From September 15, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.
This is the first in a series of six articles by Archbishop Cordileone on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (the Joy of Love).
“The Christian proclamation on the family is good news indeed.” These words are among the opening statements of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love). An Apostolic Exhortation is the document issued by the Pope following on a Synod of Bishops which recapitulates and gives direction to the deliberations of the participating bishops, a sort of universal pastoral plan for the specific topic treated at the Synod affecting the life and ministry of the Church. Amoris Laeititia, the longest such document yet, follows up on the Synods on the Family of 2014 and 2015.
The Christian understanding of the family, marriage, and the human person are indeed good news. It stands in stark contrast to the view held by many today, according to which we are fundamentally alone in life (Mother Theresa has said that, particularly in the West, “loneliness… is the greatest poverty”), and that society is held together largely by a collection of individual rights. As Christians, however, we believe that every human person is, in the words of Saint John Paul II, “unique and unrepeatable,” and that each of us is created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:17).
What does it mean to be in the image and likeness of God? We know from Scripture that God is Love (1 John 4:8), and love always means making a gift of oneself for the good of the other. We also know from Revelation that God is not alone – God is a Trinity of Persons. On reflection, this makes sense, because to have love, to “be love,” requires more than one person. The Father loves the Son, everything He is and has He gives to the Son; the Son in turn loves the Father and returns this to the Father; and, because love is always other-centered and life-giving, the love between them generates the Holy Spirit, the “Lord and giver of life,” who “proceeds from the Father and the Son,” as we profess every Sunday at Mass.
Thus, the most fundamental and true statement to be made about any person is that we are made for love (with others on earth, and with God – Love Himself – in heaven). The Second Vatican Council teaches us that the human person “cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, n. 24), that is, except through loving others.
Further, to love and to be loved is not only essential to our human nature, but it is the very end for which we are designed, that is, to live in union with others. In contrast to Enlightenment philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, who claim that human nature is essentially solitary, the Christian understanding – and one of the basic principles of Catholic Social Teaching – is that we are social beings. (We can recognize, for example, that the most severe punishment in prison is solitary confinement, as this is the denial of our basic human need for others – thus the movement to mollify this extreme penalty.) We are made in the image of God, who Himself is a “communion of persons,” according to Pope Francis.
All of Catholic teaching on marriage and family, all of Catholic Social Teaching, is based on this understanding of the human person. We can only truly flourish as a person in relation to others. Even our salvation depends on this – we are saved not so much as individuals, but in being joined to the Body of Christ (cf 1 Cor 12:27).
The Holy Father urges a “patient and careful reading” of the text by families and those in ministry to families. I hope in this upcoming series of brief articles to offer some useful reflections on Amoris Laetitia, and apply it to current issues around marriage, family life and sexuality. In the end, however, I must echo the words of Pope Francis, by strongly encouraging couples to read the document themselves slowly and prayerfully. At the very least, I ask all couples to please read excerpts from Chapter 4 (“Love in Marriage”), already published in the April 14, 2016, issue of Catholic San Francisco.
This article was originally posted here by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
By Archbishop Paul S. Coakley. May 29, 2016.
Earlier this year I came across an “all gender” restroom in the airport of a large American city. I had never seen such a thing. I snapped a picture. It struck me as strange, certainly not something I would expect to find in Oklahoma, for example. That may be about to change.
The media have been highlighting recent legal attempts in some states to keep boys out of girl’s restrooms and vice versa. This latest restroom controversy is a manifestation of the new battleground over “gender.” This battle, however, is about more than who can use which restroom. According to rules just issued by the Obama administration, public schools ought no longer to differentiate between boys and girls based on their biological sex, but now ought to acknowledge and accept their personal “gender identity.”
This is to be the basis for allowing them to choose which restroom to use. So-called gender identity, according to the gender theorists, is a matter of personal expression rather than biology. Consequently, if a boy self-identifies as a girl, then he ought to be allowed to use the girl’s restroom or locker room in any school that accepts government funding. It doesn’t take long to imagine the bizarre consequences that this way of thinking and establishing public policy and law will have in the future.
