Amoris Laetitia 231: Casting Light on Crises, Worries, and Difficulties

amoris laetitia memeWe continue in Chapter Six, “Some Pastoral Perspectives (sections 199-258) and the fourth and longest subsection (231-252) which will begin to address the challenges of marriage in today’s world.

Marriages evolve past that initial state of “honeymoon,” as the metaphor suggests (and is often extended to other human relationships).

231. A word should also be said about those whose love, like a fine wine, has come into its own. Just as a good wine begins to “breathe” with time, so too the daily experience of fidelity gives married life richness and “body”. Fidelity has to do with patience and expectation. Its joys and sacrifices bear fruit as the years go by and the couple rejoices to see their children’s children. The love present from the beginning becomes more conscious, settled and mature as the couple discover each other anew day after day, year after year. Saint John of the Cross tells us that “old lovers are tried and true”. They “are outwardly no longer afire with powerful emotions and impulses, but now taste the sweetness of the wine of love, well-aged and stored deep within their hearts”.(Cántico Espiritual B, XXV, 11) Such couples have successfully overcome crises and hardships without fleeing from challenges or concealing problems

Obstacles not concealed or avoided: I would say this is one aspect of a fruitful marriage. Not the absence of crisis, but a direct confrontation of the challenges every marriage will face, regardless of any circumstances.

Thoughts on that? For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Amoris Laetitia 230: Sacramental Moments

amoris laetitia memePope Francis accuses us of missing opportunities when parents bring children for baptism and First Communion. I daresay he is right about many parishes and ministers.

230. It is true that many couples, once married, drop out of the Christian community. Often, however, we ourselves do not take advantage of those occasions when they do return, to remind them of the beautiful ideal of Christian marriage and the support that our parishes can offer them. I think, for example, of the Baptism and First Holy Communion of their children, or the funerals or weddings of their relatives or friends. Almost all married couples reappear on these occasions, and we should take greater advantage of this. Another way of growing closer is by blessing homes or by bringing a pilgrim image of Our Lady to houses in the neighbourhood; this provides an opportunity for a pastoral conversation about the family’s situation. It could also be helpful to ask older married couples to help younger couples in the neighborhood by visiting them and offering guidance in the early years of marriage. Given the pace of life today, most couples cannot attend frequent meetings; still, we cannot restrict our pastoral outreach to small and select groups. Nowadays, pastoral care for families has to be fundamentally missionary, going out to where people are. We can no longer be like a factory, churning out courses that for the most part are poorly attended.

This wraps up that section on “Some Resources” (Amoris Laetitia 223-230). Not many specifics in terms of movies, volumes, or gurus. But enough to spark imaginations, and for to set ourselves to doing some good work. Any suggestions of specifics that you have seen or experienced?

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Amoris Laetitia 229: Institutional Resources

amoris laetitia memeWhat of the institutional Church? What are responsibilities for the school, the parish office, the hospital, the monastery, the chancery? More lists follow; how many of these aspects are provided by the Catholic institutions of which you are a part?

229. Parishes, movements, schools and other Church institutions can help in a variety of ways to support families and help them grow. These might include:

  • meetings of couples living in the same neighborhood,
  • brief retreats for couples;
  • talks by experts on concrete issues facing families,
  • marriage counselling,
  • home missionaries who help couples discuss their difficulties and desires,
  • social services dealing with family problems like addiction, infidelity and domestic violence,
  • programs of spiritual growth,
  • workshops for parents with troubled children and
  • family meetings.

The parish office should be prepared to deal helpfully and sensitively with family needs and be able to make referrals, when necessary, to those who can help.

Does your parish secretary have the list of referrals? Is he or she prepared to suggest meetings or groups in the church or neighborhood to those in need?

There is also the contribution made by groups of married couples that provide assistance as part of their commitment to service, prayer, formation and mutual support. Such groups enable couples to be generous, to assist other families and to share the faith; at the same time they strengthen marriages and help them to grow.

For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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A Psalm Survey For Christ The King

christ_pantocrator_mosaic_from_hagia_sophiaAcross the three years of the Sunday Lectionary plus the Roman Antiphonary, we Roman Catholics have some interesting choices for the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. I don’t pretend to offer a thorough study of these several psalms–that would take a chapter, if not a whole book. But I found some linked themes or ideas as I consulted the Lectionary, the Antiphonary, and other resources.

