Pope Francis Said About Power and Humility in TED Talk
Pope Francis: Good evening – or, good morning, I am not sure what time it is there. Regardless of the hour, I am thrilled to be participating in your conference. I very much like its title – “The Future You” – because, while looking at tomorrow, it invites us to open a dialogue today, to look at the future through a “you.” “The Future You:” the future is made of yous, it is made of encounters, because life flows through our relations with others. Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.
As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: “Why them and not me?” I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today’s “discarded” people. And that’s why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: “Why them and not me?”
First and foremost, I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other,none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent “I,” separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone. We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state. Even the harsh judgment I hold in my heart against my brother or my sister, the open wound that was never cured, the offense that was never forgiven, the rancor that is only going to hurt me, are all instances of a fight that I carry within me, a flare deep in my heart that needs to be extinguished before it goes up in flames, leaving only ashes behind.
Many of us, nowadays, seem to believe that a happy future is something impossible to achieve. While such concerns must be taken very seriously, they are not invincible. They can be overcome when we don’t lock our door to the outside world. Happiness can only be discovered as a gift of harmony between the whole and each single component. Even science – and you know it better than I do – points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else.
And this brings me to my second message. How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion. How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word,were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries. Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the “culture of waste,” which doesn’t concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.
Solidarity is a term that many wish to erase from the dictionary. Solidarity, however, is not an automatic mechanism. It cannot be programmed or controlled. It is a free response born from the heart of each and everyone. Yes, a free response! When one realizes that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being?
In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity. And I know that TED gathers many creative minds. Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude. Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The “you” is always a real presence, a person to take care of.
There is a parable Jesus told to help us understand the difference between those who’d rather not be bothered and those who take care of the other. I am sure you have heard it before. It is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus was asked: “Who is my neighbor?” – namely, “Who should I take care of?” – he told this story, the story of a man who had been assaulted, robbed, beaten and abandoned along a dirt road. Upon seeing him, a priest and a Levite, two very influential people of the time, walked past him without stopping to help. After a while, a Samaritan, a very much despised ethnicity at the time, walked by. Seeing the injured man lying on the ground, he did not ignore him as if he weren’t even there. Instead, he felt compassion for this man, which compelled him to act in a very concrete manner. He poured oil and wine on the wounds of the helpless man, brought him to a hostel and paid out of his pocket for him to be assisted.
The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of today’s humanity. People’s paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money, and things, instead of people. And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves “respectable,” of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road. Fortunately, there are also those who are creating a new world by taking care of the other, even out of their own pockets. Mother Teresa actually said: “One cannot love, unless it is at their own expense.”
Pope Francis: We have so much to do, and we must do it together. But how can we do that with all the evil we breathe every day? Thank God, no system can nullify our desire to open up to the good, to compassion and to our capacity to react against evil, all of which stem from deep within our hearts. Now you might tell me,”Sure, these are beautiful words, but I am not the Good Samaritan, nor Mother Teresa of Calcutta.” On the contrary: we are precious, each and every one of us. Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God. Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.
To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Hope is the door that opens onto the future. Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life. And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another “you,” and another “you,” and it turns into an “us.” And so, does hope begin when we have an “us?” No. Hope began with one “you.” When there is an “us,” there begins a revolution.
The third message I would like to share today is, indeed, about revolution: the revolution of tenderness.And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future.To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.
Tenderness is the language of the young children, of those who need the other. A child’s love for mom and dad grows through their touch, their gaze, their voice, their tenderness. I like when I hear parents talk to their babies, adapting to the little child, sharing the same level of communication. This is tenderness: being on the same level as the other. God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level. This is the same path the Good Samaritan took. This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love.
Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other. There is a saying in Argentina: “Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.” You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness. Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.
The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies.Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a “you” and themselves as part of an “us.” We all need each other. And so, please, think of me as well with tenderness, so that I can fulfill the task I have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of you, of all of us. Thank you.
URBI ET ORBI MESSAGE
OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Central loggia of the Vatican Basilica
Easter, 16 April 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!
Today, throughout the world, the Church echoes once more the astonishing message of the first disciples: “Jesus is risen!” – “He is truly risen, as he said!”
The ancient feast of Passover, the commemoration of the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery, here finds fulfilment. By his resurrection, Jesus Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and death, and has opened before us the way to eternal life.
