Aparecida 434-435: Models For And Ministries To Families

434. We believe that “the family is the image of God, who in his innermost mystery is not aloneness but a family.”(Puebla 582) Our families have their origin, their perfect model, their most beautiful motivation and their ultimate destiny in the communion of love of the three Divine Persons.

The perfection of the Trinity is not at all in question. But I would wonder if so many believers have stalled in their life’s imitation of Christ, how they would view their families as suggestive of what is, for many, a difficult theological concept.

435. Inasmuch as the family is the value most cherished by our peoples, we believe that concern for it should be undertaken as one of the thrusts running through all of the Church’s evangelizing activity. In every diocese there must be an “intense and vigorous”(Introductory Address 5) family ministry to proclaim the gospel of the family, promote the culture of life, and work to assure that the rights of the family are recognized and respected.

Family ministry emerged here and there in the 80s, but in parishes. Diocesan efforts come and go as new bishops are assigned. A chancery’s priorities don’t always spell effort at the parish level, where the most significant impact can often be made.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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GeE 43: The Limits of Reason

See the source imageHuman beings are gifted with vast intelligence, the ability to use the mind to reason beyond animal instinct. It places us at the very top of the planet’s ecosystem, five million years past primates descending from trees and dodging predators on the plains of Africa.

43. It is not easy to grasp the truth that we have received from the Lord. And it is even more difficult to express it. So we cannot claim that our way of understanding this truth authorizes us to exercise a strict supervision over others’ lives. Here I would note that in the Church there legitimately coexist different ways of interpreting many aspects of doctrine and Christian life; in their variety, they “help to express more clearly the immense riches of God’s word”.

It’s part of the meaning of being a “catholic” Church–our wide and varied approach to God from many different places, in numerous ways.

Pope Francis is a skeptic on “confusion.” as we all should be:

It is true that “for those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion”.[Evangelii Gaudium 40] Indeed, some currents of gnosticism scorned the concrete simplicity of the Gospel and attempted to replace the trinitarian and incarnate God with a superior Unity, wherein the rich diversity of our history disappeared.

You can check the full document Gaudete et Exsultate on the Vatican website.


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Aparecida 432-433: Marriage and Family

A topic very much on the mind of many clerics–not to mention families themselves: Marriage and Family.

432. The family is one of the most important treasures of Latin American and Caribbean peoples, and it is heritage of all humanity. In our countries a significant portion of the population is affected by difficult living conditions that directly threaten the family institution. As disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, we are called to work so that this situation may be transformed, and the family may assume its being and its mission (John Paul II, Second World Meeting with Families in Rio de Janeiro, October 4, 1997, n. 4) within society and the Church.(John Paul II, Address at the First World Meeting of Families, nn. 2 and 7, Rome, October 8, 1994; Second World Meeting of Families, Rio de Janeiro, October 3, 1997; FC 17, November 22, 1981; Benedict XVI, Family, be what you are! Valencia, July 8, 2006.)

Writers, speakers, preachers, and even popes offer many words on this topic. I look for something that gets to the core. The Aparecida bishops write of “mission within society and the Church.” Exactly what is that mission? In three simple words: imitation of Christ. How do men and women, as well as their children, show forth Christ by the example of their communal life? If we are speaking of sacramentality as something beyond a civil union, then it would seem that an intentional example is needed. Many modern writings, even that of lay people who have the experience from within marriage, seem to miss the most important impulse. They often focus instead on particulars which may or may not be within the bounds of the gifts of individuals or their families.

The bishops begin with sacrament:

433. The Christian family is founded on the sacrament of matrimony between a man and a woman, sign of God’s love for humankind and of Christ’s self-surrender for his spouse, the Church. This covenant of love gives rise to fatherhood and motherhood, and childhood and brother- and sisterhood, and the commitment of the couple to a better society.

