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Father Muench Says...

‘Joy of Love’: the pope writes on families

April 27, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Just today, I was asked to celebrate Mass for the students at the Intermediate level of Immaculate Heart Central, the 4th, 5th and 6th graders.

I have been reading Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the Family, “Amoris Laetitia,” so, I decided to talk about family during the homily and ask some questions about family of the kids.  They were great and gave me all sorts of ideas on what it means to be a family.

I noticed that Pope Francis had a section on three important words in family life.  The kids went all over the place trying to figure them out.  Finally, we got somewhere and caught up with Pope Francis – “Please…Thank you…Sorry.”

Have you had the opportunity to read some of Pope Francis’ Letter on Family?  I hope so.  It is great.  However, I worry that sometimes many simply rely on others to tell them about what is in the letter – like magazine articles or maybe a teacher or pastor – and they never get to Pope Francis’ words at all.  The result is that they get more than Pope Francis; they get someone else’s analysis.

Pope Francis’ Letter is long but it is such a good message on family life, perfect for our time.  It is easy reading, really.  Many of you probably avoid papal letters or encyclicals.  You think that such writings will be difficult to understand, filled with complex theology.

This exhortation will surprise you; someone told me that reading this is like having Pope Francis sitting with you in the room and sharing with you.

Pope Francis writes for us.  His style is meant for us, ordinary Catholics.  You will find Pope Francis’ Letter is like a meditation on Family Life.

You may remember that over the past couple of years that Pope Francis called two synods on family with discussions on how the Catholic Church can best serve families and how the Church can be a family.

Pope Francis listened to and analyzed the discussions and presentations at these synods given by bishops and people from every country in the world. Then he prepared the exhortation titled, “Amoris Laetitia” – that is, “The Joy of Love.”

Many clergy and other people in the Catholic Church have anxiously awaited this letter from our pope.  Many, I am sure, wondered how Pope Francis would react to these presentations.  Would there be changes in the Church’s regulations about marriage or something like that?

I don’t know of any changes that he made, but, Pope Francis did made it clear in this letter that the Catholic Church should be more open and welcoming.  He encouraged all of us to be ready to accept the challenges that our modern world brings to family life.

Pope Francis begins with sacred scripture.  He leads us to understanding that love is such a central part of being family.  Let me share with you one paragraph from this exhortation about this message: Paragraph #27. 
“Christ proposed as the distinctive sign of his disciples is the law of love and the gift of self for others.  He did so in stating a principle that fathers and mothers tend to embody in their own lives. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Love also bears fruit in mercy and forgiveness.  We see this in a particular way in the scene of the woman caught in adultery; in front of the Temple, the woman is surrounded by her accusers, but later, alone with Jesus, she meets not condemnation but the admonition to lead a more worthy life.”

This apostolic exhortation contains so much more.  There will be plenty of discussion – maybe even debate – over what Pope Francis has written – and how it affects the teaching of the Catholic Church.

I suspect there will be some challenging concerns that must be solved.  I like what Pope Francis has written.  I believe it will be good for the Catholic Church. 

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