Efforts to resist the imposition of this gender ideology are already meeting stiff resistance from the federal government and powerful economic forces that are determined to advance their radical reinterpretation of human personhood and relationships. In recent years, many Americans were astounded by how rapidly public opinion, cultural standards and laws changed with regard to the acceptance of so-called homosexual marriage.
Today, anyone who questions the appropriateness of equating same-sex unions with traditional marriage is labeled a bigot, a homophobe and a “hater.” Stiff economic penalties and laws are being enacted that threaten individuals, businesses and other associations that dissent from this new radical orthodoxy that is being advanced by a powerful network of special interests.
What proponents called “marriage equality” was just the beginning. Gender ideology is the next tsunami that threatens to sweep away centuries of accepted human wisdom about the complementarity and real differences between men and women.
These differences are not merely about self-expression and personal choice. Science, philosophy, theology and the accumulated wisdom of every culture have recognized that these differences are rooted in something real and objective. They are rooted in biology and more fundamentally, they are rooted in the design of the Creator.
Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of Love,” acknowledges the threat that this new radical gender ideology poses. It was the subject of much discussion in the recent Synod of bishops on the family. Pope Francis writes, “Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female.Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one that can also change over time.’”
As with every ideology this one asserts itself as beyond dispute and absolute. It envisions a brave new world in which the creature asserts himself as the creator of his own reality. This is demonic. Pope Francis continues, “It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place accepting it and respecting it as it was created”(Amoris Laetitia 56).
I am not an alarmist, but it seems clear to me that battle lines are being drawn very clear. And, these lines are about more than government overreach. This is a spiritual battle between Light and darkness.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!
Many of my friends who grew up in nominally Catholic households have lamented to me that their family home lacked the richness of the faith that they later came to know through their own practice and study. They went to Mass and Sunday school as kids, maybe said grace before meals or a little bedtime prayer, but otherwise their families didn’t live in a distinctively Catholic way. In hindsight, these young adults consider themselves impoverished by an upbringing that was essentially secular, and they intend for their own marriages and families to have a deeply Catholic character. They prioritize the sacraments, strong catechesis, spiritual and corporal works of mercy, awareness of the liturgical calendar, balancing penance and celebration, and hospitality. Living those things out seems like a daunting task because they are not inheriting a tradition from their families so much as trying to create a new one in the wake of a cultural shift that undermines their efforts.
In the ninth chapter of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis offers us some ideas about what Catholic family life can look like. He cites Vatican II, saying that lay spirituality “will take its particular character from the circumstances of… married and family life,” (313). He says, “The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures,” (315). Through the next several paragraphs he specifically mentions family prayer, supporting one another, caring for one another, showing mercy, giving complete attention to others, and welcoming those outside the family with hospitality. These suggestions are not simply lifestyle choices, take ‘em or leave ‘em. Rather, these concrete actions reflect the life of Christ himself who is present in the family through the grace given to every baptized person and especially through the real graces of the sacrament of marriage.
With all this talk about marriage and family, it might be tempting for those of us who are unmarried to ignore the Church’s advice because it seems irrelevant to this moment in our lives. However, even as a single person, the Pope’s words about marriage are meaningful because they help me to prepare my heart for the marriage the Lord wants for me, instead of the woefully inadequate “Hollywood” version that has been so culturally ingrained. It is tempting to imagine that finding a spouse will tie up all the loose ends in my life and, like the movies, the credits will roll and we’ll live happily ever after. But the Pope warns us all that spouses need “a certain ‘disillusionment’ with regard to one another,” (320) and I think the same can be said of those who are looking for a spouse. I can’t expect another person to fulfill me completely. I am taking to heart his note about “spiritual realism” and the warning that “one spouse not presume that the other can completely satisfy his or her needs,” (320) which is a message that is desperately needed by those of us immersed in popular culture. Additionally, the “small but real gestures” that characterize the spirituality of the family can be practiced by anyone anywhere. For example, we are all called to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, but “feed the hungry” takes on a new urgency when “the hungry” is a distraught 2-year-old tugging on your shirt. Likewise, to “bear wrongs patiently” is practically a heroic virtue when you have to bear the wrong of a sibling who has no remorse and will likely wrong you again. Within our families we have abundant opportunities to practice the virtues that sanctify us and open us to deeper union with the Lord.
