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Archbishop Cordileone on Amoris Laetitia

Posted Sep. 13, 2016 by DOM No comments yet

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.


Pope Francis and “Ideological Colonization”

Posted Aug. 5, 2016 by DOM 1 comment

Our Holy Father Pope Francis has once again surprised the media (this is just one example) with a brief and frank comment about gender ideology. This comment was made during an open discussion with the Polish bishops during the pope’s trip for World Youth Day.

The comment was in response to a question about migrants and is as follows:

I would like to conclude with this aspect, since behind all this there are ideologies. In Europe, America, Latin America, Africa, and in some countries of Asia, there are genuine forms of ideological colonization taking place. And one of these – I will call it clearly by its name – is [the ideology of] “gender”. Today children – children! – are taught in school that everyone can choose his or her sex. Why are they teaching this? Because the books are provided by the persons and institutions that give you money. These forms of ideological colonization are also supported by influential countries. And this terrible!

In a conversation with Pope Benedict, who is in good health and very perceptive, he said to me: “Holiness, this is the age of sin against God the Creator”. He is very perceptive. God created man and woman; God created the world in a certain way… and we are doing the exact opposite. God gave us things in a “raw” state, so that we could shape a culture; and then with this culture, we are shaping things that bring us back to the “raw” state! Pope Benedict’s observation should make us think. “This is the age of sin against God the Creator”. That will help us.

One might ask, how is what the pope said such a surprise?

Pope Francis has commented a number of times on the “ideology of gender” and even the “ideological colonization” that attacks the family. (See, for example, Amoris Laetitia, no. 56; his Meeting with Families in Manila on January 16, 2015; his Address in Naples on March 23, 2015; his General Audience on April 15, 2015; his Address to the bishops of Puerto Rico on June 8, 2015; and his Address to Équipes de Notre Dame on September 10, 2015.)

This is in addition to the numerous times that the Holy Father has insisted (reflecting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2333 and 2393) that all men and women are called to accept their sexual identities (see Amoris Laetitia, nos. 285-286 ; Laudato si’ no. 155) and that the family, based on the marriage between one man and one woman, is essential for children’s development (see, for example, Lumen Fidei, no. 52; Address to the Bishops of Malawi, November 6, 2014; Address to the International Catholic Child Bureau, April 11, 2014; Message for the 49th World Communications Day, January 23, 2015; and Welcome Ceremony in La Paz, Bolivia, July 8, 2015).

Does this mean that the pope is somehow out-of-step with his own declarations about the mercy of God and the abundance of love that God has for each person?  Surely not. In fact, these assertions by the Holy Father are no doubt uttered with profound love for those who are harmed by the confusion and pain that gender ideology causes. For if we are created by the loving God as male and female, then we will not find happiness or fulfillment by rejecting this fundamental fact of our existence. Out of love, then, Pope Francis points out the errors in gender ideology and encourages bishops and all Catholics to do the same.


AL Bootcamp: Final 3 Days!

Posted Jun. 5, 2016 by DOM No comments yet

June 6

“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?

June 7

“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.

June 8

“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.


AL Bootcamp: Week 4

Posted May. 16, 2016 by DOM No comments yet

May 16

“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.

May 17

“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.

May 18

“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.

May 19

“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.

May 20

“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.

May 21

“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”.


Pope Francis on Mothers

Posted May. 7, 2016 by DOM No comments yet
Pope Francis greets an ambassador and his wife during an audience with the diplomatic corps at the Vatican Jan.11. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters) See POPE-DIPLOMATS Jan. 11, 2015.

Pope Francis greets an ambassador and his wife during an audience with the diplomatic corps at the Vatican Jan.11. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters) See POPE-DIPLOMATS Jan. 11, 2015.

Happy Mother’s Day from Pope Francis and Amoris Laetitia!

On tenderness:
“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!


AL Bootcamp: Week Two

Posted May. 1, 2016 by DOM No comments yet

ALbootcampWelcome to week two! Hopefully you used your ‘patience’ and ‘kindness’ muscles well last week.

