April 14, 2016
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For the Love of Families

Pope’s message resonates with friars


“No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed,” according to “Amoris Laetitia”.Pope Francis: “Let us make this journey as families.”Sometimes, what people need most is understanding. They haven’t always gotten it from the Church.

With “Amoris Laetitia”, his exhortation on the family, Pope Francis did not set out to change Church teachings. But he is changing perceptions.

In it he says, “Many people feel that the Church’s message on marriage and the family does not clearly reflect the preaching and attitudes of Jesus, who set forth a demanding ideal yet never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals like the Samaritan woman or the woman caught in adultery.” (p. 28)

As Rev. Robert Sirico writes in the Detroit News, “The document is drenched in mercy, and urges pastors to lead their flock by maintaining a sense of welcome to those undergoing the sometimes arduous process of discerning and doing God’s will. It urges us to encourage — and include in parish life — those working toward living in accord with the Church’s teaching” (detroitnews.com).

While “Amoris Laetitia” doesn’t redefine “family”, it does seem to recognize that in today’s world, people with good intentions are doing the best they can.

“No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love,” the Pope concludes. “All of us are called to keep striving towards something greater than ourselves and our families, and every family must feel this constant impulse. Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together.”

Here’s what friars had to say when we asked for first impressions.


Fr. Don Miller, OFMDon Miller, OFM

I am excited about the possibilities which the Holy Father has made available in both the way the apostolic exhortation was developed and in its content. I find in it a proof that Pope Francis is open to and understands what the human condition is all about. Theory and norms have their place, but so does pastoral care and concern and a very clear appreciation of living with the reality of everyday issues. I also appreciate his very clear appreciation of Catholic Moral Theology, especially the distinction between objective and subjective culpability. It has everything to say about our status as saintly sinners or sinner-saints.


Br. Colin King, OFMBr. Colin King, OFM

As I have read “Amoris Laetitia”, I have been struck by the wide scope of love the apostolic exhortation speaks about.ᅠ However, it seems many folks have been waiting for this document simply to read what it says about same sex relationships and divorced/remarried couples. Although these are certainly two critical areas in our pastoral outreach, I was reminded that love covers many aspects in our life and relationships.ᅠ I hope this exhortation can help us to allow the fullness of love to be in our lives and in our families and even among us friars!

Considering the makeup of “families” in our modern culture, I found Pope Francis’ letter compassionate and understanding. I think the Pope has a loving concern for people’s “situation in life”.


Henry Beck, OFMFr. Henry Beck, OFM

I believe Pope Francis is encouraging us to move from a stance of righteousness that judges and possibly condemns to a merciful solidarity with others that engages and seeks to understand and search for truth together.ᅠ I see at work in Pope Francis a desire to place pastoral theology, as John O’Malley and other Church historians have noted about Vatican II, as “an essential prism for all theology;” that is, that speculation, systematics, and all research about God must, in the beginning and in the final analysis, be grounded in human events and human experience.ᅠ I find this encouraging because the heart of my ministry has been with concrete persons in the Church with whom I have learned so much about God’s presence with us.


Mike Lenz, OFMFr. Mike Lenz, OFM

I think our Holy Father’s exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” is a great blessing for the Church of today.ᅠ Although it is long, 325 paragraphs forming nine chapters, it is easy to read.ᅠ I like the Holy Father’s emphasis on mercy and compassion on the issues that face family life in today’s world, in many cultures and many problems. ᅠThe Pope has not deterred from the magisterium of the Church building on the work of his predecessors, yet he approaches the issues, which are complex, with the love of Christ and an understanding heart.ᅠ I think our professor of moral theology, Fr. Nick Lohkamp of blessed memory, would be very happy with the outcome of the two Synods and this apostolic exhortation of our Holy Father.


Br. Al Mascia, OFMBr. Al Mascia, OFM

By the time any ofᅠthis makesᅠit into News Notes Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia”, will have been publicly available to the media for just about one week. While many have already read the entire document, I’mᅠtaking the Holy Father’s adviceᅠnot to engage in a “rushed reading”ᅠ of it.ᅠᅠAfter just beginning toᅠdigest it, however,ᅠI canᅠalready understand why some reports have described “Amoris Laetitia”ᅠas “accessible”, “encouraging” and “pastoral.” What I personallyᅠlikeᅠ most about itᅠso farᅠis thatᅠit stands a good chance ofᅠbeing yetᅠanother helpful resource for me to drawᅠupon as I continue leading retreats onᅠPope Francis!ᅠIf the invitation the Holy Father extends to all of us to take the timeᅠto prayerfully consider what he has written is taken seriously, then I look forward to such topicsᅠas the domesticᅠChurch, the vocation ofᅠthe laity, the matter ofᅠconscience and evenᅠtheᅠsometimes problematicᅠquestionᅠof the internal forum to possibly come upᅠas important “talking points” while I continue my retreat work. My favorite soundbite so far: “Time is greater than space!”


Fr. Tom Richstatter, OFMFr. Tom Richstatter, OFM

I felt a deep sympathy with the tone of this document; many articles touched me personally.ᅠ Paragraph 298 describes my sister’s marriage: ᅠ“...unjustly abandoned...entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing.” ᅠIf this document appeared 50 years ago her children (grandchildren and great-grandchildren) would have been raised Catholic. But my sister had been told that she was “living in sin” and that nothing could be done for her.ᅠ I remember her first words to me after the funeral of her “second” husband: “Tom, now can I go to Communion again?”

