Amoris Laetitia 310: All Human Beings Receive Mercy

amoris laetitia memeThese citation of mercy echo the Scriptures, mainly Saint John on love. We are able to love because God first loved us.

310. We cannot forget that “mercy is not only the working of the Father; it becomes a criterion for knowing who his true children are. In a word, we are called to show mercy because mercy was first shown to us”.(Misericordiae Vultus 9) This is not sheer romanticism or a lukewarm response to God’s love, which always seeks what is best for us, for “mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness which she shows to believers; nothing in her preaching and her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy”.(Misericordiae Vultus 10) It is true that at times “we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems”.(Evangelii Gaudium 47)

For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Gladhanding at Mass

As I wind down blogging on this site, I thought I’d touch on some last topics. Long-time readers likely know my opinions on liturgical burps such as applause, percussion instruments, and lay ministries. So there may be a handful of topics that get some repeat attention this month. And something new, at least today.

We have four semi-retired part-time priests serving my parish. Lots of liturgical things have great variety in practice. The Sign of Peace is one of them. One priest mentions “briefly” when he announces “permission” to exchange peace. But given he’s in many ways typically Filipino, that just means the mean for most American parishes. Our pastor emeritus always comes to exchange peace with the choir.

At my last parish, it was more-or-less a practice for music ministers not to shake, hug, or kiss one another, but go out into the pews. That remains my practice in the new place. I greet pewfolk in my proximity. When I get back to the choir, I just bow. It seems more seemly than shaking five to twenty hands.

A few things …

Public activities in church send a message. People watch. I’m a skeptic on musicians keeping to themselves. We have enough of a challenge to encourage people to join up; they don’t need to see closed groups on public display. Sometime soon I’ll be encouraging my musical charges to get out a bit. After the warm-up prayer in the practice room–that’s a good time to exchange peace. During Mass, let it spread.

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Amoris Laetitia 309: The Place of Mercy

amoris laetitia memeThe document proclaiming the Jubilee of Mercy is cited here. Included are a few memorable images from the Holy Father:

309. It is providential that these reflections take place in the context of a Holy Year devoted to mercy, because also in the variety of situations affecting families “the Church is commissioned to proclaim the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the mind and heart of every person. The Bride of Christ must pattern her behavior after the Son of God who goes out to everyone without exception”.(Misericordiae Vultus 12) She knows that Jesus himself is the shepherd of the hundred, not just of the ninety-nine. He loves them all. On the basis of this realization, it will become possible for “the balm of mercy to reach everyone, believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst”.(Misericordiae Vultus 5)

For reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Mercy On The Way


My parish’s Liturgy Commission is preparing the fourth in a (hopefully) continuing series of events inspired by the Jubilee of Mercy and Pope Francis’s call in Misericordia et Misera 18:

Now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace.

I think we have a potentially fruitful effort that combines parishioners driving the mercy agenda from their own experiences, with contributions from parish ministries in music, lectors, hospitality, and others.

While my colleagues have set up two parish missions for the coming year, I have a sense that these events, even the ones with excellent speakers, struggle to lift most modern parishes to a new level. My boss even related a conversation in which she asked out loud what difference they have made in the daily life of the faith community. The last parish mission found good attendance–about three to four hundred. Is that all there is?

Even as I find myself in agreement with asking questions like that, I also have to examine my own spiritual life. Does my annual retreat make a difference? Or is it okay to go away for a week and just get refreshed? No big agenda tackled, no big obstacle overcome? Maybe parish missions serve the same purpose. What exp-erience, if any, do you readers have?

Anyway, the continuing mercy events will supplement the times when the pros come to town and offer their message. Who knows, maybe we’ve latched onto something useful? Given the poster above, I bet you can guess which of the three John Paul II stations we’ll adapt for a deeper reflection next month.

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Amoris Laetitia 308: Doing Our Best

amoris laetitia memeA facebook friend recently mused about the “enabling” or “sinful” matter of giving an alcoholic money for food so that she or he could spend her or his own money on booze. The question seems to avoid the notion that one might make a real friend and attempt to deepen one’s influence. Even if we also realize we have no power to change anyone else, Pope Francis still talks “accompaniment,” as you can read:

308. At the same time, from our awareness of the weight of mitigating circumstances – psychological, historical and even biological – it follows that “without detracting from the evangelical ideal, there is a need to accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of personal growth as these progressively appear”, making room for “the Lord’s mercy, which spurs us on to do our best”.(Evangelii Gaudium 44)

On the notion that such practices sow “confusion,” he cites EG again:

I understand those who prefer a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion. But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, “always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street”.(Evangelii Gaudium 45) The Church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements. The Gospel itself tells us not to judge or condemn (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37). Jesus “expects us to stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune, and instead to enter into the reality of other people’s lives and to know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated”.(Evangelii Gaudium 270)

Which draws us back to the alcoholic: friend or NGO client?