All of us, when we let ourselves be mastered by sin, lose the right way and end up straying like lost sheep. But God himself, our shepherd, has come in search of us. To save us, he lowered himself even to accepting death on the cross. Today we can proclaim:“The Good Shepherd has risen, who laid down his life for his sheep, and willingly died for his flock, alleluia” (Roman Missal, IV Sunday of Easter, Communion antiphon).
In every age, the Risen Shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion – the wounds of his merciful love – he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life. Today too, he places upon his shoulders so many of our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms.
The Risen Shepherd goes in search of all those lost in the labyrinths of loneliness and marginalization. He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness, and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.
He takes upon himself all those victimized by old and new forms of slavery, inhuman labour, illegal trafficking, exploitation and discrimination, and grave forms of addiction. He takes upon himself children and adolescents deprived of their carefree innocence and exploited, and those deeply hurt by acts of violence that take place within the walls of their own home.
The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes. Everywhere he helps these forced migrants to encounter brothers and sisters, with whom they can share bread and hope on their journey.
In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the Risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.
Especially in these days, may he sustain the efforts of all those actively engaged in bringing comfort and relief to the civil population in beloved Syria, so greatly suffering from a war that continues to sow horror and death. Yesterday saw the latest vile attack on fleeing refugees, resulting in the death and injury of many. May he grant peace to the entire Middle East, beginning with the Holy Land, as well as in Iraq and Yemen.
May the Good Shepherd remain close to the people of South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who endure continuing hostilities, aggravated by the grave famine affecting certain parts of Africa.
May the Risen Jesus sustain the efforts of all those who, especially in Latin America, are committed to ensuring the common good of societies marked at times by political and social tensions that in some cases have resulted in violence. May it be possible for bridges of dialogue to be built, by continuing to fight the scourge of corruption and to seek viable and peaceful solutions to disputes, for progress and the strengthening of democratic institutions in complete respect for the rule of law.
May the Good Shepherd come to the aid of Ukraine, still beset by conflict and bloodshed, to regain social harmony. May he accompany every effort to alleviate the tragic sufferings of those affected by the conflict.
The Risen Lord continues to shed his blessing upon the continent of Europe. May he grant hope to those experiencing moments of crisis and difficulty, especially due to high unemployment, particularly among young people.
Dear brothers and sisters, this year Christians of every confession celebrate Easter together. With one voice, in every part of the world, we proclaim the great message: “The Lord is truly risen, as he said!” May Jesus, who vanquished the darkness of sin and death, grant peace to our days.
Friday April 8, 2017
Sermon of Pope Francis during today’s Mass
“You can have defects, be anxious and live irritated sometimes, but do not forget that your life is the biggest enterprise in the world.
Only you can prevent it from going into decline.
There are many who appreciate you, admire you and love you.
I would like you to remember that to be happy, is not to have a sky without storms, road without accidents, works without fatigue, relationships without disappointments.
To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in the box of fear, love in disagreements.
Being happy is not only valuing the smile, but also reflecting on sadness.
It is not just to commemorate success, but to learn lessons in failures.
It is not just to have joy with applause, but to have joy in anonymity.
To be happy is to recognize that life is worth living, despite all the challenges, misunderstandings, and periods of crisis.
Being happy is not a fatality of destiny, but a conquest for those who know how to travel within their own being.
To be happy is to stop being a victim of problems and become an actor in one’s own history.
It is to cross deserts but to be able to find an oasis in the recesses of our soul.
It is to thank God every morning for the miracle of life.
Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings.
It is knowing how to talk about yourself.It is courage to hear a “no”.It is to have self-confidence to receive criticism, even if it is unfair.It is to kiss the children, to pamper parents, to have poetic moments with friends, even if they hurt us.To be happy is to let the free, happy and simple creature live within each one of us.It is to have maturity to say ‘I was wrong’.It is to have the audacity to say ‘forgive me’.It is to have sensitivity to express ‘I need you’.It is to be able to say ‘I love you’.May your life become a garden of opportunity to be happy …May you be joyous in your spring.May your winters make you friend of wisdom.And when you err on the way, start all over again.Then you will be more passionate about life.And you will discover that to be happy is not to have a perfect life.But use tears to water tolerance.Use losses to refine patience.Use flaws to sculpt serenity.Use pain to lapping pleasure.Use obstacles to open the windows of intelligence.Never give up ….Never give up on the people you love.Never give up being happy, because life is a must-see spectacle!”
Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, on 17 December 1936) is the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. He chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere and the first non-European pope since the Syrian Gregory III, who died in 741.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Bergoglio worked briefly as a chemical technologist before beginning seminary studies. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1969, and from 1973 to 1979 was Argentina’s provincial superior of the Society of Jesus. He was accused of handing two priests to the National Reorganization Process during the Dirty War, but the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed. He became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998, and was created a cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II. He led the Argentine Church during the December 2001 riots in Argentina, and the administrations of Néstor Kirchner and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner considered him a political rival. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 28 February 2013, a papal conclave elected Bergoglio as his successor on 13 March.
Throughout his public life, Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, emphasis on God’s mercy, concern for the poor, and commitment to interfaith dialogue. He is credited with having a humble, less formal approach to the papacy. He maintains that the church should be more open and welcoming. He opposes consumerism, irresponsible development, and supports taking action on climate change, a focus of his papacy with the promulgation of Laudato si’. In international diplomacy, he helped to restore full diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
12 November 2016
5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Pope Francis
So how has a relatively obscure Jesuit cardinal from Latin America become such a successful leader? Here are five lessons that Pope Francis’s early tenure offer drawn from The Francis Miracle: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church by John L. Allen, Jr.
1. Set an example
The reformist Pope immediately set his sights on the Vatican’s finances, aiming to clean up a regular source of scandal. For the Pope—who took his name from the saint who devoted himself to a life of poverty—financial reform was a priority because it brought “together the three vices that distress him more than anything else: corruption, exaggerated clerical privilege and indifference to the poor,” Allen writes
But he also knew that ensuring clean books at the highest levels would set an example of good governance for the entire Church and clear the path for pursuing a wider agenda. “Today, perhaps the most audacious of all of Pope Francis’s plans is to make the Vatican into a global model of best practices in financial administration—not just as an end in itself but as a way of leading the Church at all levels to clean up its act,” Allen writes.
2. Don’t just hire your friends
Australian Cardinal George Pell was an unlikely candidate for spearheading Francis’s financial reforms. A staunch conservative, Pell was privately disappointed with the Pope’s election, concerned that he would lead the Vatican down a liberal path. In size–he’s a 6-foot-3 former Australian football player–and in personality, he also differed from the soft-spoken Pontiff.
But Francis had heard Pell’s rants against the status of the Church’s finances and knew that his blunt style would be effective in pushing reforms through the traditional institution. At a meeting in March 2014 during which the two spoke Italian because neither was comfortable in each other’s language, Francis asked Pell to become his finance czar.
3. Take advice seriously
From the very beginning, Francis has demonstrated a willingness to listen to those around him. As his first substantial move in office, for example, he created a Council of Cardinal Advisers comprising eight members from around the global who hold ideologically diverse views. The group has since advised him on each of his major actions, and Allen calls it the “the most important decision-making force in the Vatican.” Meanwhile, Pope Francis has given renewed significance to the Synod of Bishops, an advisory group that Pope John Paul II was known to occasionally sit through while reading a book. Francis, by contrast, attended one meeting almost entirely unannounced to join in the discussion (Allen compared it to a U.S. president walking into a meeting of a House committee), and he placed a heavy emphasis on the rare Extraordinary Synod that he convened to discuss family issues like divorce and remarriage.
4. But also be willing to ignore advice
The Pope has also been willing to act unilaterally to ensure that his agenda moves forward, such as when he named Bishop Nunzio Galantino to be secretary-general of the powerful Episcopal Conference of Italy in December 2013. Galantino had a reputation of modesty that reflected Pope Francis’s persona,eschewing, for example, formal titles and rejecting a secretary or chauffeur. But he was not terribly popular with the Italian clergy. When Francis asked for potential names to fill the role of secretary-general, nearly 500 Italian clergymen submitted their recommendations and Galantino received only a single nod. Francis chose him anyway.
5. Be accessible
As the head of the Vatican, Pope Francis has plenty of headaches to deal with at home. But he’s also the leader of nearly 1.1 billion Catholics, and he has made an impressive effort to connect with his followers. There’s no better example of his outreach efforts than the cold-calls he makes to unexpecting people around the world. There was the call to Michele Ferri, the 14-year-old brother of a gas station operator who had been killed in an armed robbery; a call to a Vatican critic who was sick in the hospital; a call to an Italian woman who had beseeched the Pope in a letter to help her solve the mystery of her daughter’s murder; and many more that have not been reported in the media. In one case that was reported, the Pope dialed (he does the calling, not an aide) a convent of cloistered Carmelite nuns in Spain to wish a happy New Year. When they didn’t pick up, he left a message, jokingly asking, “What are the nuns doing that they can’t answer?” (praying, according to a local media report) He later called back, and this time the nuns were gathered around the phone to talk with Francis on speakerphone.