Some years ago I was forced to remove the explanation of the “internal forum solution” from my website; perhaps I might be allowed to post it once again. ᅠ(It was one of the most frequently visited pages.)

My doctoral thesis, “Obedience to Liturgical Law,” was basically a historical and canonical examination of paragraph 11 of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: ᅠ“Pastors of souls must realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration...” ᅠPope Francis makes a very similar statement with regard to marriage: ᅠ“A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations.” (305) ᅠIn my 50 years of pastoral practice I have found that when we enter into the reality of other people’s lives, “our lives” as Pope Francis says, “become wonderfully complicated.” (308)

(Read “Amoris Laetitia” at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf). James Martin, SJ, writes about The Top Ten Takeaways from “Amoris Laetitia” at: http://americamagazine.org/issue/top-ten-takeaways-amoris-laetitia.)

ABCs of papal documents

Papal documents fall into certain recognized categories with levels of authority relative to each other.

Apostolic Constitution

  • Solemn Magisterial teaching acts of the Pope
  • Governance actions such as erecting dioceses, changing their status, rules for papal elections, etc.

Apostolic Exhortation

Similar to an Apostolic Letter

Communicates papal conclusions after synods

Exhorts religious to deeper evangelical life

Apostolic Letter

Solemn authority but less than an encyclical

Usually on a doctrinal matter or a papal act such as declaring a person venerable or a church a basilica

Common Declaration

  • A joint statement of the Holy Father and another religious leader concerning a common understanding of some teaching


Originally meant a circulating letter

Usually written in Latin and the title is taken from its first few words (its incipit)

Concerning Catholic doctrine sent to all who are in communion with the Holy See

Motu Proprio

Issued by the Pope on his own initiative and not in response to a request or at the initiative of others

Carries full papal authority but does not diminish existing laws unless specifically stated

Papal Bulls

Originally issued for public communication but now used only for more formal or solemn occasions

Used to indicate some decree or privilege – solemn or simple

Any papal document that contains a metal seal


Sr. Daria Mitchell, OSF

(Adapted from: https://www.ewtn.com/HolySee/pontiff/categories.asp )

  • College Track students with Mark Gehret at the parish’s former school.Visiting April 7, Br. Mark Gehret met some of the students of College Track, the mentoring program that occupies the second floor of the former St. Mary of the Angels School next door to SMA Parish in New Orleans. College Track empowers students from underserved areas to graduate from college by providing after-school academic support, leadership training, community service opportunities, guidance counseling and scholarships. The program moved into the former school more than two years ago and now serves about 100 students. Mark is the point man for onsite maintenance. To learn more about College Track, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJzOAVCXgFc
  • April 19, Br. Chris Meyer leaves for ministry in Jamaica, “but I’ll be back in 28 days for APA. I’m looking forward to continuing the work friars are doing across [the Diocese of] Montego Bay.” He’ll be living at the friary in Savanna-la-mar. April 21, he meets to discuss opportunities in technology with the diocese. “It’s all still kind of fluid right now,” says Chris, who expects to be dealing with internal and external communications, helping the diocese establish an online presence. The province is planning a missioning service for Chris at the All Province Assembly.
  • This weekend, Br. Vince Delorenzo heads to Rome for a week-long meeting with other Mission Directors of the English Speaking Conference. Vince serves the group as Chair.
  • Along with Pope Francis, Br. Al Mascia made the cover of the 2016 Catholic Directory & Buyers’ Guide for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The photo they used was taken by Frank Jasper.
  • A choir of 50 singers ages 10 to 80 will share their intergenerational talent this Saturday during “May the Music Live On,” a concert at St. Monica-St. George Parish Newman Center, 328 W. McMillan in Cincinnati. According to planners, “It’s a wonderful testament to the importance of music in our lives and the need to pass the love of music on to the next generation.” The 7 p.m. concert also features hand bells, piano, bass and a brass quintet. Tickets are $7.

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Sometimes we wonder, when we look back over our lives, if we would do it again.ᅠ Would I walk the same path, make the same choices?ᅠ We might do a few things differently if we had the chance, but facing our future with hope, we continue each day to “do what is ours to do,” to live and share the Gospel.

April 16 is the anniversary of the first approval of our Franciscan Rule, and it is the traditional day for us to renew our Franciscan commitment.ᅠ Here is a suggested prayer that can be used in the coming days, either individually or as a fraternity.

Renewal of Commitment to Franciscan Life

All praise be yours, O Lord, for all creation gives you glory.
All praise be yours, O Lord, for all good comes from you.
All praise be yours, O Lord, for you call us to the life of your Risen Son.

Today, we rededicate ourselves to the call you have given us.
We renew and profess our commitment to a Gospel vision of life,
handed on to us by our Father, Francis, and our Mother, Clare;
and we ask your help to continue to live the life of the Gospel
with obedience to your Spirit and your Church,
with poverty that imitates the life of your Son and his most Holy Mother,
and with chastity that frees us to love you and your people with unmeasured love.
All praise be yours, O Lord.



— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM

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Send comments or questions to: sjbfco@franciscan.org