When my friends describe what they hope to give their families they usually have specific ideas about praying the rosary as a family or being involved in ongoing community service and the like. However, they usually find a way to express that what they mean when they describe various devotions and practices is that they want their whole lives to be ordered toward the mystery of God’s love. The specific actions are expressions of a real desire to know, love, and serve the Lord. Pope Francis says that “spirituality becomes incarnate in the communion of the family,” (316). As Jesus’ day-to-day life was ordered to the will of the Father, so too the family is called to live their daily lives for Him.
“Love endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7).
Pope Francis: “In family life, we need to cultivate that strength of love which can help us fight every evil threatening it” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 119).
What is an evil that is threatening your family today? This may be from within (resentment, exhaustion, sin) or without (technology, entertainment, financial hardship). How are you fighting it?
“Love endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7).
Pope Francis: “I am sometimes amazed to see men or women who have had to separate from their spouse for their own protection, yet, because of their enduring conjugal love, still try to help them, even by enlisting others, in their moments of illness, suffering or trial. Here too we see a love that never gives up” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 119).
Do you know anyone in the situation that Pope Francis mentions here? Reach out to give that family a hand. If you do not know anyone personally, consider a donation to a domestic violence ministry.
“Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8).
This is the conclusion of the AL Challenge. Did you make it through? Share your stories via Facebook.
“Love believes all things” (1 Cor 13:7).
Pope Francis: “This trust enables a relationship to be free. It means we do not have to control the other person, to follow their every step lest they escape our grip. Love trusts, it sets free, it does not try to control, possess and dominate everything. This freedom, which fosters independence, an openness to the world around us and to new experiences, can only enrich and expand relationships” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 115).
The erosion of trust in a relationship can happen slowly, but Pope Francis gives us a picture of what it looks like when trust fades: the desire to control the other out of fear. In prayer today, ask for the grace to deepen your trust in your spouse.
“Love believes all things” (1 Cor 13:7).
Pope Francis: “Those who know that their spouse is always suspicious, judgmental and lacking unconditional love, will tend to keep secrets, conceal their failings and weaknesses, and pretend to be someone other than who they are. On the other hand, a family marked by loving trust, come what may, helps its members to be themselves and spontaneously to reject deceit, falsehood, and lies” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 115).
In a trusting context, one has no need to hide. Children who grow up in this context will know that they will be accepted always, and so will have the courage to own up to shortcomings. Examine your conscience today about whether you’ve fallen into suspicion, unfair judgment, or seeming to withhold your love due to a shortcoming of a family member.
“Love hopes all things” (1 Cor 13:7).
Pope Francis: “Panta elpízei. Love does not despair of the future. Following upon what has just been said, this phrase speaks of the hope of one who knows that others can change, mature and radiate unexpected beauty and untold potential” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 116).
A common phrase of spouses is, “Oh, he/she will never change.” While it’s not your job to change your spouse, it’s also not true that people do not grow and change over time with the help of God. After all, don’t you? Ask the Lord to increase your hope.
“Love hopes all things” (1 Cor 13:7).
Pope Francis: “[Hoping all things] does not mean that everything will change in this life. It does involve realizing that, though things may not always turn out as we wish, God may well make crooked lines straight and draw some good from the evil we endure in this world” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 116).
Supernatural hope keeps our eyes on eternity. Today, entrust problems into God’s hands and ask him to “make the crooked straight.”
“Love hopes all things” (1 Cor 13:7).
Pope Francis: “[In heaven], the person’s true being will shine forth in all its goodness and beauty. This realization helps us, amid the aggravations of this present life, to see each person from a supernatural perspective, in the light of hope, and await the fullness that he or she will receive in the heavenly kingdom, even if it is not yet visible” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 117).
C.S. Lewis wrote that a soul in glory will be so beautiful that we can hardly look at him or her. Pray tonight for all the members of your family to attain to the Kingdom through Christ’s grace.