And from this beginning the first emphasis is on Christ’s example of love and sacrifice for the benefit of others.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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GeE 42: Claims Where God Is Not Present

See the source imageGod will surprise us, especially when we are complacent and satisfied. And if we are attentive. Another problem with Gnosticism is not where is claims God is only present, but also the surety of the claim where God is not:

42. Nor can we claim to say where God is not, because God is mysteriously present in the life of every person, in a way that he himself chooses, and we cannot exclude this by our presumed certainties. Even when someone’s life appears completely wrecked, even when we see it devastated by vices or addictions, God is present there. If we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit rather than our own preconceptions, we can and must try to find the Lord in every human life. This is part of the mystery that a gnostic mentality cannot accept, since it is beyond its control.

Modern commentators are sometimes quick to say God is not in other churches, with people who don’t think as we do, in the secular world, in business, costume balls, or in “irregular” relationships or in people caught in illegal situations. Not true.

You can check the full document Gaudete et Exsultate on the Vatican website.


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Aparecida 431: Family, Persons, and Life

The ninth chapter of the Aparecida document will treat the multiple and interlocking issues that involve human relationships. This examination will take us to section #475, so let’s get started.


431. We cannot pause here to analyze all the issues involved in the Church’s pastoral activity, nor can we propose finished plans or exhaustive lines of action. We will merely devote attention to some issues that have become particularly relevant recently, so that Bishops Conferences and other local bodies may subsequently move to broader, concrete considerations adapted to the needs of their own territory.

If you would like a list of topics, here goes: marriage and family, children, adolescents, the elderly, women, men, pro-life issues, the environment. That would seem to cover most everything, but keep in mind that the Aparecida bishops saw this document as the start, not the end. Before his election to Rome, Pope Francis saw the effort of this document as “not sufficient to itself, it doesn’t close, it is not the last step, because the final opening is to the mission.”

The mission to persons continues in the next few dozen posts.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Parents of Liturgists

In my three decades of liturgical ministry, I believe I may have spent one Mother’s Day with my mom–the year we adopted the young miss and my family was graced with a visit from back east. Funny how today’s holiday always lands during the Easter Season. And how many First Communions have involved me these long years on this weekend! (not this year, but the plan is afoot for it in 2019 in my parish.

It was my dad with whom I had a more regular adult tradition, until he passed away. We were the seafood lovers in the fam, so what others in our household growing up disliked, we feasted on those third Sundays in June. Even after I moved away from the liturgical desert of my home diocese, I often got back to visit in June–my first chance to escape, usually, since the prior August. I knew I had graduated into the adult world when my dad remarked on our way to supper one year that he enjoyed our time together; I was the only one in the family with  whom he could have a sensible conversation. I might dispute that point, but I appreciated our man-to-man talks.

As I was browsing through facebook this weekend, I was noticing friends’ pictures with their moms. I don’t believe I have one with mine, not since my baby days. The family joke is that the palm of my mother’s hand is her most photogenic feature, averse as she is to having her picture taken.

Anyway, here’s to all the moms out there, especially the oft-overlooked godmothers. Those women do a lot of praying and I’m sure they will get a special day in eternal life, if we even bother with years in the hereafter.

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GeE 41: Answers For Every Question

See the source imageDoes Pope Francis have a Spanish turn-of-phrase for a “know-it-all”? He is careful to notice tendencies here, and not offer a catch-all criticism. He speaks of “signs” and people who “may” be false prophets.

41. When somebody has an answer for every question, it is a sign that they are not on the right road. They may well be false prophets, who use religion for their own purposes, to promote their own psychological or intellectual theories. God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises. We are not the ones to determine when and how we will encounter him; the exact times and places of that encounter are not up to us. Someone who wants everything to be clear and sure presumes to control God’s transcendence.

Think God isn’t full of surprises? Read the Bible and biographies of saints to be convinced otherwise.

You can check the full document Gaudete et Exsultate on the Vatican website.


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