April 26, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Generally Speaking

I finished reading Amoris laetitia yesterday. It's really a beautiful document, and very tender. True to genre, it's an exhortation, exhorting those to whom it is addressed--bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, Christian married couples, and all the lay faithful--to recognize the great graces God gives to us and desires for us in our existence as families and members of families, even in the many situations in which we find ourselves falling short of receiving all of them. In this spirit, the exhortation concludes:

"May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us." (325)

(It's very true that we read documents and receive doctrine from 'where we are.' I read Amoris laetitia in English and as I did, I found myself doing so from the 'location' of my current service to the Order as translator into English. Now I don't know if the original language of the document is Italian or Spanish, but I guess that it's one of the two, and as I made my way through the English, I found myself many times turning back to the Spanish and Italian when I wondered what had been translated into some English expression, for example, or curious word, or phrasal verb. Whoever the English translator was, he or she is very good. I only had one argument with the translation. The beginning of number 218, where it says in English that "[a]nother great challenge of marriage preparation is to help couples realize that marriage is not something that happens once for all" seemed to me in danger of being taken as questioning the permanence of marriage, which isn't what is meant at all. It just means that marriage is something that is begun by the giving of consent. So I guess Amoris laetitia is like the new Missal in English, with which I have but one argument.)

"What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them." (35)

In some ways this is the core of the exhortation. God has created humanity such that many graces come to us through our relationships with one another as family, according to the plan of the union of a man and woman in marriage and their openness to the new life of children. God is generous, pouring out these graces into all kinds of situations; those that are more perfect and those that are less perfect. For me this brings to mind the image of God in the Parable of the Sower; a God who sows his graces generously in every circumstance, whether they will be received well or not.

Preaching and pastoral care are to imitate and reach for the same generosity. In some ways, and here again perhaps I'm speaking from my own experience, the greatest challenge of Amoris laetitia is to those who exercise pastoral care. More on this as posts go on.

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