Amoris Laetitia 265: Thirsting For Good

amoris laetitia memeThis paragraph strikes me as deeply Ignatian:

265. Doing what is right means more than “judging what seems best” or knowing clearly what needs to be done, as important as this is. Often we prove inconsistent in our own convictions, however firm they may be; even when our conscience dictates a clear moral decision, other factors sometimes prove more attractive and powerful. We have to arrive at the point where the good that the intellect grasps can take root in us as a profound affective inclination, as a thirst for the good that outweighs other attractions and helps us to realize that what we consider objectively good is also good “for us” here and now. A good ethical education includes showing a person that it is in his own interest to do what is right. Today, it is less and less effective to demand something that calls for effort and sacrifice, without clearly pointing to the benefits which it can bring.

This picks up on the previous sections where it is mentioned that the cultivation of good habits is vital in orienting ourselves to virtue, even when we are tempted to direct ourselves in a different direction. I can attest this is one of the hardest aspects of parenting, let alone my own moral life. What about any of you readers?

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

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Amoris Laetitia 264: Shaping Good Habits

amoris laetitia memeThis section suggests a way somewhat deeper than imparting information about good and bad. How can parents use inductive reasoning when our culture, even the Church at times, is so steeped in deduction? Pope Francis seems to be suggesting that the personal experience of a child who takes joy in right and suffers wrong can be part of the formation.

264. Parents are also responsible for shaping the will of their children, fostering good habits and a natural inclination to goodness. This entails presenting certain ways of thinking and acting as desirable and worthwhile, as part of a gradual process of growth. The desire to fit into society, or the habit of foregoing an immediate pleasure for the sake of a better and more orderly life in common, is itself a value that can then inspire openness to greater values. Moral formation should always take place with active methods and a dialogue that teaches through sensitivity and by using a language children can understand. It should also take place inductively, so that children can learn for themselves the importance of certain values, principles and norms, rather than by imposing these as absolute and unquestionable truths.

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

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Amoris Laetitia 263: Moral Formation

amoris laetitia memeParagraphs 263 through 267 address the ethical formation of children. We might look to other adults to teach our children math, science, foreign languages, sports, music, and dance. But beyond the education of a mind is the formation of a person. Teaching a young person what is right and just is a matter not of infusing the mind with correct behaviors. This goes beyond education. The responsibility, like it or not, is that of a parent:

263. Parents rely on schools to ensure the basic instruction of their children, but can never completely delegate the moral formation of their children to others. A person’s affective and ethical development is ultimately grounded in a particular experience, namely, that his or her parents can be trusted. This means that parents, as educators, are responsible, by their affection and example, for instilling in their children trust and loving respect. When children no longer feel that, for all their faults, they are important to their parents, or that their parents are sincerely concerned about them, this causes deep hurt and many difficulties along their path to maturity. This physical or emotional absence creates greater hurt than any scolding which a child may receive for doing something wrong.

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

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Amoris Laetitia 262: Moving Toward Maturity

amoris laetitia memeWhen Pope Francis writes of a coming maturity, it seems to me he’s not just alluding to the growing maturity of our children. Do parents see their parenting as part of a mturing process for themselves? When we “rethink our own ideas,” do we not develop as God call us?

262. Were maturity merely the development of something already present in our genetic code, not much would have to be done. But prudence, good judgement and common sense are dependent not on purely quantitative growth factors, but rather on a whole series of things that come together deep within each person, or better, at the very core of our freedom. Inevitably, each child will surprise us with ideas and projects born of that freedom, which challenge us to rethink our own ideas. This is a good thing. Education includes encouraging the responsible use of freedom to face issues with good sense and intelligence. It involves forming persons who readily understand that their own lives, and the life of the community, are in their hands, and that freedom is itself a great gift.

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

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When Sunday and Christmas Collide

ht-cmas-2013I think I can guess that nobody is keeping their Sunday schedule for Christmas. Unless your parish only gets a Saturday Mass.

