The first Theology on Tap of 2017, held at the Duke of York, was packed. The crowd of young adults were eager to hear Fr. Tom Rosica’s reflections on Amoris Laetitia – “Understanding the Joy of Love” (2016). This is the Pope’s Pastoral Letter which came out of the 2014-2015 Synod of Bishops. Fr. Tom gave a quick summary of the origins of synods (a word which comes from Latin meaning to “walk together”). Since Vatican II (1960s) these synods have taken place every 4 years with cardinals, bishops, lay people and consecrated coming together to reflect on the life of the church worldwide. At the most recent synod, the focus was on the family: marriage, children, elderly, divorce, infertility, etc.
Many present tonight, including myself, had never heard of this document; and yet we were touched by the reality that in his Papal teaching, Pope Francis attunes himself to the needs of the people. He is a shepherd who walks amongst his sheep. He listens to them and accompanies them, aware of the gifts and challenges; open to the art of discernment, forming consciences and the complexity of real life.
Amoris Laetitia is not an evening read; there is a lot to unpack. And yet Fr. Rosica said repeatedly: “read the document!” In it you will find the beauty of the Catholic Church responding to her people. Simply reading a blog about the document will not reveal its beauty. Amoris Laetitia can be found here.
At Theology on Tap, Fr. Tom provided the following questions which may be a helpful reflection tool (the numbers in brackets reference particular paragraph numbers of the document):
The pope says in dealing with family issues, some people have an "immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding," while others wanted to "solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations" (2).
Which biblical family do you like? Which speaks to you and your family?
Pope Francis says, "The fear of loneliness and the desire for stability and fidelity exist side by side with a growing fear of entrapment in a relationship that could hamper the achievement of one's personal goals" (34, 39). How do you see this in the lives of your family and friends?
What does Francis mean by saying, "We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them" (37)?
What moves younger people to postpone marriage, family, or children (40-42)?
Does the language of church documents speak to you (67-75)? What makes sense or moves you? What is abstract, boring, or unintelligible? What is flat out objectionable?
Pope Francis says we become impatient "whenever we think that relationships or people ought to be perfect, or when we put ourselves at the center and expect things to turn out our way" (92). Is this your experience?
"Loving ourselves is only important as a psychological prerequisite for being able to love others" (101). Agree? Disagree?
Pope Francis says the three essential words in a family are: "Please," "thank you," and "sorry." Do you agree? How have these words been important in your family?
How can you encourage dialog in your family (136-141)?
What is the role of grandparents in a family (191-193)?
What suggestions would you make for improving the formation of priests and lay ministers so that they could help families more (200-204)?
What is the role of conscience in decisions about responsible parenthood (222)?
How have you dealt with crises in your family?
What is the difference between being "vigilant" and "obsessive" in supervising children (260-262)?
What is the proper role of sex education (280-286)?
What are the challenges for parents in passing on the faith to their children (287-290)?
Rather than condemnations for "living in sin," Francis wants the church to turn "with love to those who participate in her life in an incomplete manner, recognizing that the grace of God works also in their lives by giving them the courage to do good, to care for one another in love and to be of service to the community in which they live and work" (291). Does this make sense to you or do you think it will encourage more people to not follow the church's teaching on marriage?
How does the church more fully integrate the divorced and remarried into the Christian community while also avoiding any occasion of scandal (299)?
How does the Lord's presence dwell "in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes" (315)? How have you experienced his presence in your family?
"Moments of pain and difficulty will be experienced in union with the Lord’s cross," while "moments of joy, relaxation, celebration, and even sexuality can be experienced as a sharing in the full life of the resurrection," says Francis (317). How has this been true in your life?
Does your family pray together (318)? How? If not, would it help?
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