For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 307: The Logic of Pastoral Mercy

amoris laetitia memeChapter Eight finishes off with six paragraphs under the heading of “The Logic of Pastoral Mercy.” I suppose we can ask questions: What logic is this? How is this pastoral? Where’s the mercy?

Those troubled by Amoris Laetitia 305 and its footnote might find stumbling blocks continue in these paragraphs. I think it’s important to read the whole document, not only if one considers oneself a fangirl or fanboy of Pope Francis, but also if one feels unsettled. Maybe especially if one is unsettled by the Holy Father’s emphasis. Certainly sections 307 through 312 need to be read in their entirety. How do you read these words that follow?

307. In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur: “Young people who are baptized should be encouraged to understand that the sacrament of marriage can enrich their prospects of love and that they can be sustained by the grace of Christ in the sacrament and by the possibility of participating fully in the life of the Church”.(Relatio Synodi 2014, 26)

I would think there is no problem with this proposition. Sacramental marriage is an opportunity for personal enrichment as well as supernatural grace. The synod bishops endorse this, as does the pope.

I would take Pope Francis at his word here:

A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also of love on the part of the Church for young people themselves.

Follow the Church’s prescriptions, and people will come off better in the long run. They will experience something better not only personally, but also in the realm of faith and grace.

That said, the counsel is not to water down, but to understand that people fall short of an ideal:

To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being. Today, more important than the pastoral care of failures is the pastoral effort to strengthen marriages and thus to prevent their breakdown.

What do you make of this priority of strengthening marriages? I don’t think the Holy Father is only writing of marriages in trouble. Though he might be. This seems a significant challenge to pastors: Are we expending too much energy dealing with crisis points, and not enough in acts of maintenance, sustenance, and nourishment? One pastor I knew prided himself and his staff on the “5,000-mile check-ups” they offered to willing newlyweds. Extending that metaphor a bit, does February 14th serve as an opportunity to look under the hood, or when we gather for lovers’ nights is it more about admiring our shiny exteriors, and maybe burnishing the finish? Maybe instead we might consider the real possibility that the innards of our relationships need some tending and care.

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Love In La La Land

la_la_land_filmMy wife and I indulged in a first-run movie last night. A choir member gifted us with theater tickets and we had a nice experience. I texted my wife and asked her to pick a film. So she chose this one, whose poster you see, left.

I tend to be a skeptic on fads. Sometimes I come around, as I did with Harry Potter, reading the first book as lines were out around the block for #4. Hamilton. But I have to admit: sometimes critical acclaim is spot on.

There are many love affairs in this movie. Sebastian and Mia: that’s obvious. On Sebastian’s love for jazz: one of the best descriptions of the genre is when he’s explaining to Mia, who professes dislike. By the end of the movie, I think she’s largely drawn into it. Somebody loves Los Angeles; no other scenes are as lovingly shot as the views of the city, even from jam-packed expressways. Love for old movies: check.

So this is a musical, if you count movies with some songs in them. The songs serve to deepen the narrative, but all is driven by the various loves.

If this movie has a flaw, I wonder if it’s with the writing of the character Mia. She aspires to being an actor. She does take her beau and the viewer on an affectionate tour of a Hollywood studio. But the pounding, relentless rejections of auditions are more soul-sapping than her lover’s experience with music. He can get music gigs whenever, whatever. But the jazz cannot be held in. Until he tries to hold it in for her benefit, based on a conversation he overhears between her and her mother. I don’t think Mia’s love for acting quite comes through. No scenes from her one-woman play are shown. The viewer gets auditions, backstage scenes, and the final bow, but nothing at all of the substance of Sebastian’s music. Maybe it’s just because a guy wrote and directed the movie. And maybe it’s nit-picky, but the two leads here, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are more than a match for this material. Their craft is outstanding throughout.

My favorite aspect was the infusion of a kind of magical realism in many of the musical numbers. Sebastian gets a do-over of sorts in the film’s epilogue, replaying the last five years of his life if he hadn’t been a jerk on his second encounter with Mia. So there’s a bit of melancholy to finish off the film. I think my wife disliked that: no ending is totally happy. She did remark that the potty language was minimal and there were no depictions of sex beyond kissing and dancing. Then I recalled that people are shown in bed, but almost always alone.

Verdict? Recommended.

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