May 2

“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.

May 3

“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.

May 4

“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.”

May 5

“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.

May 6

“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.

May 7

“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?


AL Bootcamp

Posted Apr. 24, 2016 by DOM 2 comments


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 🙂

April 25

“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.

April 26

“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?

April 27

“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!

April 28

“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”?

April 29

“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.

April 30

“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!



Gender Ideology Resource

Posted Dec. 2, 2015 by DOM 2 comments

“Gender” – as distinct from “sex” – is a term widely used today, but it is quite a new concept in history. While the term “gender” was used to denote masculinity and femininity as early as the Middle Ages (for example, in grammar), the idea that a human person’s masculinity or femininity could be separated from his or her bodily reality did not exist formally until the 1950s. Even then, the person at the origin of this concept – John Money – should give us pause, considering the controversy that surrounds him. There are many articles and books that examine the false separation of “gender” as a psychological experience and sexual difference as a biological reality, but that is not the purpose of this post.

MUR is sharing a simple resource document: a compilation of quotes from the last three pontificates, as well as other Church documents that address this phenomenon of “gender ideology” or “gender theory,” which is a position on anthropology (who a human being is) that is in conflict with the Christian one.

Please share this resource. Teachers, catechists, youth ministers, family life directors, and parents may find this compilation helpful in understanding and communicating about this topic:

Gender Ideology: Select Teaching Resources


The Prophecy of the Covenant of Man and Woman: Pope Francis

Posted Nov. 9, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

pope puppet(Picture taken of plush Francis in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.)
Pope Francis’s trip to the United States in September centered on his appearance at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. We finish with another quote from the closing homily at the Mass for the World Meeting of Families:

“We renew our faith in the word of the Lord which invites faithful families to this openness [to the gospel]. It invites all those who want to share the prophecy of the covenant of man and woman, which generates life and reveals God!”

Christians are people of hope! God will never abandon his people, his chosen family, regardless of how far we fall away from him. As we approach the Jubilee of Mercy, this will be a theme for the entire Church to reflect and meditate upon. Our God is more than simply “willing” to forgive us; He longs to do so. He longs for us to return home, contrite and aware of our brokenness, and He is ready to run out to us and clothe us again as his children.

This is what it means to be faithful: not to never fall, but to keep getting up, coming back to the Lord, converting our hearts every day in order to conform our lives to the word of God. To become a saint, whose life only makes sense in light of the gospel of Jesus.

A faithful family is not a “perfect” one in the eyes of the world, but one that is open to the word of God, and open to one another even in the wounds each person bears. It is one that struggles and goes through trials, is tested and sometimes fails, but returns again to the struggle.

For example, one could think about a “perfect” family as one in which the parents never yell at the children, and the children are always delighted to go to bed at the proper time, because they are obedient and trust their parents’ judgment. Has anyone ever met such a family? No. But have you ever seen a family where, after a long and arduous struggle on the part of the parents to get the children into bed (and stay there), where there may be some sharp words and exasperation, there is reading of a story, and a moment of prayer? A kiss and an “I love you” and a “tucking in” of the children?

Cardinal Tagle of Manila spoke of the family as the “Home for the Wounded Heart” at the World Meeting of Families and remarked on the way that family members, because they sin, hurt each other, but they also forgive and heal each other as well. They are a home for each other, where they know that no matter what, they will be loved and accepted, even if not understood or agreed with.

When he referred to prophesying in this quote, Pope Francis was reflecting on the passage of the Old Testament in which Moses wishes that all people may be prophets. The Holy Father likewise invited all of us to be open to the Gospel of the Family, and in doing so, to become prophets. The covenant between man and woman, which gives life and is an image of the Trinity, is a prophecy for our time. It is a message for the world: life is good and love is real. The word of God is still speaking to the hearts of men and women today, and affirming their desires for a permanent and fruitful love.


Faith Opens a Window: Pope Francis

Posted Nov. 5, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

Holy See on glass BrunoPhoto Credit: Jeffrey Bruno
Pope Francis’s trip to the United States in September centered on his appearance at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. The sixth quote in our series comes from Pope Francis’s homily for the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families on September 27:

“Faith opens a ‘window’ to the presence and working of the Spirit. It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures… Love is shown by little things.”