“Love endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7).
Pope Francis: “Panta hypoménei. This means that love bears every trial with a positive attitude. It stands firm in hostile surroundings. This ‘endurance’ involves not only the ability to tolerate certain aggravations, but something greater: a constant readiness to confront any challenge. It is a love that never gives up, even in the darkest hour” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 118, emphasis original).
Every family endures hard times. Recall one such hard time with your spouse, and try to see what good God may have drawn out of it, or, if you can’t see that yet, what you hope he will draw out of it.
“You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5).
Pope Francis: “The Gospel tells us to look to the log in our own eye (cf. Mt 7:5). Christians cannot ignore the persistent admonition of God’s word not to nurture anger: ‘Do not be overcome by evil’ (Rm 12:21). ‘Let us not grow weary in doing good’ (Gal 6:9). It is one thing to sense a sudden surge of hostility and another to give into it, letting it take root in our hearts: ‘Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger’ (Eph 4:26)” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 104).
Meditate on one of these Scripture passages today. Try to repeat it to yourself throughout the day, especially when you are tempted to anger.
“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26).
Pope Francis: “My advice is never to let the day end without making peace in the family. ‘And how am I going to make peace? By getting down on my knees? No! Just by a small gesture, a little something, and harmony within your family will be restored. Just a little caress, no words are necessary. But do not let the day end without making peace in your family’. Our first reaction when we are annoyed should be one of heartfelt blessing, asking God to bless, free and heal that person” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 104).
Tonight, think over your day and your relationships with your family. Figure out if there’s anyone you should apologize to before bed, and do it.
“Love does not brood over injury” (1 Cor 13:5).
Pope Francis: “Once we allow ill will to take root in our hearts, it leads to deep resentment. The phrase ou logízetai to kakón means that love ‘takes no account of evil’; ‘it is not resentful’. The opposite of resentment is forgiveness, which is rooted in a positive attitude that seeks to understand other people’s weaknesses and to excuse them… Something is wrong when we see every problem as equally serious; in this way, we risk being unduly harsh with the failings of others” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 105).
Today, pay attention to whether you are falling into the trap of making much out of little. As the well-known book holds, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Think about your grievances in light of eternity.
“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).
Pope Francis: “Today we recognize that being able to forgive others implies the liberating experience of understanding and forgiving ourselves… We need to learn to pray over our past history, to accept ourselves, to learn how to live with our limitations, and even to forgive ourselves, in order to have this same attitude towards others” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 107).
Mother Mary Francis, a Poor Clare, wrote to her sisters once that the quickest way to “kill” charity is to be too hard on yourself. If you hold yourself to an unrealistic standard, you will do the same to others. Accept your own imperfections today with a laugh and a trusting prayer for mercy.
“Love does not brood over injury” (1 Cor 13:5).
Pope Francis: “All this assumes that we ourselves have had the experience of being forgiven by God, justified by his grace and not by our own merits. We have known a love that is prior to any of our own efforts, a love that constantly opens doors, promotes and encourages. If we accept that God’s love is unconditional, that the Father’s love cannot be bought or sold, then we will become capable of showing boundless love and forgiving others even if they have wronged us” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 108).
When you experience forgiveness, you know what a gift it is and can then extend it to others. God’s love precedes anything that you do. Today, focus on letting your family members see that your love for them is not dependent on their actions.
“Love rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor 13:6).
Pope Francis: “The expression chaírei epì te adikía has to do with a negativity lurking deep within a person’s heart. It is the toxic attitude of those who rejoice at seeing an injustice done to others. The following phrase expresses its opposite: sygchaírei te aletheía: ‘it rejoices in the right’” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 109).
The idea of being glad at someone else’s misfortune is such a common temptation that there’s actually a word for that in German: schadenfreude. It’s an ugly thing. Today practice “rejoicing in the right” by noticing at least one thing your spouse or child(ren) does and acknowledging it with a heartfelt “thank you”.
Theresa Farnan, Ph.D. is currently an adjunct member of the philosophy department at Franciscan University of Steubenville and a consultant to the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. Find more of her work on her website.
