the sour taste of envy

“Envy is a form of sadness provoked by another’s prosperity.” (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 95)

Love is not jealous  (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Tell that to the green-eyed monster claiming life-long squatter’s rights in my brain! Every time I try to evict the little bugger, he raises another example of someone’s superior achievements compared to my own meagre efforts.

  • Mothers who managed to raise families AND have a career AND find time and energy to complete post-grad degrees AND look beautiful while doing it!
  • Bloggers who never miss a beat in their writing, consistently producing brilliant pieces that I wish I wrote. (Don’t they know about writer’s block???)
  • Anyone with a blog or any social media account (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) who obviously has more “friends” than I have.
  • Friends who have written and published one or more books while I keep dreaming of starting one.
  • Women my age who will proudly bare their gym-toned arms or Zoomba fit legs now that the summer sun is around the corner.

Why, oh why do we torture ourselves with this soul-sucking competition? Why can’t we focus more on our own goals without feeling we are being left in the dust by others? Why can’t we feel pride in every step we take on our life’s journey, without mentally measuring the leaps and bounds of those on a similar path?

Pope Francis writes in Amoris Laetitia,

“Whereas love makes us rise above ourselves, envy closes us in on ourselves. True love values the other person’s achievements. It does not see him or her as a threat. It frees us from the sour taste of envy.” AL, 95

Envy certainly produces a sour taste in families. Competition seems wired into our human nature. Siblings are quick to accuse parents of favouring one child over another. Families judge themselves and each other based on the size of their homes or the success of their children. Parents feel slighted if adult children give affection and time more readily to the in-laws than to them. Envy sours the love needed for peace within and among families.

Francis goes on to remind us that love always respects diversity,

“It recognizes that everyone has different gifts and a unique path in life. So it strives to discover its own road to happiness, while allowing others to find theirs.” AL 95

Ah, there it is. A reminder to stop and acknowledge our differences, without mentally placing them in a hierarchy of achievement. We not only have different gifts and talents, but different life circumstances, joys and challenges.

Difference viewed side by side, not as one automatically better than the other. Difference that is a cause for celebration, not envy.

dare we hope for women deacons?

women deacons

VATICAN CITY Pope Francis has announced he will create a commission to study the possibility of allowing women to serve as deacons in the Catholic church, signaling an historic openness to the possibility of ending the global institution’s practice of an all-male clergy.

Source: Francis to create commission to study female deacons in Catholic church | National Catholic Reporter

Cyber-space has been humming and buzzing with this announcement. My initial excitement was tempered as I read past the head-lines. Pope Francis’s words, in response to questions given during an assembly of the International Union of Superior Generals (IUSG) in Rome, are simply promises of possibilities.

No, we are not going to have women deacons over-night. At the current rate of reform in our church, I wonder if we will have them in my life-time. With the current ideological divide, in the hierarchy and in the pews, I wonder if women will ever be “allowed” to take their rightful place beside men in church leadership.

What Francis has promised, seemingly on the spot, is to create a commission to study the possibility of women deacons.

Commissions are only as good as their members. Will this commission consist of a well-balanced group of lay and ordained, women and men? Will Francis invite theologians who have spent their lives studying the historical and biblical evidence of women deacons in the early church? Will the voices of those in the pews, whom deacons are called to serve, be included in the dialogue?

If this commission concludes that the permanent diaconate should be opened to women (in its current ordained role, not merely as “lady auxiliaries” without ordination), will the recommendation for reform be accepted by the more stridently conservative members of our church?

Recommendations from commissions have been ignored in the past. Remember the report from the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control in 1966? It proposed that artificial birth control was not intrisincally evil, suggesting that women and men should be allowed to discern which methods of birth control are best for them. Married couples around the world let out a sigh of relief. The relief was short-lived with the publication of Humanae Vitae shortly after.

In answering the questions at the IUSG assembly, Francis humbly admitted that he was unsure of the the role of deacons in the early church. NCR’s Joshua J McElwee reports,

“It was a bit obscure,” said Francis. “What was the role of the deaconess in that time?”