St. Therese of Lisieux is the patroness of world missions, despite being a cloistered Carmelite, who never left the convent. She shares this honor with St. Francis Xavier, who spent his life as a missionary and baptized countless people throughout Asia. On the surface, this seems to be a contradiction.  St. Francis Xavier was the perfect picture of a missionary: bold and brave, traveling to foreign lands, living among the people. St. Therese was a plain French girl, who was so eager to enter the convent that she begged the pope to let her go there at the age of 15. She only lived until the age of 24, dying of tuberculosis. Why does she share the honor of patron of world missions? Why did missionary bishops ask for this?

In the short biography of St. Therese on the Vatican site, we can read why: “She considered it a special gift to receive the charge of accompanying two ‘missionary brothers’ with prayer and sacrifice. Seized by the love of Christ, her only Spouse, she penetrated ever more deeply into the mystery of the Church and became increasingly aware of her apostolic and missionary vocation to draw everyone in her path.” St. Therese was in the “mission field” through contemplative prayer and correspondence with missionaries.

This teaches us something about what holiness, and what being a missionary, really means. In her daily mortifications and sacrifices, young Therese offered to God her whole heart, mind, spirit and body. She had a great desire to be a missionary, even a martyr, but knew that that was not God’s will for her. Instead, she offered her myriad little, unnoticed actions for missionaries around the world. She demonstrated love in the “little things,” just as the pope spoke about at the world meeting.

Alice von Hildebrand wrote a personal story about this in a letter to a newlywed woman who was not sure that the “little things” really mattered in marriage. Von Hildebrand strongly disagreed. She wrote,

“Early in our marriage, I noticed he [Dietrich] would always leave the soap swimming in a small pool of water. It would slow degenerate into an unattractive, slimy goo—something I found unappealing. I drew it to his attention. From that day on, he made a point of drying the soap after each use—to such an extent that I couldn’t tell from the ‘soap testimony’ whether he had washed himself or not… I was so moved by this, that to this day I feel a wave of loving gratitude for this small but significant gesture of love.

My husband was a great lover. And because he was one, he managed to relate the smallest things to love and was willing to change to please his beloved in all legitimate things. This characteristic is typical of great love” (By Love Refined).

Family life is rife with opportunities to show love in little ways, and to find the Holy Spirit working there—if we look with the eyes of faith.

Let us all seek to be great lovers of God!


The Good, True, and Beautiful at the World Meeting of Families

Posted Oct. 19, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

Francis from front Jeffrey BrunoPhoto: Jeffrey Bruno

Pope Francis at the World Meeting of Families: Seven Great Quotes
Pope Francis’s trip to the United States in September centered on his appearance at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Staff will write reflections on seven quotes from his visit.

From the Festival of Families: “All of the love that God has in Himself, all the beauty that God has in Himself, all the truth that God has in Himself, He gives to the family.”

Classical philosophers (think Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc.) refer to beauty, truth and goodness as the transcendental properties of being; aspects of being (or existence) that “transcend” or “go beyond” the thing that exists. God is all-in-all; He is the perfection of beauty, truth and goodness. Since He is Being (“I AM”), these attributes of being originate in God.

Let’s put this more simply. There’s the usual way we talk about goodness as a quality of a person: “Oh, she’s so good!” we may say, when we hear of a woman doing something charitable in our community. When we see obvious goodness— in Mother Theresa, for example—we see God within that action or person. But the goodness we’re talking about here, goodness as an attribute of being goes further. It means that the pure existence of something (or someone); that it is, is good. To love is to say to someone, “It is good that you exist,” regardless of whether that someone is annoying you at the time. A person does not have to do anything, in this case, to be good. The fact that they exist is the good. Think of babies. They are (or should be) loved because they are, not because they do anything special. This is a glimpse of God, who loves us into being and because He loves us, we are, we exist. As the pope said here, God gives the family this kind of love, this kind of total acceptance and goodness.