With the publication of Amoris Laetitia (AL), Pope Francis offers some timely thoughts on the importance of both mothers and fathers for families. He begins his meditation on “the joy of love experienced by families” (no. 1) by painting a vivid picture of family life. “At the center, we see the father and mother, a couple with their personal story of love. They embody the primordial divine plan clearly spoken of by Christ himself: ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female?’ (Mt 19:4)” (no. 9).
Francis reminds us that the “deepest reality” of human couples originates with sexual difference – “it is striking,” he notes, “that the ‘image of God’ here refers to the couple ‘male and female’” (no.10). The fruitful, life-giving love of a man and woman gives rise to the family, a “living reflection” of the “communion of love” that is the Trinity (no. 11).
Throughout Amoris Laetitia, Francis strongly reaffirms the importance of sexual difference as the foundation of marriage, lamenting the “failure to realize that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman has a plenary role to play in society as a stable commitment that bears fruit in new life” (no. 52).
In fact, Francis notes, every child deserves to be loved by both mother and father. “The love of parents is the means by which God our Father shows his own love,” not just individually, through each parent’s love for his or her children, but together, as a couple whose love for each other is the foundation of the family (no. 170). Husband and wife, father and mother, both “cooperate with the love of God the Creator, and are, in a certain sense, his interpreters.” Together “they show their children the maternal and paternal face of God” (no. 172).
Mothers and fathers have different relationships with their children. Pope Francis, in a beautiful tribute to mothers, praises their warmth and their tenderness, their dedication and moral strength, all of which help the child “develop a capacity for intimacy and empathy” (nos. 174-175). Fathers are equally important, mediating between the child and the world, helping the child “to perceive the limits of life, to be open to the challenges of the wider world and to see the need for hard work and strenuous efforts” (no. 175).
Francis laments individualism that sees motherhood as a threat to women’s freedom, and offers men a confused understanding of masculinity that devalues fatherhood, commitment, and responsibility (see nos. 173, 176). At the same time, he rejects a rigid division of roles and responsibilities, reminding us that it is the “clear and well-defined presence of both figures, male and female” that best allows children to flourish (no. 175).
In his discussion of the importance of the presence of mothers and fathers, we can see the unique stamp of Francis’s pastoral theology of accompaniment. The family – founded on the loving union of a man and woman – is the primary school in the art of accompaniment, where a child is loved and learns to love.
“Love is not rude” (1 Cor 13:5).
Pope Francis: “To love is also to be gentle and thoughtful, and this is conveyed by the next word, aschemonéi. It indicates that love is not rude or impolite; it is not harsh. Its actions, words and gestures are pleasing and not abrasive or rigid. Love abhors making others suffer. Courtesy ‘is a school of sensitivity and disinterestedness’ which requires a person ‘to develop his or her mind and feelings, learning how to listen, to speak and, at certain times, to keep quiet’ (Octavio Paz, La llama doble, Barcelona, 1993, 35)” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 99).
It is easy to take things for granted in the family and to drop the “niceties” that we use for “company.” But Pope Francis always reminds us to say, “Please,” “Thank you,” and “May I?” to our family members. Here he’s asking us to be intentional about gentleness. Tonight, at dinner, make a conscious effort to speak with courtesy.
“Love is not rude” (1 Cor 13:5).
Pope Francis: “Every day, ‘entering into the life of another, even when that person already has a part to play in our life, demands the sensitivity and restraint which can renew trust and respect. Indeed, the deeper love is, the more it calls for respect for the other’s freedom and the ability to wait until the other opens the door to his or her heart’” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 100).
It can be hard to wait for your spouse to open up to you, if you know that there is something on his or her mind. Sometimes when it comes to waiting for big things, it helps if we practice by waiting for small things. Today, if you have a treat in your lunch, save it for after work.
“Love is not rude” (1 Cor 13:5)
Pope Francis: “To be open to a genuine encounter with others, ‘a kind look’ is essential… [it] helps us to see beyond our own limitations, to be patient and to cooperate with others, despite our differences. Loving kindness builds bonds, cultivates relationships, creates new networks of integration and knits a firm social fabric… In our families, we must learn to imitate Jesus’ own gentleness in our way of speaking to one another” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 100).
