Amoris Laetitia 272: Challenges for Ethics

amoris laetitia memePope Francis is correct: contemporary culture has a difficulty with ethics. I’m less convinced it’s a generational thing. The human inclination has always been to avoid ethics. Leaders in previous generations had their blind spots, too. We’ve always had poor examples of leaders.

272. Ethical formation is at times frowned upon, due to experiences of neglect, disappointment, lack of affection or poor models of parenting. Ethical values are associated with negative images of parental figures or the shortcomings of adults. For this reason, adolescents should be helped to draw analogies: to appreciate that values are best embodied in a few exemplary persons, but also realized imperfectly and to different degrees in others. At the same time, since their hesitation can be tied to bad experiences, they need help in the process of inner healing and in this way to grow in the ability to understand and live in peace with others and the larger community.

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

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Amoris Laetitia 271: Patient Realism

amoris laetitia memeIn developing a young person for an adult life, small steps:

271. Moral education entails asking of a child or a young person only those things that do not involve a disproportionate sacrifice, and demanding only a degree of effort that will not lead to resentment or coercion. Ordinarily this is done by proposing small steps that can be understood, accepted and appreciated, while including a proportionate sacrifice. Otherwise, by demanding too much, we gain nothing. Once the child is free of our authority, he or she may possibly cease to do good.

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

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Mary of Nazareth

mary-of-nazarethMovies often find their way under the Christmas tree at my family’s home. My wife has been looking forward to viewing the Ignatius Press film Mary of Nazareth.

The filming, acting, and music are well above average for a film a bit above ordinary tv viewing and not quite a major release for movieplexes. Alissa Jung carries the title role well through more than two hours of screen time. She doesn’t age much, but I didn’t find that to be a problem.

The writer made some creative choices drawing from all four Gospels, sometimes switching up the narrative as the Gospels present it. The inclusion of Mary Magdalene was an interesting choice that helps to illustrate the return of the younger son, but otherwise seems to pad the narrative. Looking at the life and ministry of Jesus through Mary’s eyes is a creative and competent presentation, especially considering how often this story has gone to film. Big plusses for me were the handling of Joseph (who might have talked a bit more than I’m used to) and how Mary viewed the prediction of the Passion. Mary’s early life was quite well presented, too.

Less successful was the quasi-magical physical connection that gives viewers Mary feeling physical pain at the Lord’s Passion. Ms Jung is a good enough actor to present the emotional pain, not some literal sword of Luke 2:35. And too much of the supporting players in the public ministry. And opponents in the court. Joseph’s death is planted early in the Lord’s public ministry, but at least there was no remonstration that he could have been saved.

The dvd release runs 153 minutes, but I’ve read the original director’s cut was well over three hours. I agree there’s a natural urge to elaborate or meditate on a story like this. My wife tells me that pieces of the film are presented as a meditation for praying the rosary. I guess that’s where I can find the fifth joyful mystery, aside from the post-Passion flashback. The dvd is a bit short on the post-Resurrection life of Mary: no glorious mysteries past the first.

A stronger but minor criticism is with how the dvd is promoted. How would you interpret this quote from the back cover?

Mary of Nazareth is the woman of a full and total “Here I am” to the Divine Will. In her “yes,” even when faced with the sorrow of the loss of her Son, we find complete and profound beatitude. –Pope Benedict XVI

I’m sure the pope emeritus actually said this about Mary the person, not the film. A few things about how the piece is promoted on the Ignatius Press site rubbed the wrong way, too. The story presents itself, no extreme selling is really needed.

For me the worst part of the movie was how it presented appearances of angels.

Still, I recommend this film. It’s good family viewing. Except for the scenes of Passion violence and the slaughtering of the innocents, good for any age.

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Amoris Laetitia 270: Finding Balance With Discipline

amoris laetitia memeRemember that this word shares a root with “disciple.”

270. It is important that discipline not lead to discouragement, but be instead a stimulus to further progress. How can discipline be best interiorized? How do we ensure that discipline is a constructive limit placed on a child’s actions and not a barrier standing in the way of his or her growth? A balance has to be found between two equally harmful extremes. One would be to try to make everything revolve around the child’s desires; such children will grow up with a sense of their rights but not their responsibilities. The other would be to deprive the child of an awareness of his or her dignity, personal identity and rights; such children end up overwhelmed by their duties and a need to carry out other people’s wishes.