It’s a given that Big Christmas for Catholics has shifted from midnight to the earliest Eve Mass. Why lament it? The biggest challenge for liturgical ministry is not restoring some sense of where a holy day lands, on the eve, the nearest Sunday, or the original day. That ship has long sailed. This would be an example of that Pope Francis comment about the Church’s ministers being more concerned with being hairdressers.

The point, friends, is to present the very best face on the liturgy for regulars, and especially visitors, occasional worshipers, and the vaguely curious. If the people came, heaven forbid, on the 23rd, it would still be the same task.

My parish has set the usual Christmas schedule: two eves, one midnight at 10pm, and two Christmas morning. What about yours?

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Amoris Laetitia 261: On Helicopter Parenting

amoris laetitia memeWe have concern for children, even children who are not our own. But it is fruitless to think we can protect them in totality. Pope Francis speaks on the phenomenon some of us have nicknamed “helicopter parenting.”

261. Obsession, however, is not education. We cannot control every situation that a child may experience. Here it remains true that “time is greater than space”.(Evangelii Gaudium  222) In other words, it is more important to start processes than to dominate spaces. If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space. But this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges.

This is certainly true. At least it seems that way to me. Children can be prepared to tackle challenges in their lives. The alternative, as I’ve seen in college-age young adults, is mostly passive people who wait to be sheltered, protected, and for someone else to address a life challenge.

What is most important is the ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy. Only in this way will children come to possess the wherewithal needed to fend for themselves and to act intelligently and prudently whenever they meet with difficulties.

These following are excellent questions, even if we don’t ask them of our children explicitly, but just wonder about them:

The real question, then, is not where our children are physically, or whom they are with at any given time, but rather where they are existentially, where they stand in terms of their convictions, goals, desires and dreams. The questions I would put to parents are these: “Do we seek to understand ‘where’ our children really are in their journey? Where is their soul, do we really know? And above all, do we want to know?”.(Catechesis (20 May 2015))

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

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Depicting Santa in Modern Movies

elf-hatI watched the first half of a truly bad Christmas movie last night. Then I went to bed, uninterested in how it turned out. How bad? Santa’s daughter takes her beau to the roof to watch the northern lights. The roof is decorated like a southern California house might be for the holidays. With cotton. It was fake snow as fake as you’d see at a middle school drama club.

And then there was the sunrise. This was a worse boo-boo than Alaska’s early-morning bright in this movie. It was bad enough that last night’s film had lots of magical things. But there are no trees at the North Pole. Even climate change deniers know there’s just plain ice-covered ocean and happy polar bears at ninety degrees north.

And if the writers were really looking at some place in central Alaska, like the town of North Pole, check the sunrise prediction here. Almost 11AM this time of year. Daylight is a business lunch hour for the 1%. If the couple formerly known as Michael J. Fox’s parents on 80’s tv really lived at the North Pole then they would know sunrise would be in March, sunset in September. If memory serves, Polar Express got it right. But that film had me at the hot chocolate song.

I’ve been paying attention to movies in which Santa plays matchmaker to young adults. Mind you, I’m rather partial to non-Santa schemers like the one Doris Roberts played so deliciously here. But I’m curious about the impulse to tell stories in which Santa finds time away from toy factories and reindeer care to nudge two lonely and deserving people into each others’ arms. What does it mean?

Is part of our culture reticent about letting go of a magical figure who once enriched our early Christmas mornings? Adults know that Santa doesn’t deal in X-Boxes or XXX-movies. Maybe love is the only magical thing left in our culture. And if e-harmony can’t do the trick, maybe that jolly old elf can put some happiness into romance. How many single Americans would want to find a special someone asleep under their Christmas tree on the 25th?

Or maybe I’m just over-thinking the whole Christmas movie industry. Hallmark has–what?–nineteen releases? What are cable tv and YouTube going to look like in another century this time of year. I haven’t even seen Elf again … yet.

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