It can be very difficult to look kindly at a child who is acting out, or at our spouse when he/she doesn’t hear what you said for the nth time. Today, look at your family members and say to yourself, “Jesus is looking at them right now too.” That can help change the way that you see them.
“Love does not seek its own interests” (1 Cor 13:5).
Pope Francis: “We have repeatedly said that to love another we must first love ourselves. Paul’s hymn to love, however, states that love ‘does not seek its own interest’, nor ‘seek what is its own’. This same idea is expressed in another text: ‘Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others’ (Phil 2:4)” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 101).
There is a paradox in the Christian life: the love of self and the love of neighbor are intimately connected. Today, plan to savor a moment “with” yourself at some point – over a cup of coffee or with a good book perhaps.
“Love does not seek its own interests” (1 Cor 13:5)
Pope Francis: “Saint Thomas Aquinas explains that ‘it is more proper to charity to desire to love than to desire to be loved’; indeed, ‘mothers, who are those who love the most, seek to love more than to be loved’. Consequently, love can transcend and overflow the demands of justice, ‘expecting nothing in return’ (Lk 6:35), and the greatest of loves can lead to ‘laying down one’s life’ for another (cf. Jn 15:13)” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 102).
Recall a particular way in which your own mother sought to love rather than to be loved. If she’s still alive, give her a call today to thank her for that memory. If she has passed away, pray for her. Entrust her to the care of Our Lady of Fatima.
“Love is not quick-tempered” (1 Cor 13:5).
Pope Francis: “The word [St. Paul] uses next – paroxýnetai – has to do more with an interior indignation provoked by something from without. It refers to a violent reaction within, a hidden irritation that sets us on edge where others are concerned, as if they were troublesome or threatening and thus to be avoided. To nurture such interior hostility helps no one” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 103).
Sometimes we overreact to something that happens in our day because secretly in our hearts we have been brooding over a hurt or a slight that happened earlier. Today, be on guard against that. Acknowledge a hurt sooner rather than later and seek to heal it through the mercy of Jesus.
Happy Mother’s Day from Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia!
“Let us consider the moving words of Psalm 131. As in other biblical texts (e.g., Ex 4:22; Is 49:15; Ps 27:10), the union between the Lord and his faithful ones is expressed in terms of parental love. Here we see a delicate and tender intimacy between mother and child: the image is that of a babe sleeping in his mother’s arms after being nursed. As the Hebrew word gamûl suggests, the infant is now fed and clings to his mother, who takes him to her bosom. There is a closeness that is conscious and not simply biological” (no. 28).
On pregnancy and expecting a child:
“Pregnancy is a difficult but wonderful time. A mother joins with God to bring forth the miracle of a new life. Motherhood is the fruit of a ‘particular creative potential of the female body, directed to the conception and birth of a new human being’. Each woman shares in ‘the mystery of creation, which is renewed with each birth’. The Psalmist says: ‘You knit me together in my mother’s womb’ (Ps 139:13). Every child growing within the mother’s womb is part of the eternal loving plan of God the Father: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you’ (Jer 1:5)… A pregnant woman can participate in God’s plan by dreaming of her child. “For nine months every mother and father dreams about their child… You can’t have a family without dreams. Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies’ (nos. 168-169).
“Expectant mothers need to ask God for the wisdom fully to know their children and to accept them as they are” (no. 170).
“With great affection I urge all future mothers: keep happy and let nothing rob you of the interior joy of motherhood. Your child deserves your happiness. Don’t let fears, worries, other people’s comments or problems lessen your joy at being God’s means of bringing a new life to the world. Prepare yourself for the birth of your child, but without obsessing, and join in Mary’s song of joy: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant’ (Lk 1:46-48). Try to experience this serene excitement amid all your many concerns, and ask the Lord to preserve your joy, so that you can pass it on to your child” (no. 171).