Secondly, beautiful things can draw us closer to God who is Beauty. Nature, art, music, etc. can all draw us out of ourselves (“ecstasy”) and lead us to seek the origin of the beauty we experience. Once again, beauty inheres (or is “stuck to”) anything that exists. Even a hairy spider (the author’s personal hatred) is beautiful in that it exists. God wills it into being. At the Festival of Families, Pope Francis said that God, who is love, gives to the family His own beauty. When you see a picture of a family that encompasses numerous generations, it is hard to deny this.

Lastly, if something is true, that means that it corresponds to reality; if I say, “There are three apples” and there really are three apples, then I speak the truth, and in speaking the truth about the apples, my mind is “in tune,” if you will, with God. God and I see the same thing (three apples). The family corresponds to the truth when it lives according to God’s laws (which are simply an expression of what reality is). What a family is, a community of life and love, is true.

How can you see the goodness, beauty and truth of your family today?


The Dignity of Persons and Marriage

Posted Aug. 27, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

francis-20130619cnsbr0740-cns-photo-240Archbishop Sample from Portland, Oregon, reflected recently on the famous words of Pope Francis, “Who am I to judge?” in light of its context. These words are usually taken out-of-context to imply that the Holy Father sees nothing wrong with sexual acts between two persons of the same sex. Instead, “These words of Pope Francis were delivered in response to a very specific question about a particular individual who was accused of inappropriate homosexual behavior in the past.”

Bishop Sample included the pope’s whole quote: “I see that many times in the Church people search for ‘sins from youth’, for example, and then publish them. They are not crimes, right?  No, sins. But if a person, whether it be a lay person, a priest or a religious sister, commits a sin and then converts, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is very important for our lives. When we confess our sins and we truly say, ‘I have sinned in this’, the Lord forgets, and so we have no right not to forget, because otherwise we would run the risk of the Lord not forgetting our sins. That is a danger. This is important: a theology of sin…If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?… The problem is not having this tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another…”

Indeed, as Bishop Sample points out, Pope Francis is bringing out what the Catholic Church has always taught: that our God is a God of mercy. He then goes on to highlight some of Pope Francis’s other words which show that he is certainly not an advocate for so-called same-sex “marriage.”

Read the full text here.

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Evangelii Gaudium: Intercessory Prayer

Posted Jun. 2, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

20141202cnsbr7063Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #19
Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason.  This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.

Intercessory Prayer (281-283)
While there are many ways to live out our prayer lives, Pope Francis calls our attention to one particular form of prayer: Intercession. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Intercessory prayer as “a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did.” Though he is the “one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men,” we can be united with him in this form of prayer (CCC, 2634).

For a concrete example of intercessory prayer, the Holy Father points us to St. Paul, who shows us that prayer is “full of people” in its concerns (no. 281). Paul tells the Philippians, “I constantly pray with you in every one of my prayers for all of you…because I hold you in my heart” (Phil 1:4, 7). Authentic intercessory prayer is marked by an attitude of attentiveness and gratitude that recognizes God’s work in the lives of others (no. 282). While intercession can often be misunderstood as “suspicious, negative and despairing,” Pope Francis  teaches instead that, “when evangelizers rise from prayer, their hearts are more open; freed from self-absorption,…desirous of doing good and sharing their lives with others” (no. 282).

Because Jesus Christ is the true intercessor, our union with Him in prayer is a special way to gain access to the heart of the Father. And yet our prayer must always be offered in humility. When we intercede for others, “God’s heart is touched”—our prayer has true power—and “yet in reality he is always there first” (no.283). Intercessory prayer is not about what we want or what others want; instead it brings to light the love and work of God that is always already present there.

Our homes should be a fruitful place where this prayerful openness, gratitude, and concern for others abides. As a family, foster awareness of the needs of those around you—at work, at school, in the neighborhood, and around the world. Come together to pray for them, holding them in your heart, as St. Paul did. Then be sure to discuss the ways in which you notice God working. This is a wonderful way to unite as a family to Christ, to turn towards others, and to become ever more aware of God’s constant, loving presence.


