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???!!!



faith motivated by love, not fear

During this past Holy Week, in the midst of a faith sharing, a friend admitted her life long struggles with Good Friday. This opened a flood-gate of sharing among us. I, too, hated Good Friday as a child. I hated it even more as a Mother, trying to explain to wee children the morose devotions. Trying to protect their innocent minds from the horrors of the Passion story.

I remembered, and shared with my friends, an article that Fr. Thomas Reese, SJ wrote for NCR last year titled How to cope with Holy Week when you are less than inspired.  In it, Fr. Reese describes his own struggles with the theology of Good Friday. Struggles that many readers related to,

There is another reason I hate Holy Week, especially Good Friday. When I was a child, we were taught that Jesus had to die for our sins because sin is an infinite insult to God that requires an infinite sacrifice as reparation.

I am sorry, but I don’t think I have ever done anything so bad that it requires me or anyone else to be crucified, let alone Jesus. While I might be grateful to Jesus for taking the blame for my sins, this theology turned God the Father into a legalistic ogre concerned about balancing the scales of justice, not mercy. The Father in this theology sounds nothing like the Father described by Jesus. Alas, some of the liturgical prayers still reflect this theology.

This year, Robert Mickens wrote a piece for NCR called The Greatest story never told.  He described how Benedict XVI, both as pope and emeritus, saw the lack of belief in the need for salvation as a major crisis in the church. Mickens quotes Benedict,

“The obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals…If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself becomes unmotivated,” he noted.

In other words, Benedict believes that when obligation and the fear of hell stopped being the motivating force for Catholics, the pews began to empty. Mickens, rightly I think, questions the good of a fear-centred faith,

But one could argue that a religion based on fear has little to do with having faith in and striving to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I remember too well the scrupulous faith of my childhood. The fear of sin. The even greater fear of confession. The terrifying fear of the fires of hell. I consider myself blessed that I was slowly rid of the guilt and fears, and I have little or no patience for those who try to reinstill them in me.

I believe in a God of love. Just, yes. But loving first. Loving always. God calls each one of us us to live this life of love; a life of goodness, justice and right action. God’s son, Jesus, shows us the way…and it’s a simple one.

The gospel is not a compendium of rules and regulations, but an exohortation to love God and each other in word and deed. As we have received grace freely, so are we to be bearers of grace for others.

Fear or obligation are seldom good motivators for love.

input for the next synod for the family

Roman Catholic bishops are preparing for the second of two consecutive synods on the family. The first, the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, took place in October 2014 and addressed the topic, “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization”. The document from that synod has become the working document (lineamenta) for the October 2015 Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops titled “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world”.

The lineamenta for the first synod included a questionnaire. Unlike past questionnaires, this one was meant for all the people of God not just bishops. Sadly, the questionnaire was criticized for its lack of clarity and simplicity. Also, there was a lack of consistency in the solicitation of responses from lay women and men. Some bishops welcomed input from all. Some didn’t.

Enter lineamenta and questionnaire #2. I first read about it on our Archdiocesan web-site last week. There was a letter of introduction from our Archbishop dated January 28th. The online publication date was February 3rd. It was also announced in our Archdiocesan newspaper (received in our parish yesterday – Sunday, February 15th).

The deadline for submissions? February 16, 2015!

How easy is this set of questions? Here are the original questions, included in the last section of the lineamenta. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has published an edited version (eight pages!) to be distributed to dioceses across the country. This is the questionnaire that Canadian Catholics were invited to respond to.

I wanted to shake my head in disbelief, but it would have worsened the headache I got after reading both sets of questions. Keen Vatican watchers could have found the document on the Vatican web-site weeks ago and taken the necessary time to reflect and ponder on the questions in order to give a thoughtful response.

Granted, no one was expected to answer all the questions. In our archdiocese it was suggested that we answer three questions. The CCCB also left it to the discretion of each bishop whom to invite to respond to the survey, and which questions to address. There is also the option to respond to an “open question” at the end of each section.

An honest survey must be attentive to the day to day life of the average Catholic; those same women and men who form the many and varied families that the bishops are attempting to study.  I wonder how many responses will be received? How inclusive will these voices be? Will we hear from those on the fringes of church life? What about those who have already exited her doors because their family was no longer welcomed to the table?

A rhetorical question is one to which you do not expect a response. Is this merely a rhetorical survey?

More to come….