respect all that came before them. Those who would break all ties with the past will surely find it difficult to build stable relationships and to realize that reality is bigger than they are. “Attention to the elderly makes the difference in a society. Does a society show concern for the elderly? Does it make room for the elderly? Such a society will move forward if it respects the wisdom of the elderly”.(Catechesis (4 March 2015))

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

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Guide and Bless

I didn’t like Galatians at first. By that crack, I probably mean both the community and the letter penned by the apostle which largely criticizes it. But these days, I’ve come to terms with the more antagonistic pieces of my nature, and long years of experience in faith communities. Today I see the letter may well have no equal in terms of its value to modern parishes. As I was researching some prayers for a few upcoming meetings this week, I found this one I assembled from Saint Paul’s conclusion to his letter. I used it for a parish staff gathering about six years ago. Make of it what you will:

Praying with Saint Paul and the Galatians

Music: refrain of the “Song of the Body of Christ”

Reflection on Galatians 5:22-23, 26, 6:2-5, 9-10

Guide us today, O God, and bless us with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Guide us today, O God, and bless us with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Guide us today, O God, and bless us with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another. Let us bear one another’s burdens, and so we fulfill the law of Christ.

Guide us today, O God, and bless us with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

For if any of us think we are something when we are nothing, we are deluding ourselves.

Guide us today, O God, and bless us with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Each one of us must examine our own work, and then we will have reason to boast, and not with regard to someone else; for each of us will bear our own load.

Guide us today, O God, and bless us with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.

Guide us today, O God, and bless us with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.

Guide us today, O God, and bless us with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

Guide us today, O God, and bless us with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Questions for reflection and sharing:

Which of the fruits do I have in good measure?

Which is the fruit I need most today in my life?

Which is the fruit our staff and/or our faith community most needs?

What is my greatest hope for today for our staff and/or my faith community?


Lord’s Prayer

Greeting of Peace



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Amoris Laetitia 191: Elderly Persons

amoris laetitia memeIn this section, the Holy Father turns his attention to older members of our families. There is certainly a public policy issue for communities and nations in how we treat the eldertly and care for them. Families are not without responsibilities, however. No matter how much or how well senior citizens are cared for by the government or by a private agency, loved ones have lost no responsibility.

191. “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (Ps 71:9). This is the plea of the elderly, who fear being forgotten and rejected. Just as God asks us to be his means of hearing the cry of the poor, so too he wants us to hear the cry of the elderly.(Cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 17-18) This represents a challenge to families and communities, since “the Church cannot and does not want to conform to a mentality of impatience, and much less of indifference and contempt, towards old age. We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elderly feel like a living part of the community. Our elderly are men and women, fathers and mothers, who came before us on our own road, in our own house, in our daily battle for a worthy life”.(Catechesis (4 March 2015)) Indeed, “how I would like a Church that challenges the throw-away culture by the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old!”(Catechesis (11 March 2015))

Pope Francis lists six qualities to contrast. Impatience, indifference, and contempt versus gratitude, appreciation, and hospitality. These latter three, the virtues, are not a matter of “feeling” something toward an older person. They involve an active choice. Children, grandchildren, and others can choose to be thankful, can express appreciation, and can show a welcoming attitude. Interior struggles may persist, but that does not negate the need for fostering the positives of a relationship.

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

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Amoris Laetitia 190: New Ways of Being Daughters and Sons

amoris laetitia memeAdults often struggle with baggage brought into a marriage. Husband and wife leaves parents–this is not only a social necessity, but a Biblical imperative:

190. There is, however, another side to the coin. As the word of God tells us, “a man leaves his father and his mother” (Gen 2:24). This does not always happen, and a marriage is hampered by the failure to make this necessary sacrifice and surrender. Parents must not be abandoned or ignored, but marriage itself demands that they be “left”, so that the new home will be a true hearth, a place of security, hope and future plans, and the couple can truly become “one flesh” (ibid.). In some marriages, one spouse keeps secrets from the other, confiding them instead to his or her parents. As a result, the opinions of their parents become more important than the feelings and opinions of their spouse. This situation cannot go on for long, and even if it takes time, both spouses need to make the effort to grow in trust and communication. Marriage challenges husbands and wives to find new ways of being sons and daughters.

Taking leave of a father and mother is a sacrifice–often quite difficult even in the best of circumstances. But newly married couples have this challenge: how to be children of their parents, but to function and relate in these new ways.

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

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New Cardinals

cardinal-coat-of-armsIt’s been some time since I got excited about the College of Cardinals. I’ve long thought that how cardinals were chosen needed some upgrading. Lay people and women, please. But if they needed to be bishops, then the best bishops, not necessarily the largest sees.

Pope Francis has plucked a new set of cardinals, and for Americans, Indianapolis is a surprise. America suggests a shift. Anything that puts the culturewar to bed in the Church is a good thing. But I’m more intrigued that the archbishop from Indiana gets a red hat. Rocco has a good summary whispered here.

Indy’s first cardinal had interesting words in 2010:

I think it has to be humble and make sure it is service and not simply bureaucracy.

Of whom does the man speak? Priesthood? Religious orders? The curia?

The culturewar is a concern for the elder brothers and sisters among us. Many of the concerns about freedom, self-determination, and discernment are well-taken. But the politics too often overwhelms the moral issues at hand. It can become an aspect of antigospel, an attitude that actually chases people away from or out of the Church. And some of its proponents actually say as much. And worse, celebrate a smaller, purer outfit–a direct contradiction of the Gospel.

These American bishops selected for those thirty-tassel coats-of-arms seem like good calls to me. Sensible, balanced guys who have demonstrated a desire to serve the higher causes.


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