11 November 2016
Francis warns of ‘rigid’ liturgy,
confesses soft spot for old ladies
In an interview at the start of a newly published collection of his homilies while archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis has warned of rigidity in those seeking to roll back liturgical reform. He also shares thoughts on preaching, politics and Pentecostals — and his soft spot for ladies of a certain age.
ROME-Proving once again that he can double as the world’s parish priest and the successor of Peter, Pope Francis has given a wide-ranging interview where he acknowledges he has a soft spot for old ladies while rejecting the conservative theological idea of a liturgical “reform of the reform.”
Referring to what’s known as the “extraordinary form” for celebrating the Mass – in which priest and congregation face the tabernacle, as they did before the Second Vatican Council, Francis said his predecessor Benedict XVI was “magnanimous” in making the “fair gesture” of bringing it back.
That decision, the pope said, was an attempt to address “a certain mentality of some groups and people who had nostalgia and were walking away.” Yet, he insisted, celebrating the Mass this way is an exception, “it is for this reason that we speak of the ‘extraordinary’ form.”
“We have to meet with magnanimity those who are tied to a certain way of prayer,” Francis said. “But the Second Vatican Council and Sacrosantum Concilium should carry on as they are. To talk about a ‘reform of the reform’ is a mistake.”
Sacrosantum Concilium, or the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was the first document of the Second Vatican Council. It allowed for Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular language, and introduced a series of changes to allow for a greater participation of the congregation in the celebration of the Eucharist.
The “reform of the reform” refers to the attempt in some conservative quarters to abolish many of the liturgical changes implemented after the Council, claiming they were wrong or have been misinterpreted and taken too far.
The Argentine pope was talking to his Jesuit friend Father Antonio Spadaro at the opening of a book collecting more than 200 homilies and addresses by Jorge Mario Bergoglio, then cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, between 1999 and 2013. In Your Eyes is my Word is currently only available in Italian.
Spadaro had asked the pope to write an introduction, but said Francis preferred to have a conversation instead. As a result, the first fifteen pages of the book, which is over 1,000 pages long, are taken up with their exchange on July 9.
The priest, who is director of the semi-official Jesuit journal Civiltà Cattolica, asked the pope if he saw dangers in some of those calling for a “reform of the reform.”
Francis answers: “I ask myself about this. For example, I always try to understand what’s behind the people who are too young to have lived the pre-conciliar liturgy but who want it. Sometimes I’ve found myself in front of people who are too strict, who have a rigid attitude. And I wonder: How come such a rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something: insecurity, sometimes even more … Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.”
Francis also talks to Spadaro about experiences he has had in the confessional and in meeting people. The closer a priest is to the people, he says, the better preacher he becomes, because he is able to relate the Gospel directly to the problems in people’s lives.
“The farther away you are from the people and people’s problems, the more you take refuge in a theology framed by ‘should and shouldn’t,’ that doesn’t communicate anything, is empty, abstract, lost in nothingness.”
“Sometimes, we answer with our own words questions no one is asking,” he warns.
The pope also talks about ecumenism, underlying the importance of the dialogue with Pentecostals, noting he had a very close relationship with several leaders of that movement in Buenos Aires. He also warns, however, of the risk of falling in with a “theology of prosperity.”
Talking specifically about his home country Argentina, Francis acknowledges that late President Néstor Kirchner “really couldn’t stand me. The exchanges were very tense.”
The animosity the president felt towards the leader of the Argentine Church has been well documented, with Kirchner once referring to the cardinal as the “spiritual leader of the opposition.”
Francis also notes that, although it should never be partisan, a homily is always “political” because it’s delivered amidst the people. “Everything we do has a political dimension and concerns the construction of civilization.”
One can’t say, he continues, that Christians are a-political because as citizens they’re called to work together towards the common good.
“We must find new forms of dialogue and cohabitation in our pluralistic societies,” he says. “We need new ties, a new conscience of solidarity that goes beyond any religious, ideological or political frontier.”
