Amoris Laetitia 317: Family Life and the Paschal Mystery

amoris laetitia memeToday and tomorrow, we look at the theme, Gathered in prayer in the light of Easter. This continues on AL 316, and the aspiration not only for family love and harmony, but the mutual assistance of members to assist one another into sanctity.

No doubt, this is a difficult read for many people, even the religious-minded. Good examples would help us. Saints, for one thing. Also, the benefit of couples long married who can authentically witness to the triumph over difficulties. What do you make of the link between the Paschal Mystery and the Sacrament of Marriage? How often is that preached in preparation events?

317. If a family is centered on Christ, he will unify and illumine its entire life. Moments of pain and difficulty will be experienced in union with the Lord’s cross, and his closeness will make it possible to surmount them. In the darkest hours of a family’s life, union with Jesus in his abandonment can help avoid a breakup. Gradually, “with the grace of the Holy Spirit, [the spouses] grow in holiness through married life, also by sharing in the mystery of Christ’s cross, which transforms difficulties and sufferings into an offering of love”.(Relatio Finalis 2015, 87) Moreover, moments of joy, relaxation, celebration, and even sexuality can be experienced as a sharing in the full life of the resurrection. Married couples shape with different daily gestures a “God-enlightened space in which to experience the hidden presence of the risen Lord”.(Vita Consecrata 42)

That last quote is from John Paul II’s 1996 apostolic exhortation. For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 316: Family As Path To Mystical Union

amoris laetitia memeToday, the Holy Father leans on his two predecessors to convey the aspiration for daily and gradual growth in holiness:

316. A positive experience of family communion is a true path to daily sanctification and mystical growth, a means for deeper union with God. The fraternal and communal demands of family life are an incentive to growth in openness of heart and thus to an ever fuller encounter with the Lord. The word of God tells us that “the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, and walks in the darkness” (1 Jn 2:11); such a person “abides in death” (1 Jn 3:14) and “does not know God” (1 Jn 4:8). My predecessor Benedict XVI pointed out that “closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God”,(Deus Caritas Est 16) and that, in the end, love is the only light which can “constantly illuminate a world grown dim”.(Deus Caritas Est 39) If only we “love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 Jn 4:12). Since “the human person has an inherent social dimension”,(Christifideles Laici 40) and “the first and basic expression of that social dimension of the person is the married couple and the family”,(Ibid.) spirituality becomes incarnate in the communion of the family. Hence, those who have deep spiritual aspirations should not feel that the family detracts from their growth in the life of the Spirit, but rather see it as a path which the Lord is using to lead them to the heights of mystical union.

So frequently in ministry I’ve heard regrets from people who cannot be as involved as they would like to be because of family commitments. Perhaps our spirituality on this front is somewhat impoverished, but I think Pope Francis is right. Caring for family members is a route to holiness. It may not be as obvious as the public acts of worship and what worship leaders do. But it is a holy pilgrimage nonetheless.

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

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Amoris Laetitia 314-315: A Spirituality of Supernatural Communion

amoris laetitia memeLet’s examine the theme “A Spirituality of Supernatural Communion”

314. We have always spoken of how God dwells in the hearts of those living in his grace. Today we can add that the Trinity is present in the temple of marital communion. Just as God dwells in the praises of his people (cf. Ps 22:3), so he dwells deep within the marital love that gives him glory.

The expression of marriage and family responds to how we have been made as biological, social, and spiritual beings. It makes sense that a deep gaze into our relationships with others will reveal something of God there too.

We are not just talking about when human beings manage to be virtuous:

315. The Lord’s presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes. Living in a family makes it hard for us to feign or lie; we cannot hide behind a mask. If that authenticity is inspired by love, then the Lord reigns there, with his joy and his peace. The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures. In that variety of gifts and encounters which deepen communion, God has his dwelling place. This mutual concern “brings together the human and the divine”,(Gaudium et Spes 49) for it is filled with the love of God. In the end, marital spirituality is a spirituality of the bond, in which divine love dwells.

One takeaway for me is that the boundaries between sacred and secular seem less important, especially if we can encounter God dwelling within our most precious relationships. What do you think?

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

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A Film About Friendship

learning_to_drive_posterMy wife and I surfed around the great and mighty Amazon the other night and found an enjoyable film that we thought was surprisingly good. At least compared to the dregs that appear on the listings I see there.

The wiki-listing is here. I found their quote from Rotten Tomatoes interesting:

The story’s a bit predictable, but Learning to Drive is elevated by typically strong work from stars Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley.

And I found that a perky comment. RT is right about the leads. But the Hollywood predictable element might have had two mismatched persons fall in love and get married. But the last bit doesn’t quite happen here, at the risk of spoiling a film you readers might want to see.

I thought the emotional lives of two middle-aged people were very well-written. Ms Clarkson’s character has been abandoned by her husband for a younger woman. Mr Kingsley portrays a Sikh emigre from India who is about to receive a bride from the old country.