Most worshipers are familiar with the Psalm that follows the first reading. In the A, B, and C years respectively, the psalms are the 23rd, the 93rd, and the 122nd.

At entrance, Psalm 85 is an interesting choice. The Antiphonary gives this refrain:

The Lord speaks of peace to his people and his holy ones and to those who turn to him.

That should be familiar as one of the two common psalms for Advent.

For Communion, one option is to blend Psalm 34 or 57 with an antiphon from Psalm 117:

O praise the Lord, all you nations, for his merciful love towards us is great.

The alternate refrain from Matthew 28:20 is yoked to Psalm 68. The 34th (Taste and See) is always a communion option for Ordinary Time and even seasons.

When I checked the resource By Flowing Waters, I found other psalms in use there: Psalm 72 (with an antiphon of Daniel 7:27) for the entrance, Psalm 47 (with an antiphon of Isaiah 49:6) for preparation, and the Canticle of David from 1 Chronicles 29 (with an antiphon based on Micah 5:4c-5a).

Psalm 72 is a royal Psalm used every year on Epiphany, and in cycle A, this coming liturgical year, on the second Sunday of Advent. Psalm 47 should be familiar to liturgy geeks as the appointed Psalm for Ascension. The link to the power and stature of the Lord Jesus is obvious. David’s canticle touches on the kingship in ancient Israel.

I don’t offer any profound conclusions on any of this; just a note that we do well not to think of liturgical feasts and seasons in isolation. Links across the liturgical year from the ending Sundays to Advent, Epiphany, and Easter feasts suggest a greater awareness than just historical or spiritual reenactments of salvation history.

Speaking for my parish’s plans for the coming Sunday, we are emphasizing music that tells the story of the Lord. Also our posture of trust in his power–a power that protects, guides, and opens our hearts and minds to things greater than just earthly authorities. Jesus Christ is “King of the Universe,” as the Missal describes.

Image credit.

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Amoris Laetitia 228: A Mixed Marriage

amoris laetitia memeWhat of a couple who shares love, but not faith?

228. In some cases, one of the spouses is not baptized or does not want to practice the faith. This can make the other’s desire to live and grow in the Christian life difficult and at times painful. Still, some common values can be found and these can be shared and relished. In any event, showing love for a spouse who is not a believer, bestowing happiness, soothing hurts and sharing life together represents a true path of sanctification. Love is always a gift of God. Wherever it is poured out, it makes its transforming presence felt, often in mysterious ways, even to the point that “the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband” (1 Cor 7:14).

Seeking common values: at the very least there is a commitment to love. The goal, the goodness to be sought is a sanctification. None of us are completely holy in this life. It seems we are all on some path of development, whether we realize it or not.

For your reference Amoris Laetitia is online here.

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Some Aspects of Peace at Mass

handshakeDiscussions on the Sign of Peace in the modern Roman Rite are not new to this site. We looked at it five years ago in our survey of the GIRM. We had a follow-up a few days afterward. Visitor Anthony Phillips offered a comment on another thread that I’d like to pull out for a separate discussion. Or a renewed one.

On the topic of dialogues prior to Communion, and unlike what occasional traditionalist commentators might say about it, the peace dialogue may never be licitly omitted from Mass.

As for how people exchange peace, this is left to the bishops on the conference level. According to the GIRM, it is not really an option:

82. There follows the Rite of Peace, by which the Church entreats peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament.

It would seem the Missal envisions an expression among the faithful, not just between the clergy and assembly. The second paragraph seems to support this, given the 2000 addition to the earlier edition:

However, it is appropriate that each person, in a sober manner, offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest.

Mr Phillips offers this additional interpretation:

Paul VI’s Missal directs that the priest says, ‘Pax Dómini sit semper vobíscum,’ and the people responed, ‘Et cum spíritu tuo.’ If that’s what you mean, you’re right. But that’s all that’s needed. The rubrics continue: ‘Postea, pro opportunitate, sacerdos subiungit: Offérte vobis pacem…’ Pro opportunitate translates as ‘when appropriate.’ So all that hand-shaking we’re subjected to should only be done when appropriate. And I’d argue that it’s almost never, ever appropriate.