Prayer and Encounter: Evangelii Gaudium

Posted May. 27, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #18
Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason.  This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.

Prayer and Personal Encounter (262-267)
Our call to evangelization flows from the love we have received in our personal encounter with Christ; without this love, our attempts to evangelize would be empty and unconvincing. Unless we fill our lives with “prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervor dies out” (no. 262).  The Holy Father invites us to constantly beg the Lord to open and enliven our hearts by his grace. It is through our dynamic joy from having received His love that we can best relay the gospel message to others.

Pope Francis reminds us that while time set aside for prayer is necessary nourishment for our work, we must not fall into a habit of “individualistic spirituality” that draws us further away from our mission to others. Though we receive anew our life and joy from our daily encounters with the love of Christ, we can’t stop short of turning toward others to give away that same love.

The enthusiasm of our mission is strengthened by our conviction that Christ responds to the deepest longing of our hearts—and that he is likewise the answer to the deepest needs of all people. This conviction must be kept alive through our own understanding “from personal experience that it is not the same thing to have known Jesus as not to have known him, not the same thing to walk with him as to walk blindly, not the same thing to hear his word as not to know it, and not the same thing to contemplate him, to worship him, to find our peace in him, as not to” (no. 266). If we are not personally aware of the presence of Christ in our life and the difference that it makes, if we try to evangelize by our own means, our passion and commitment will be drowned out by our human weakness and complacency.

Like Christ, our greatest motivation is the glory of the Father. If we are to remain vigorous in evangelizing—especially in the face of the many cultural and political obstacles of our world—we must strive for union with Christ, so that we may “seek what he seeks and…love what he loves” (no 267).

We must never let our commitment to work distract us from the ever-deepening encounter with Christ that first called us to serve Him. In order to foster personal awareness of Christ’s presence within family life, set aside time each day for quiet, receptive prayer. Afterwards, come together again in conversation as a family. This simple practice can serve as a model of our call to first receive love from Christ in order to give away that same love to everyone we encounter.


Religious Freedom: Evangelii Gaudium

Posted May. 20, 2015 by DOM 1 comment

Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #17
Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason.  This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.

Religious Freedom (nos. 255-258)
The Church recognizes the importance of religious freedom for maintaining a healthy social dialogue and an atmosphere of peace; but what, exactly, do we mean by peace? Peace is not an absence of difference, but a respectful harmony within a healthy pluralism of beliefs, which “respects differences and values them as such” (no. 255). Attempts to privatize religion as an individual matter of conscience that must stay behind church doors reflect “a new form of discrimination and authoritarianism,” rather than the progression of religious freedom (no. 255). Because our religious beliefs are meant to be embodied and manifested in our relationships and work in the public sphere, this kind of delegation does not grant us true freedom.

This lack of freedom is particularly prevalent in the intellectual and cultural realms. Pope Francis sees the modern tendency to disregard all religious thought as an attack not just on religious freedom, but also on reason. This discriminatory dismissal serves a “certain rationalism” that has largely dominated our culture, but is actually opposed to reason in the fullest sense. To ignore the history of thought that has arisen within a religious context is an impediment to, rather than a triumph of reason. This is evident in the narrow-minded views of most media representations of religion. When these “crude and superficial generalizations” become the norm, we lose a wealth of human understanding that the context of faith has developed.

To combat this rationalism, the Holy Father encourages interreligious dialogue, including that between believers and those who—though they don’t identify themselves with any religious tradition—“sincerely seek the truth, goodness and beauty which we believe have their highest expression and source in God” (no. 257). Such dialogue—especially in the realms of ethics, arts and sciences—can help to bring about peace through a mutual respect for the dignity of life and a mutual search for transcendent meaning.

Dialogue that respects and values difference should begin in the home! As we face increasing opposition in the public square, it is ever more important that our families be a place of openness and dialogue. Family members with differing beliefs must be accepted and loved, and this respect will be a model for children to follow.  The peace within a family that appreciates the uniqueness of each member can serve as the starting point for peace in society.