In a more anecdotal tone, Francis says that when writing a homily, a priest must be creative, otherwise, he’s “sterile.” Reading books that go beyond theology, for instance can be of great help. The pope in particular notes how he has been inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic novel The Brothers Karamazov.
He also talks about his need to connect with people, about missing the freedom he used to have to improvise his homilies, and acknowledges having once used fireworks in a liturgy to talk to children about the devil and about the popemobile rides.
“Sometimes I feel the desire to get off the popemobile. Often it happens in front of the old ladies. I have a weakness for old ladies … especially those who are funny,” Francis said.
2 November 2016
Pope offers new beatitudes for saints of a new age
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
MALMO, Sweden (CNS) — The saints are blessed because they were faithful and meek and cared for others, Pope Francis said.
At the end of an ecumenical trip to Sweden, Pope Francis celebrated the feast of All Saints Nov. 1 with Mass in a Malmo stadium. He highlighted the lives of Swedish saints Elizabeth Hesselblad and Bridget of Vadstena, who “prayed and worked to create bonds of unity and fellowship between Christians.”
The best description of the saints — in fact, their “identity card” — the pope said, is found in the beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
And, he said, as Christian saints have done throughout the ages, Christ’s followers today are called “to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus.”
New situations require new energy and a new commitment, he said, and then he offered a new list of beatitudes for modern Christians:
— “Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.
— “Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.
— “Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.
— “Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
— “Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
— “Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.”
“All these are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness,” Pope Francis said. “Surely they will receive from him their merited reward.”
Courtesy: Catholic News Service
For the Original Article: https://cnstopstories.com/2016/11/01/pope-offers-new-beatitudes-for-saints-of-a-new-age/
October 30, 2016
How a restless reforming pope
can help heal Reformation rift
A painting of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. (Credit: Greg Copeland/Concordia Publishing.)
Martin Luther’s protest at corruption of the sacraments and the reactions that followed have left a centuries-old wound both Catholics and Lutherans are determined to heal. Here’s what Francis, who travels today to Sweden to commemorate the start of the Reformation, brings to that effort.
When, on this day 499 years ago, a small-town Augustinian friar lecturing in a start-up college in provincial Germany posted dozens of arguments on the door of a castle church, he offered a prime example of what scientists call “the butterfly effect,” namely that small causes can have large effects.
In reality, Martin Luther’s nailing (or more likely gluing) his hard-to-read 95 theses on what was, in effect, Wittenberg university’s bulletin board, was less the trigger of the Reformation than the copies he posted, together with an accompanying letter of breathtaking audacity.
One was to Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz, then the most powerful bishop in Germany, which meant, sooner or later, the pope himself would be involved.
Luther was not the first to critique the sale of indulgences, or the way the sacrament of confession had been reduced in late-medieval Europe from a channel of God’s grace to a mechanistic transaction. (A local Dominican friar loathed by Luther had a marketing jingle: ‘As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs’).
But as all great polemicists do, he nailed the theological error behind the corruption at the crucial moment, provoking a disproportionate reaction that in turn fueled an uprising. And part of that was about timing.
Tomorrow’s Feast of All Saints was when the ruler of Saxony used to bring out his impressive display of relics, and indulgences were granted (for a price) to the pilgrims who viewed them.
By attacking the system, Luther put into doubt not just the whole medieval basis of clerical livelihoods, but a powerful network of interests – from bankers and bishops all the way up to Rome – that was never likely to take the assault lying down.
There was also a moment when the protest went viral: at Worms, when Luther in 1521 was called on to answer to the emperor. His extraordinarily courageous act of turning up and defying the might of state and Church won many hearts and minds, and gave birth to a revolutionary movement that soon span out of control.
It wasn’t just the authorities’ self-interested over-reaction, but Luther’s own mercurial psychology – tripped by the knowledge that he faced execution at any moment – that explains the series of events, movements and conflicts that we now call the Reformation.
But whatever its causes, the result was tragedy. A valid critique of genuine corruption descended into heresy, division and war.
Luther did not intend to split the Church, yet most of the northern European church over time rejected Rome. Luther never intended to question the Sacraments, yet they were soon thrown into doubt. He never wanted a social uprising, yet that is what occurred.
But of all the unintended consequences of Luther’s protest, the secularization of Europe, especially of its educated classes, is probably the greatest of all – a five-century process meticulously traced in Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation.
Endless doctrinal controversy followed by a hundred years of destructive and inconclusive political-religious wars led to the privatization of religion and the search for empirical observation and philosophy and ideology as a means of uniting society.
