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Pope speaks on family life

VATICAN (SE): The long awaited apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis following the Synod on Marriage and the Family that ran over two sessions in 2014 and 2015 was released on April 8 at the Vatican.

Titled, The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), the text has been described as poetic and eloquent, with some even saying that it has the qualities of a hymn.

Pope Francis begins by noting that marriage and the desire to form a family are as popular as ever, but broadens the context of the family by saying that this joy is also that of the Church.

He notes, “The desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people, and this is an inspiration to the Church.” This he calls good news.

The pope looks at the nature of love and the different role that members of a family play, as well as giving a reflection on the importance of the role of the family in building a strong and healthy society.

He builds his description of love on the passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful…”

He speaks of compassion in the sense of acceptance and appreciation of the differences in the other, as well as taking up St. Paul’s theme of patience, which is not a passive waiting, but a dynamic interaction with others.

He speaks of endurance in the sense of not acting on impulse and indeed being slow to anger, as well as inoffensive, at the same time reminding his readers of the patience that God showed in the Old Testament in dealing with a slow-learning people.

But most of all Pope Francis speaks of rejoicing in the beauty and successes of the other, speaking of taking delight in putting the other forward without jealousy, while seeing beyond our own limitations.

He also gives a bit of homespun advice, repeating in various ways the old wisdom of never letting the sun go down on your anger and the importance of the small gesture and the non-verbal that contribute to peace-making among people.

He echoes the adage from Marriage Encounter, Love is a Decision, saying, “Even if others can no longer see the beauty of that identity, a spouse continues to see it with the eyes of love and so his or her affection does not diminish. He or she reaffirms the decision to belong to the other and expresses that choice in faithful and loving closeness.”

In a similar manner to his encyclicals, he makes his reflection something that many contribute to, taking extensive material from the two-part synod, calling it a multifaceted gem, as well as quoting from Martin Luther King, bishops’ conferences in Kenya, Australia, Argentina and other parts of the world, in addition to Erich Fromm and the movie, Babette’s Feast.

Vatican commentator, Robert Moynihan, compares the style that the pope has adopted to the sage grandfather, chatting his wisdom with his family.

In the exhortation, Pope Francis places the family at the centre of the construct of both the Church and wider society, looking at how it contributes to the life of planet Earth (join in caring for the environment as our common home), as well as the domestic Church of the home, which radiates its warmth and care to neighbour both near and far.

Although the pope does not advocate doctrinal change, which is not the prerogative of a pope anyway, he does call for a more welcoming attitude towards the divorced and remarried, but offers no advice on how to do this other than calling pastoral outreach an opening of the door to people in difficult situations.

In other words, he leaves it to the initiative to local Churches to figure it out according to local culture, customs and tradition.

Nor does he mention same-sex relationships, but does refer to marriage as being something between a man and a woman.

And he stresses, “Not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium.” And in a tick to local Churches, notes, “Each country or region… can seek solutions better suited to its traditions and local needs.”

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