The Common Good, II: Evangelii Gaudium

Posted May. 13, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #16
Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason.  This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.

The Common Good and Peace in Society, Part II (nos. 231-237)
The next two principles Pope Francis writes about in this section on the common good are:

  1. Realities are more important than ideas
  2. The whole is greater than the part

Pope Francis reminds us in the first part that ideas and reality must be in constant dialogue with one another.  “It is dangerous to dwell in the realm of words alone, of images and rhetoric,” he writes (no. 231).  One calls to mind the image of an abstract philosopher, musing to himself on the joys and trials of married life while his wife, with frizzled hair and angry expression, changes a diaper on the floor of the kitchen while a meal she prepared is cooking on the stove and someone has come to the door.  This is a caricature, of course, but this seems to be what the pope is talking about: when the words do not become flesh.

“What calls us to action are realities illumined by reason” (no. 232). When we are engaged in seeing reality with all the benefits of contemplating truth, we strive to live differently.  The picture changes, for example, into one of a father embracing his wife on his way to change the diaper.  It is the Incarnation that shows us that words alone are not enough: the Word was made flesh!

The second principle, Pope Francis writes, means that we must pay attention to both of the worlds we live in: the global context and our local communities.  He uses the analogy of a polyhedron, which is both distinct and unified.  There is “a place for everyone” and each person maintains his or her individuality while becoming part of a larger whole.

In marriage, while the two become “one flesh,” they also maintain their own identities. In fact, the love of the other should help each to become more fully him- or herself.  Likewise, each child that is given to a family is a unique human person.  They should be encouraged in their interests, even if no one in the family shares them, and be educated to see their differences as strengths.  When the family is united in difference, they reveal the truth that “the whole is greater than the parts.”


The Common Good and Peace in Society: Evangelii Gaudium

Posted May. 8, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #15
Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason.  This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.

The Common Good and Peace in Society (nos. 217-230)
This section of Evangelii Gaudium is divided into four principles; we will look at the first two here.

First, Pope Francis writes, “Time is greater than space” (no. 222). He reminds the Church not to be “obsessed with immediate results” (no. 223). He counsels patient endurance in difficult situations or when our plans must change.  He wants us to allow time the priority, even in evangelization.

This clearly relates to family life, especially when a child chooses to leave the faith or the family for one reason or another.  The Holy Father reminds us not to give up on anyone, and to remember to trust in God’s saving work through time.

Next, the pope writes that, “Unity prevails over conflict” (no. 226).  He says, “Conflict cannot be ignored or concealed. It has to be faced”(no. 226).  How many families need to learn this lesson?  How easy it may seem to ignore our differences, to sweep them under the rug in order to maintain a semblance of unity. On the other hand, how easy to be blinded by conflict to all the other things we have in common.  Instead, we can strive to be “great persons who are willing to go beyond the surface of the conflict and to see others in their deepest dignity”(no. 228).

We learn to do this in the family, as the Pope highlighted in his 2015 Message for World Communications Day. There, he writes, “More than anywhere else, the family is where we daily experience our own limits and those of others, the problems great and small entailed in living peacefully with others.  A perfect family does not exist.  We should not be fearful of imperfections, weakness or even conflict, but rather learn how to deal with them constructively.  The family, where we keep loving one another despite our limits and sins, thus becomes a school of forgiveness.” In the family, we love one another even when we do not get along. This can teach us how to approach people outside the family as well: as persons who are more than their opinions on a given topic.  Even on the most contentious and serious issues, those on the “other side” are persons, loved by God, and must be acknowledged as such.  “Unity brought by the Spirit can harmonize every diversity,” the pope writes (no. 230).  By lovingly taking all family members where they are, we can realize this truth in our own lives.


Inclusion of the Poor: Evangelii Gaudium

Posted Apr. 22, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #13
Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason.  This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.

