May 29, 2016

4 and 10

I notice that today I begin my fifth year in Rome. What shall I say about that? God is good. I have settled into the life and work of a very particular community; a local Capuchin fraternity sui generis as our statutes say.

May 24, 2016

Basilica of St. Francis

Happy feast day to a beautiful church. I love this picture I took from the back stairwell of our Capuchin friary on the Via San Francesco in Assisi.

May 23, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Divorce, Remarriage, and Communion

No series on Amoris laetitia would be complete without a post on one of the issues that got a lot of attention, from the two sessions of the Synod on the Family down to the publication of the Exhortation itself, namely the question of Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. Chapter eight of Amoris laetitia goes into this question in detail.

While it's true that the Exhortation gives us no new doctrine in the strict sense of the term, we are in a new place in the post-Amoris laetitia Church. As I alluded to when I began this series of posts, it seems to me that what we have mostly is a new challenge for pastors of souls.

May 19, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Priestly Formation

Seminarians should receive a more extensive interdisciplinary, and not merely doctrinal, formation in the areas of engagement and marriage. Their training does not always allow them to explore their own psychological and affective background and experiences. Some come from troubled families, with absent parents and a lack of emotional stability. There is a need to ensure that the formation process can enable them to attain the maturity and psychological balance needed for their future ministry. Family bonds are essential for reinforcing healthy self-esteem. (203)
Arriving at this paragraph in Amoris laetitia made me happy.

Priests don't fall out of the sky fully formed. They are people who have a background and a family of origin just like the rest of humanity. And as the Pope notes, these backgrounds--like everybody else's--can have their troubles and dysfunctions.

This isn't a bad thing. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to transform suffering and alienation into compassion; this is one of the ways that the pattern of the Lord's paschal mystery of his passion, death, and resurrection comes to take form in our lives. And so it makes sense that many vocations to service, the priesthood included, can have roots in situations of difficulty and personal suffering.

May 17, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Faith

Committing oneself exclusively and definitively to another person always involves a risk and a bold gamble. (132)
Finding this line in Amoris laetitia reminded me a lot of the marriage preparation and pastoral care I used to do when I was assigned to a parish.

Starting out in the parish ministry, I struggled a little to know how to preach faith to the folks who came for marriage preparation and to celebrate their weddings, most of whom--with some brightly shining exceptions--were not practicing the faith.

After some time, experience, and reflection, I arrived at the point that worked for me in preaching and pastoral care: the very thing that they were doing, exchanging the consent of marriage, was a great act of faith.

May 12, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Mary

Nor would it be good for them to arrive at the wedding without ever having prayed together, one for the other, to seek God’s help in remaining faithful and generous, to ask the Lord together what he wants of them, and to consecrate their love before an image of the Virgin Mary. (216)
This quote reminded me of the many weddings I had back in Yonkers that included a little procession of the newlyweds to offer some flowers to Our Lady on her side altar. During rehearsals I would advise the couple to take it slow and spend a good moment on this little pilgrimage, perhaps saying a Hail Mary together and asking Our Lady's prayers for their new life together.

May 5, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Celibacy

Amoris laetitia is a document on the family, but it also has something to say about the celibate vocation in the Church. For example:
Whereas virginity is an “eschatological” sign of the risen Christ, marriage is a “historical” sign for us living in this world, a sign of the earthly Christ who chose to become one with us and gave himself up for us even to shedding his blood. (161)
This is true, so long as we don't push it too far. Christian married people, of course, like all Christians, participate in the eschatological character of the Church, and those consecrated to celibacy still have a foot in history.

May 3, 2016

Amoris laetitia: Pro-Life

This section can go without comment:
Here I feel it urgent to state that, if the family is the sanctuary of life, the place where life is conceived and cared for, it is a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed. So great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb, that no alleged right to one’s own body can justify a decision to terminate that life, which is an end in itself and which can never be considered the “property” of another human being. The family protects human life in all its stages, including its last. Consequently, “those who work in healthcare facilities are reminded of the moral duty of conscientious objection. Similarly, the Church not only feels the urgency to assert the right to a natural death, without aggressive treatment and euthanasia”, but likewise “firmly rejects the death penalty”. (83)
The quoted material is from the Relatio finalis of the Synod.

May 2, 2016

God's Dwelling

I think I have about six more posts on Amoris laetitia still to come, but for today a break from it.

Here in my Roman life I only preach on Sundays once in a while, but yesterday was one of those days. I focused on John 14:23.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him."

This 'making of a dwelling' is the fruit of the Easter mystery and the whole good news of our faith.