On a child’s need for a mother:
“We cannot ignore the need that children have for a mother’s presence, especially in the first months of life. Indeed, ‘the woman stands before the man as a mother, the subject of the new human life that is conceived and develops in her, and from her is born into the world’. The weakening of this maternal presence with its feminine qualities poses a grave risk to our world. I certainly value feminism, but one that does not demand uniformity or negate motherhood. For the grandeur of women includes all the rights derived from their inalienable human dignity but also from their feminine genius, which is essential to society. Their specifically feminine abilities – motherhood in particular – also grant duties, because womanhood also entails a specific mission in this world, a mission that society needs to protect and preserve for the good of all” (no. 173).
“A mother who watches over her child with tenderness and compassion helps him or her to grow in confidence and to experience that the world is a good and welcoming place. This helps the child to grow in self-esteem and, in turn, to develop a capacity for intimacy and empathy” (no. 175).
On society’s need for mothers:
“‘Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism… It is they who testify to the beauty of life’. Certainly, ‘a society without mothers would be dehumanized, for mothers are always, even in the worst of times, witnesses to tenderness, dedication and moral strength. Mothers often communicate the deepest meaning of religious practice in the first prayers and acts of devotion that their children learn… Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth… Dear mothers: thank you! Thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world’. (no. 174).
For more from Pope Francis on motherhood, read his catechesis from January 7, 2015!
“Love is not jealous” (1 Cor 13:4).
Pope Francis: “Saint Paul goes on to reject as contrary to love an attitude expressed by the verb zelói – to be jealous or envious. This means that love has no room for discomfiture at another person’s good fortune (cf. Acts 7:9; 17:5)” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 95).
Sometimes things just seem so easy for other people. Today, when you are tempted to think that your spouse, children, or another relative just has an easier life than you do, remind yourself of how much God has done for you. Be content and pray for the grace to accept your own situation with a peaceful heart.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Ex 20:17).
Pope Francis: “True love values the other person’s achievements. It does not see him or her as a threat. It frees us from the sour taste of envy. It recognizes that everyone has different gifts and a unique path in life. So it strives to discover its own road to happiness, while allowing others to find theirs” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 95).
It is always difficult not to compare ourselves to other people, but that inevitably leads to sadness. Today, reflect upon the unique path that you have been on so far, and entrust yourself to God in confidence. Plan something fun with your family for next weekend so that you can appreciate your family as a gift.
“Love is not jealous” (1 Cor 13:4).
Pope Francis: “Love inspires a sincere esteem for every human being and the recognition of his or her own right to happiness. I love this person, and I see him or her with the eyes of God, who gives us everything ‘for our enjoyment’ (1 Tim 6:17). As a result, I feel a deep sense of happiness and peace” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 96).
Today, compliment members of your family, and try to choose something that you may never have said to them before. Think about what it means to see someone with “the eyes of God.”
“Love is not pompous, it is not inflated” (1 Cor 13:4).
Pope Francis: “The following word, perpereúetai, denotes vainglory, the need to be haughty, pedantic and somewhat pushy. Those who love not only refrain from speaking too much about themselves, but are focused on others; they do not need to be the center of attention. The word that comes next – physioútai – is similar, indicating that love is not arrogant. Literally, it means that we do not become ‘puffed up’ before others. It also points to something more subtle: an obsession with showing off and a loss of a sense of reality. Such people think that, because they are more ‘spiritual’ or ‘wise’, they are more important than they really are” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 97).
Do these words – haughty, pushy, puffed up – ever describe you? Make a concerted effort today to remember that even your good intentions and good deeds are gifts from God.
“Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up” (1 Cor 8:1).
Pope Francis: “Some think that they are important because they are more knowledgeable than others; they want to lord it over them. Yet what really makes us important is a love that understands, shows concern, and embraces the weak” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 97).
Is there a member of your family whom you pay less attention to because they aren’t as “smart” as you are? Reach out to them today with sincere interest in their life.
“But Jesus summoned them and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave’” (Mt 20:25-27).
Pope Francis: “It is important for Christians to show their love by the way they treat family members who are less knowledgeable about the faith, weak or less sure in their convictions… In family life, the logic of domination and competition about who is the most intelligent or powerful destroys love” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 98).