Inclusion of the Poor (nos. 186-192)
Sacred Scripture reveals the Christian has a mission to hear and respond to the cry of the poor, as our heavenly Father has responded to us. “I have observed the misery of my people…I have heard their cry…Indeed I know their sufferings and I have come down to deliver them (Exodus 3:7-8)” (no. 187). Because we ourselves have first received grace from God, as a Church we must work for justice for all through solidarity.

Solidarity is not merely expressed by a few random acts of kindness or surface-level changes in society’s structures, but rather requires a full transformation of our mindset and habits regarding goods and community. We must train ourselves to “recognize that the social function of property and the universal destination of goods are realities which come before private property” (no. 189). The more fortunate we are, the more we are called to serve others.

One of the ways to be transformed is to expand our understanding of “human rights.” So often we understand rights in a negative sense as protection against others, rather than in light of the Gospel, which emphasizes the right for responding to God. As members of the Church it is our responsibility to recognize the rights of others—even those beyond our region or country—to achieve fulfillment. Not only should we be concerned with the physical needs of the poor, but also with the things that bring a fuller prosperity to human life—education, healthcare, and employment.

The role of the family as a domestic church “certainly cannot stop short at procreation and education,” but must expand “to manifold social service activities, especially in favor of the poor (Familiaris Consortio 44). Families are called to transform their understanding of their own possessions and to be ever aware of the priority of the community. Further, this must be passed on to children, who “must be enriched not only with a sense of true justice, which alone leads to respect for the personal dignity of each individual, but also and more powerfully by a sense of true love, understood as sincere solicitude and disinterested service with regard to others, especially the poorest and those in most need” (Familiaris Consortio, 37). It is up to parents to ensure that children first receive this compassionate love in the context of the family, and that they are called to pass on that same love to all others.

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The Way of Beauty: Evangelii Gaudium

Posted Apr. 9, 2015 by DOM No comments yet

Way-of-beautyLessons from Evangelii Gaudium #11
Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason.  This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.

The Way of Beauty (nos. 167-168)
Those who evangelize are called to be advocates of beauty. A life filled with joy despite hardships and suffering is vital for the evangelization of a world that is searching for meaning and hope, precisely because it is attractive to those around us. Pope Francis tells us that when we proclaim the Gospel, we must not only show that following Christ is true and good, but that the message of His love touches the human heart as “something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties” (no. 167). Christ Himself is the full revelation of beauty which speaks to the infinite longing of our hearts. Our catechesis should therefore work to encourage this desire, so that the joy of encountering Christ can be ever greater.

In order to inspire the growth of this desire, Pope Francis urges the Church to incorporate art into evangelization. The Holy Father tells us that all encounters with true beauty in the world can be legitimate means of encountering Christ because they draw our hearts toward the transcendent, making us receptive to the Gospel message. Pope Francis qualifies that this “way of beauty” (via pulchritudinis) is not the same as a kind of atheistic relativism that would separate beauty from the true and the good. Rather, the beauty we should uphold is precisely the shining glory of “the truth and goodness of the Risen Christ” (no. 84).

When we teach about God, we must always emphasize the harmony of the Gospel. We must “stress again and again the attractiveness and the ideal of a life of wisdom, self-fulfillment, and enrichment” (no. 168). All the demands of the Gospel way of life should be seen in a more positive light when we understand the beautiful integrity that it brings to our lives and the hope it offers to our world. One of the places harmony can be best seen is in the family—that “complex of interpersonal relationships,” where each distinct individual is uniquely incorporated into the fullness of the whole (Familiaris Consortio, 15).

Because one of the tasks of the family is to “share in the life and mission of the Church,” the way of beauty should be present within our family lives as well (Familiaris Consortio, 17). Sharing experiences of beauty through art and music can form our families to be open to the transcendent—both in each other, in all other people, and ultimately in God. Incorporating the arts into the education of children can be an excellent way of forming and inspiring their hearts in this openness.

Families: Find a way to incorporate a sense of wonder for beauty into your family. Whether it’s a peaceful walk through nature, time spent watching a film, listening to music, doing a craft, or just enjoying the goodness of each other’s company without distractions, encounter Christ through an encounter with beauty together this week.

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