I’ve seen this opinion offered by some internet commentators, and it’s false. I can see the misunderstanding, though. What is to be done “when appropriate” is the invitation to share the peace. If people need no prompting, then it would seem the words are unneeded. I suspect that in most parishes, if the deacon or priest just began shaking hands with the servers, people would do likewise with their neighbors in the pew. And if a priest unlawfully moved straight to the Agnus Dei, some people would still exchange peace in some form. And they would do so licitly.

I do think that the Sign of Peace deserves a very deep discernment. Some commentators suggest this “reenacting” of Matthew 5:23-24 is better placed at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Or even before the entrance rites of the Mass. I’ve heard and read arguments in favor of these, and I’m hard-pressed to rebut some of the better points I’ve encountered.

Catholics of two stripes might do well to consider one of two questions:

  • Why do you make it into an extended time for social exchange?
  • Why do you have difficulty with it?

Mr Phillips expresses a response to this second question:

(P)erhaps we can agree that one of the defects of the Pauline liturgy is that it forces people to be so busy speaking (and shaking hands) that they don’t have time to pray. And also that it robs us of some of the powerful gestures that in some ways carry more meaning than words: genuflecting when the Incarnation is mentioned in the Creed and the Last Gospel, for instance, and at other sundry occasions during the year.

I understand that personal interaction can be a distraction. When I pray, I don’t prefer it. But I don’t view my role at Mass as prayer in the same sense as Lectio Divina, the rosary, or other forms of personal spirituality. The Mass is worship. It is primarily an expression of Christ, and we mortal beings are drawn into a greater worship, something much larger than just “me and God.”

Granted, this observation is open to a wider and different interpretation. My experience of liturgy, either Mass or the other sacraments or the Hours, is usually rooted in my duties as a liturgical minister. Rare is the moment when extended periods of public liturgy is pure prayer.

I can see that people accustomed to a “one-stop shopping” approach might be able to only squeeze an hour once a week for prayer. That is a foreign thing to me. I was formed as a young Catholic in the 70’s–not exactly the most “enlightened” time in the eyes of some, to come early to Mass to pray. Even before I became a church musician, Mass was more like seventy to eighty minutes, not just an hour. It usually had a substantial prelude of quiet time. I never saw an exchange that intends to underscore “peace and unity” to be a disruption. If quiet prayer in church is such a value, why not do it on the way to or from work, after school, on a weeknight date, or snatch some minutes when one can. I’ve worked for a lot of churches. Rare is the time outside of Mass when there’s not room to kneel or too much noise to focus.

Clasping hands, bowing without words, embracing, or even sharing a handshake all strike me as powerful gestures.

Any comments?

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Crickets and Sacraments

from the cupAt PrayTell, Fritz Bauerschmidt wonders about the practice of wordless reception of the Eucharist among clerical concelebrants at Mass. It strikes me we have a lot of dialogue prior to the Communion procession: Eucharistic acclamations, including an Amen response to the entire anaphora, the Lord’s Prayer, a verbal exchange of peace (which may not be omitted from the Mass), and an adaptation of the centurion’s prayer.

Instead of thinking about adding words for priests, I was wondering about subtracting them for the laity. How would this impact the celebration of Mass?

Think about the other six sacraments:

  • Baptismal dialogues precede the water bath, and even adults have no given response to their encounter at the font.
  • In confirmation, there is the double dialogue with the minister, but again: how necessary is this, given the silence of infants, parents, and godparent at infant chrismation?
  • Considering Penance, there is the “legal” formula for absolution–that seems essential to the ritual.
  • When a sick believer is anointed, there is also a double formula. The rite is otherwise wordy prior to this, especially if there are no abbreviations for a seriously sick person.
  • Exchanging consent at marriage seems vital, but remember: the clergy need not speak at all during this part of the liturgy. A cleric is witness, not minister.
  • Likewise ordination rites are wordy, perhaps the most of all the sacraments. The most visually significant moments are often done in silence.

I’m disinclined to suggest a rewrite on this in the Order of Mass. On the other hand, I don’t think words matter as much as the simple, profound gesture of the bow and the humble reception of the consecrated bread and wine.

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