When these eventually collapsed – as they now have – relativism and individualism are (mostly) all that remains.
And, of course, shopping. The drive for technology and to consume were the seventeenth-century Dutch responses to sectarian conflict, and are nowadays pretty much the western world’s dominant religion.
Of course, both sides are to blame in that cycle of events – something that will be acknowledged today in the first ecumenical global commemoration of the Reformation in Lund.
The dialogue between the two sides is 50 years old, and has produced a number of significant documents – which begs the question of what Pope Francis today can add to the process.
Here, at least, are five things he brings to the table which no previous pope has.
First, he is – to borrow my biography’s title – a “great reformer,” one who sees the need for the Church to be always in need of renewal in response both to internal degradation and external needs. He has said this is something the Church can learn from Luther, although it is equally present in the great reforming popes of the past, or in saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Francis of Assisi.
Second, he comes with no fear or suspicion of Lutherans but decades of fellowship. In his interview with the Swedish Jesuit journal Signum he spoke of many friendships with Argentine Lutherans -Danish as well as Swedish – with whom he has had sincere exchanges. Traveling with him on the plane today will be one of his oldest non-Catholic friends, the evangelical pastor Marcelo Figueroa.
Third, he feels no obligation to remain within the boundaries of existing theological consensus. In his Signum interview, Francis approvingly quoted what Patriach Athenagoras allegedly told Pope Paul VI: “Let the two of us go ahead, and we will put the theologians on an island to discuss among themselves.”
“Going ahead” in this case means opening up opportunities for collaboration and friendship through common witness and joint works, which Francis passionately believes create new spaces for the Holy Spirit to bind people together. What happens today is intended to break new ground for the theologians later to work out.
Fourth, Francis has a specific abhorrence of the kind of corruption Luther denounced. One of the pope’s favorite phrases is “spiritual worldliness,” an illness identified by the Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac as using the Gospel in the service of particular worldly interests – whether ideology, money, or status.
In my biography I show how Jorge Mario Bergoglio constantly fought against symptoms of this worldliness in the Jesuits and later in the clergy. As cardinal he saw it in Rome and hated it; now he is pope, he is quietly attacking it on many different fronts.
To take one example: under John Paul II, a cardinal in receipt of a very fat donation could arrange for the benefactor to have a bacciamano – kiss the pope’s hand – after Mass with him, and of course a picture with the pope to sit on his desk to impress the world.
Try doing that now with Francis, and you’ll get a flea in your ear.
Finally, Francis is the pope who, more than any other leader of the Catholic Church in modern times. has restored the primacy of mercy to the Church’s proclamation. The whole point of mercy is that it is about God’s reckless forgiving and our complete inability to merit it.
Wasn’t that Luther’s point?
Perhaps the main task of today’s ecumenical acts in Lund and Malmö is simply to help both Lutherans and Catholics “receive” the results of 50 years of dialogue between the two Churches. The result of that dialogue is a series of agreements – as well as persisting disagreements – ably summed up in the joint document prepared for the occasion, From Conflict to Communion.
Yet who knows about it? William G. Rusch, Professor of Lutheran Studies at Yale’s Divinity School and a leading ecumenist, believes “the task before us is to receive the fruit of 50 years of dialogue,” the results of which have not been “rejected” so much as “neglected.”
Which is why, said Rusch, the mere fact of the pope appearing today in Lund – where in 1947 the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) was founded – is “an enormous step, compared to where we’ve been.”
The LWF speaks for some 90 percent of the world’s Lutheran Churches, with a combined membership of around 80m people.
In a telephone interview, Rusch told Crux he hopes that the papal visit will enable what he believes to be the next step in the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, namely a juridical process that binds the LWF’s member Churches and of course Catholics.
The great step forward in this respect was the 1999 Declaration of Justification. According to Rusch the achievement was not just in what it said – essentially, that the roots of Luther’s disagreements with the papacy no longer pertain – but how it came about.
The process showed that there could be a “magisterial function for the global Lutheran communion,” which effectively allowed the theological agreements to move from paper to practice.
It frustrates Rusch that since then, that gain hasn’t been built upon. While he admires From Conflict to Communion and the recent US Catholic-Lutheran document, Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist, he says neither provides a practical basis for moving forward.
But this kind of institutional process is not where Francis’s interest lies. He believes in praying and working together for justice and peace; such common witness, he believes, is what opens hearts and minds – and prevents the kind of institutional rigidity which is toxic for Christian unity.