The film touches on loneliness, family relationships, racism, class, anger, isolation, fear, and especially friendship. The viewer is drawn pretty deeply into the characters’ lives, so much so that I found myself cringing as I would if I were exposed to real abuse or embarrassment for a friend. Perhaps that makes for a successful effort in cinema.

The filmmaker/screenwriter present the final scene between the two leads with great honesty and sensitivity. I think studios are making movies with more subltlety these days, but I was still surprised at this ending, which left me pleased.

There’s one bedroom scene of casual sex which at first I didn’t think added anything to the overall narrative. But on second thought, it seems to serve to contrast the deeper friendship between Wendy and Darwan. There’s a much deeper intimacy between friends who have lifted up each other in turn out of a situation of being mostly lost. And that, if you can find it among friends, is something very good indeed.

Sirach 6:14-16 comes to mind:

Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price;
no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
and those who fear the Lord will find them.

Learning to Drive is about that.

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Amoris Laetitia 313: The Spirituality of Marriage and the Family

amoris laetitia memeLet’s begin a look at Chapter Nine of Amoris Laetitia (online here) The topic is “The Spirituality of Marriage and the Family.”

313. Charity takes on different hues, depending on the state of life to which we have been called. Several decades ago, in speaking of the lay apostolate, the Second Vatican Council emphasized the spirituality born of family life. The Council stated that lay spirituality “will take its particular character from the circumstances of… married and family life”,(Apostolicam Actuositatem 4) and that “family cares should not be foreign” to that spirituality.(Cf. Ibid.) It is worth pausing to describe certain basic characteristics of this specific spirituality that unfolds in family life and its relationships.


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Amoris Laetitia 312: Advice For People and Pastors

amoris laetitia memeWe arrive at the end of Chapter Eight. A conclusion of sorts:

312. This offers us a framework and a setting which help us avoid a cold bureaucratic morality in dealing with more sensitive issues. Instead, it sets us in the context of a pastoral discernment filled with merciful love, which is ever ready to understand, forgive, accompany, hope, and above all integrate. That is the mindset which should prevail in the Church and lead us to “open our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society”.(Misericordiae Vultus 15)

Some particular advice:

I encourage the faithful who find themselves in complicated situations to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay people whose lives are committed to the Lord. They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth.

What do you make of the advice to approach “committed lay people” when in difficulty?

Advice for shepherds:

I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church.

Thoughts, now that we’ve finished off this chapter on “Accompanying, Discerning, and Integrating Weakness”?

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

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On Clerical Culture

Fr AAbout that abuse report in Australia, commentators and experts take aim at clerical culture.

Father Thomas Doyle:

If you want to recommend one thing, it is that there has to be a primary concern on the care of the present victims, the ones who are there, those whose souls have either been damaged beyond repair or who are seriously suffering.

Listening – letting them cry, be angry, yell, scream, whatever … and trying to help the people understand, you know: ‘You aren’t guilty of anything,'” is “more important than all the protocols, all the structures, all the policies, all the paperwork, all the talk, talk, talk that has been going on.”

Not only victims. But family members, allies, and parishioners who feel betrayed by priest or bishop. We need to make a ministry of listening. And more, telling people it is okay to vent. And we will patiently listen. It is about showing mercy, not just talk, talk, talking about it. It’s the artist’s principle. It has to be about showing, not telling.

More from Fr Doyle:

Father Doyle called clericalism “a virus that has infected the church,” leading to a culture of cover-up because people believe that churchmen “are in some form or way sacred and above ordinary people, and because of this sacredness, because of their importance, they must be held as more important and protected more.”

If I were starting to look at this, I would ponder some serious shifts:

  • Candidates younger than age thirty to thirty-five would be judged as exceptions to the rule. I think there are prodigies in ministry. I don’t think it’s a reasonable assumption for the majority.
  • Close all men-only seminaries and integrate students and faculty into a graduate school for theology. Maybe that means integrating lay people into an existing seminary in a diocese. If for no other reason, clergy, deacons, and lay ecclesial ministers could be all reading from the same theological page. The men-only environment fits in a monastery. Period.
  • Before a candidate is considered for priesthood candidacy, there should be a serious component of ministry already in evidence in their lives. A prerequisite for graduate school would be a written reflection on that ministry experience. Something like a Masters’ thesis in length and showing the ability to integrate what a person does with who a person is.
  • During studies, a continuing component of ministry in a parish is needed. Ten hours a week during academic periods, and full time during summers and a pastoral year. The thing is to make connections with people as a primary ministry of the priest. Continuing self-reflection during all this time, and professional interaction with lay people and clergy colleagues: essential.
  • Instead of a transitional diaconate (or perhaps along with it) a thirty day retreat. Annual eight-day retreats while in formation. Needless to say, 6 to 8 day retreats every year thereafter.

I don’t expect these changes to really take root. Bishops don’t listen to me. But if they did, I think we would get better priests, better prepared for service, and maybe only one generation of embitterment as the fallout from the abuse and cover-up crisis. As it is, I predict a lingering discontentment and faltering steps to restoring a moral and spiritual credibility to the institutional Church.

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