“Constituting an official commission that might study the question?” the pontiff asked aloud. “I believe yes. It would do good for the church to clarify this point. I am in agreement. I will speak to do something like this.”

“I accept,” the pope said later. “It seems useful to me to have a commission that would clarify this well.”

While we shouldn’t read too much into off the cuff statements, seeking “clarification” doesn’t necessarily imply that a change in teaching or reform in practice is around the corner.

For doctrinal types, “clarification”  often means digging in their heals into existing teaching; bold-facing the arguments that have rationalized a male-only priesthood while putting a gag-order on any dissenters. Clarifying, for them, equals reiterating.

“You still don’t understand why women can’t be priests? You poor dear. It’s really clear, after all. I’ll quote you the part of the Catechism that proves that only men can act in persona Christi” !

I hope that Francis is proposing “clarification” as a means to go beyond catechism based teaching to explore the good works already done by many theologians and historians who have been, and are studying the role of women in the church for many years now. Sadly, these works have too often been ignored or silenced in the past.

The windows have been opened a crack. We need Francis to courageously fling them wide open for a new and far-reaching dialogue on the full and equal inclusion of women in our church.

love in the family and between families


“A Big Heart”

In addition to the small circle of the couple and their children, there is the larger family …Friends and other families are part of this larger family, as well as communities of families who support one another in their difficulties, their social com- mitments and their faith. AL,196

The English title of Amoris Laetitia, the post-synodal exhortation by Pope Francis, is On love in the family. The basis of the document are the two recent synods on the family. Bishops, consultants and lay observers gathered from around the world to discuss modern realities facing families and how the church can help them.

But, perhaps it is time to move beyond the model of the church (and her male leadership) as an all-knowing body to turn to for answers to life’s questions and crises. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that, for most families, wisdom and support is more readily found among family and friends; in the love between families.

Last week-end, hubby and I spent a glorious evening with our faith community of friends. We are part of a Marianist lay community that has been meeting in one form or another for almost 40 years. Our life journeys have intertwined through university years, to newlyweds, and the parenting years. Our children are all adults now, and many of us are grand-parents.

We sat on the deck, enjoying the first warm evening of spring. Good food, good drink, good conversation, good friends…a touch of heaven! Talk came around to how our community was truly church for us.

Over these many years, we’ve celebrated the joys of family life, and found support for the many struggles and challenges. We talk of faith easily and naturally. We sing and we pray from the heart. We swap stories of parish and diocese. Many of us have had close ties and connections to the local church. Some still do. We never did “suffer fools gladly”, and do so less and less as we age.

Our faith community and many other long time friends have been both gift and life-saver over the years. Weekly Mom’s and Tot’s tea-times, rowdy multi-family dinners and gloriously chaotic weekend family sleep-overs; these are the “big heart” moments that fed and nourished us.

It is natural to look to peers for support. Newlywed couples seek other couples. Young Moms seek other young Moms. Empty-nesters seek other empty-nesters. Families facing health crises seek others travelling the same difficult journey.

We look for mentors among those who are further along in the family adventure. Mentors can be found a generation or two ahead or simply a few months or years. Parents of a three month old or a toddler can be great mentors for friends with a colicky new-born.

We see our children forming these same bonds of friendship and support. After long work-weeks and sleepless nights, they will schedule family time with their friends despite the extra work of travel or hosting.

When family life is discussed in the church, well-meaning souls wave the Catechism of the Catholic Church while deploring the present state of families, blaming it on a lack of catechesis. The simple and obvious solution, then, is to provide more adult education in parishes – preferably from the “official” teachers in the church.

Debate the theology of family all you want, but experiential wisdom will usually trump ivory tower pronouncements. Black and white rules no longer speak to many of us who are living in the messiness of the grey in-between. We learn more from personal stories than doctrinal diatribes.

Families are often best qualified to minister to other families. Churches could support this ministry by encouraging and empowering existing family networks and small communities, and provide opportunities for encounters where none exist.