COMPILED BY TONI CASHNELLI
“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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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!”
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.)
Papal documents fall into certain recognized categories with levels of authority relative to each other.
Similar to an Apostolic Letter
Communicates papal conclusions after synods
Exhorts religious to deeper evangelical life
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
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
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
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 )
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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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