Families are always a “mixed bag” in terms of the practice of the faith. Think about the last time that you were with your extended family. Did you treat people kindly, even if they disagree with you or the Church? (This doesn’t mean watering down your love for your faith.) Are you approachable and gentle in your conversations?
Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia came out on April 8th—how much have you read? If you need a little push, take the AL Challenge with us! We will read a small bit from Chapter 4 (Love in Marriage) and ask you to do something related to it for your marriage every day.
We will post it week-by-week so that if you’d prefer to print it out and put it on your fridge, that’s always a good option! They will also be up on our social media sites.
Sundays are your “day of rest” but that doesn’t mean you should slack off on your love 🙂
“Love is patient (1 Cor 13: 4)
Pope Francis: “The first word used is makrothyméi…Its meaning is clarified by the Greek translation of the Old Testament, where we read that God is ‘slow to anger’ (Ex 34:6; Num 14:18). It refers, then, to the quality of one who does not act on impulse and avoids giving offense… God’s ‘patience’, shown in his mercy towards sinners, is a sign of his real power” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 91).
Today, be aware of when you are tempted to be angry at your spouse, children, parents, or other relatives. Take a deep breath and remember that your first reaction is not always the most helpful or truest to the love that you have for that person. Also try to consider how your words will be taken before you say them, and whether the time is right to bring something up.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph 4:31).
Pope Francis: “We encounter problems whenever we think that relationships or people ought to be perfect, or when we put ourselves at the center and expect things to turn out our way. Then everything makes us impatient, everything makes us react aggressively. Unless we cultivate patience, we will always find excuses for responding angrily. We will end up incapable of living together, antisocial, unable to control our impulses, and our families will become battlegrounds” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 92).
How many times do you find yourself frustrated at the imperfections of others in your family? Today, when something doesn’t go your way (and there will always be something!) tell yourself to stay calm and put it in perspective. Will it matter tomorrow?
“Love is patient” (1 Cor 13:4).
Pope Francis: “Patience takes root when I recognize that other people also have a right to live in this world, just as they are. It does not matter if they hold me back, if they unsettle my plans, or annoy me by the way they act or think, or if they are not everything I want them to be. Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 92).
Deep down, if we are being honest, we may expect everyone else to think like we do; or if they don’t, they should. Today, take the time to consciously appreciate one or two things that your spouse, children, or other family members do better than you, and recognize that they put up with your imperfections just as much as you put up with theirs!
“Love is kind…” (1 Cor 13:4).
Pope Francis: “The next word that Paul uses is chrestéuetai. The word is used only here in the entire Bible. It is derived from chrestós: a good person, one who shows his goodness by his deeds… Paul wants to make it clear that ‘patience’ is not a completely passive attitude, but one accompanied by activity, by a dynamic and creative interaction with others” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 93).
Sometimes saying that someone is a “good person” is a way of excusing bad choices they’ve made; but being good is a prerequisite of holiness, really. Show me a saint who couldn’t be first called a “good person”! What can you do today that may make others think, “Wow, he/she is just such a good person”?
“Love is kind” (1 Cor 13:4).
Pope Francis: “Throughout the text, it is clear that Paul wants to stress that love is more than a mere feeling. Rather, it should be understood along the lines of the Hebrew verb ‘to love’; it is ‘to do good’” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 94).
We don’t always feel like loving, but we know that when we fail to love, that doesn’t make us happy. Plan ahead today in order to love in action: put an extra granola bar in your purse to give to the man who stands at the corner where you work. Think about what might make your wife smile if she finds it in the middle of a day at home. Plan ahead to do good.
“Love is shown more by deeds than by words.” – St. Ignatius of Loyola
Pope Francis: “[Love] thus shows its fruitfulness and allows us to experience the happiness of giving, the nobility and grandeur of spending ourselves unstintingly, without asking to be repaid, purely for the pleasure of giving and serving” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 94).
Today, pick one of the services that your spouse usually provides and get to it before them as a surprise. Dishes, laundry, picking up the kids’ soccer stuff— beat them to it!