Another typically Jesuit comment. Balancing two extremes–our society has much love for each–requires discernment. There are not often easy answers.

Remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 269: Acknowledging the Positive

amoris laetitia memeCorrection seems to work better when the adult’s approach with a young person is balanced: that potential is recognized and encouraged.

269. Correction is also an incentive whenever children’s efforts are appreciated and acknowledged, and they sense their parents’ constant, patient trust. Children who are lovingly corrected feel cared for; they perceive that they are individuals whose potential is recognized. This does not require parents to be perfect, but to be able humbly to acknowledge their own limitations and make efforts to improve. Still, one of the things children need to learn from their parents is not to get carried away by anger. A child who does something wrong must be corrected, but never treated as an enemy or an object on which to take out one’s own frustrations. Adults also need to realize that some kinds of misbehaviour have to do with the frailty and limitations typical of youth. An attitude constantly prone to punishment would be harmful and not help children to realize that some actions are more serious than others. It would lead to discouragement and resentment: “Parents, do not provoke your children” (Eph 6:4; cf. Col 3:21).

Yes, anger is a problem for many adults. One mental health expert I know once remarked that it’s not about the parent feeling insulted or affronted by a child’s acting out. Sometimes when a young person errs, it is not about the target of the misbehavior.

Likewise, punishment is very much a part of the secular culture. We might like to think that the West indulges its youth. This is true mainly, if not only, for young people who present a successful face to the public. Much resentment is cultivated among young people who are bullied by peers, then ignored by “adults” in “authority.” Among serious offenders, how often do we hear of a move to treat an accused as an “adult.” Don’t be deceived it’s about accountability; to be sure–it’s about punishment.

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

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Of the Evangelist and Eagles

snake-eagleToday’s apostle was the patron of one of the parishes I once served. It seems like a tough time for a patronal feast in an ordinary parish; the bustle of Christmas Eve and Day is past and many people in liturgical ministry are just breathing a sigh of relief. More so in a university parish where almost all the young people are gone. Plus many residents in transit to visit extended families. So John stays just a name for a lot of Catholics.

The eagle is associated with John the evangelist. I was unaware that a whole subset of those predators are called “snake eagles.” Interesting, eh? Americans are used to seeing birds bald and golden scanning from above for rodents, rabbits and other small mammals. Grabbing snakes: that’s Virgin Mary material.

In astronomy, one of our summer constellations is interpreted as an eagle. There’s a commonality in this across many Eurasian cultures. Hindu’s eagle is the figure Garuda. For the Greeks, it was Zeus’s pet eagle, the one who snatched the boy Ganymede, one of the god’s many infatuations. Arabic observers named the brightest star from the phrase al-nasr al-tair, the flying eagle. More on the 12th-brightest star here.

A personal musical favorite is this setting adapting the first words of the first letter of John, from what I think of as the apex of Gregory Norbet’s Weston Priory period (1977-78). From the Bible:

We declare to you what was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked at and touched with our hands,
concerning the word of life—
this life was revealed,
and we have seen it and testify to it,
and declare to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was revealed to us—
we declare to you what we have seen and heard
so that you also may have fellowship with us;
and truly our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1 John 1:1-4)

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Amoris Laetitia 268: Consequences

amoris laetitia memeLet’s look at the value of correction as an incentive, which will take us from this section through #270. Some advice when children stray:

268. It is also essential to help children and adolescents to realize that misbehavior has consequences. They need to be encouraged to put themselves in other people’s shoes and to acknowledge the hurt they have caused. Some punishments – those for aggressive, antisocial conduct – can partially serve this purpose. It is important to train children firmly to ask forgiveness and to repair the harm done to others. As the educational process bears fruit in the growth of personal freedom, children come to appreciate that it was good to grow up in a family and even to put up with the demands that every process of formation makes.

Being able to admit a mistake and ask forgiveness: my wife and I have found that being able to demonstrate that to one another and to our daughter has been the most helpful step we could take in that regard. We did not raise a perfect child, but we do still live with a young woman who can admit when she is wrong and ask for pardon.

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

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