love not bound by “perfect” family model

love is patient 2

Love is patient, love is kind…

Raise your hand if you included St. Paul’s famous canticle of love (1 Corinthians 13) at your wedding ceremony. Hubby and I did. The lyrical verses have become synonymous with marriage. In Chapter 4 of Amoris Laetitia, titled “Love in Marriage”, Pope Francis presents a line by line reflection on the scriptural passage.

In this chapter Pope Francis puts aside documents and synod reports and speaks as a pastor. What does on old, celibate man know about marriage? Apparently, quite a bit. Francis gleans insights from astutely observing the daily struggles of family life. It is also important to remember that Francis was a Jesuit who lived in community. Community and family life share many of the same gifts and challenges.

These paragraphs have the earthiness of his homilies. There is no need to crack open up a theological dictionary to understand his message. There is also a sense that Francis is speaking to a larger audience. After all, love is central to the Christian vocation. If love was central to all human activity, our world would be a much different place.

Many commentators have said that this chapter should be used to re-write marriage preparation manuals, and it certainly provides good reflection material. (I was more than a bit liberal with the highlighter!) Francis uses the scripture passage to reflect on family life in general and as a preparation to discuss conjugal love between husband and wife. (AL, 120) But, maybe its time to read this exultation of love with a more inclusive mind and heart.

What if we, personally and as a church, acknowledged that these soaring scriptural images of love can, and do, apply to many families who do not fit into the “official” model of family as promoted in church documents, homilies, and cultural warrior battles?

What if we admitted than many families whom we have judged and marginalized actually “do” family life better than those who fit into the correct Catholic model?

What if we focused more on the love that is lived within a faithful, committed family relationship than on the perceived sinfulness of those doing the loving?


too busy with family for amoris laetitia

thumb_IMG_5077_1024Family life keeps derailing my attempts to read, ponder and write about Pope Francis’s document on the family Amoris Laetitia  . 

Last week, Hubby and I went to help care for a sick grand-baby. This week, we’ll be pitching in with another wee one while her nanny is on sick leave. With four grand-children and two on the way, Grammy and Papa’s dance card is never blank. There is always an opportunity for a spin around the room with our much loved kiddies.

This is nothing unusual. It’s a simple reflection of the reality of family life. When you’re in the midst of juggling married life, work, loving and caring for your children (from babes to adults!) and much needed leisure/social time, papal documents are the farthest thing from your mind. Even if you have all the time in the world, chances are you won’t be spending it curled up on the couch reading the latest words from Rome. Unless you’re a real church geek.

Readers of this blog know that I am such a geek. I spend an embarrasing amount of time reading the latest news and following discussion boards. Reading is always easier than writing.  Reading can also be an excuse to procrastinate with the writing. It’s much easier to check your Twitter time-line for the latest articles than to sit down and put words on paper.

Of course, writing about reading that hasn’t been read therefore keeping one from the reading so the writing on the reading can finally be done is also a form of procrastination. (As is thinking up nonsense lines!)

Amoris Laetitia, has produced an outpouring of commentaries and news articles both praising and critiquing specific sections or the document in general. I’m just beginning Chapter 9. So far, I share the general elation in the fresh, new spirit while feeling the disappointment in sections that spout the “same old, same old”. But, before I write anymore I need to finish reading it.

Hmmm…Would it be ironic if I told my family that I have no time for them because I need to read a document on love in the family???!!!



let’s have a personal dialogue on family life

I’m still struggling to regain a writing routine. My time, my mind, my energies have been focused on family this past year. The heart-tugs of family make church issues fade into irrelevancy. And yet, the intensity of family life is now calling me to write.

Bishops are preparing for the second synod for the family. We are, once again, made to hope that a more democratic spirit is finally blowing into Vatican halls. A questionnaire has been distributed reflecting on the current state of family life in the church and in the world. Unfortunately, the questionnaire is just as complicated and convoluted as the one for the recent synod. Also, it’s promotion and distribution depends on the good will of individual bishops and-or local episcopal conferences.

NCR editor, Dennis Coday, has published a cross-section list of American dioceses reporting on their efforts to canvass the opinions of local women and men. Some dioceses merely provide a link to the original lineamenta and questions. Some provide the same questions in an online survey format. Others have formulated a simplified version of the questionnaire. Some are making the questions open to every one. Others are seeking only the opinions of priests and those in active diocesan ministry. In all cases, the time frame is extremely limited.

This “catholic dialogue” blog was begun as a vehicle for open and free discussion on current issues facing our church. It was formed from personal frustration with a lack of true dialogue between our church leadership and the women and men whom they serve.

Our all male, celibate leadership is now preparing to reconvene and continue their discussions and decision making on family life. We need to take the time to ponder the issues presented in their working document (lineamenta). We need to share and discuss our own understanding of the church’s teachings on family life; an understanding based on thoughtful reflection, yes. But, more importantly, an understanding based on the reality of experience.

My humble plan is to use this blog in the weeks and months preceding the October synod to promote some online dialogue on family life, using the lineamenta as a stepping-stone. I will not be using a linear method, or attempting to address all the proposed questions. My hope is that, together, we can generate a more personal discussion. A discussion that will reflect the diversity of family life lived in all its joys and struggles.

My thoughts and your thoughts will most probably not make it onto the synod floor.

But….who knows?