Today, we might just see a gesture, or an initiative, which shakes open a new phase for the future of the dialogue, and which is aimed as much at secular Europe as the Lutherans.
“I am convinced those who don’t believe or don’t seek God, maybe haven’t felt the restlessness that comes from seeing a witness,” he told Signum, adding: “And this is very tied to affluence. Restlessness is rarely found in affluence.”
Restlessness is one area where the reformers Martin Luther and Pope Francis are definitely on common ground.
[Read the original article in CRUX : https://cruxnow.com/analysis/2016/10/30/restless-reforming-pope-can-help-heal-reformation-rift/]
“The Bible Is an Extremely Dangerous Book,”
Pope Tells Young People
In prologue to new youth bible, Francis reveals personal relationship with Scripture
On the occasion of the publication of the new Bible for youth, Pope Francis has written a very personal account of his own relationship with Scripture.
Writing the prologue to the new German edition of the Youcat Bible, which will be published Oct. 21, Pope Francis speaks lovingly of an old, worn-out Bible he has carried around for half his life.
He counsels young people on the best approach to reading the Bible so it brings the Light of the World into their lives and doesn’t end up on a shelf. It is, he reminds readers, a “dangerous” book in certain parts of the world: owning one can lead to jail or torture.
And he quotes Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “You Christians have in your hands a book containing enough dynamite to shatter all civilization.”
Here is the Pope’s prologue:
My dear young friends:
If you could see my Bible, you would not be particularly impressed. What—that’s the Pope’s Bible? Such an old, worn-out book!
You could buy me a new one for $1,000, but I would not want it. I love my old Bible, which has accompanied me half my life. It has been with me in my times of joy and times of tears. It is my most precious treasure. I live out of it, and I wouldn’t give anything in the world for it.
I really like this new Youth Bible. It’s so colorful, so rich in testimonies: testimonies of the saints, testimonies of young people. It is so inviting that when you start to read at the beginning, you can’t stop until the last page.
And then …? And then it disappears on a shelf, collecting dust. Your children find it one day and bring it to the flea market.
It must not come to that.
I’ll tell you something: There are more persecuted Christians in the world today than in the early days of the Church. And why are they persecuted? They are persecuted because they wear a cross and bear witness to Jesus. They are convicted because they own a Bible. The Bible is therefore a highly dangerous book—so dangerous that you are treated in some countries as if you were hiding hand grenades in your closet.
It was a non-Christian, Mahatma Gandhi, who once said: “You Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilization to pieces, turn the world upside down, and bring peace to a battle-torn planet. But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature.”
So what do you have in your hands? A piece of literature? Some nice old stories? Then you would have to say to the many Christians who go to prison or are tortured because they own a Bible: “How foolish you are; it’s just a piece of literature!”
No. By the word of God has Light come into the world, and it will never go out. In Evangelii Gaudium (175) I said, “We do not blindly seek God, or wait for him to speak to us first, for ‘God has already spoken, and there is nothing further that we need to know, which has not been revealed to us.’ Let us receive the sublime treasure of the revealed word.”
So you have something divine in your hands: a book like fire! A book through which God speaks. So notice: The Bible is not meant to be placed on a shelf, but to be in your hands, to read often—every day, both on your own and together with others. You do sports together or go shopping together. Why not read the Bible together as well—two, three, or four of you? In nature, in the woods, on the beach, at night in the glow of a few candles … you will have a great experience!
Or are you afraid of making a fool of yourself in front of others?
Read with attention! Do not stay on the surface as if reading a comic book! Never just skim the Word of God! Ask yourself: “What does this say to my heart? Does God speak through these words to me? Has he touched me in the depths of my longing? What should I do?” Only in this way can the force of the Word of God unfold. Only in this way can it change our lives, making them great and beautiful.
I want to tell you how I read my old Bible. Often I read a little and then put it away and contemplate the Lord. Not that I see the Lord, but he looks at me. He’s there. I let myself look at him. And I feel—this is not sentimentality—I feel deeply the things that the Lord tells me. Sometimes he does not speak. I then feel nothing, only emptiness, emptiness, emptiness…. But I remain patiently, and so I wait, reading and praying. I pray sitting, because it hurts me to kneel. Sometimes I even fall asleep while praying. But it does not matter. I’m like a son with the father, and that is what’s important.
Would you like to make me happy? Read the Bible!
Pope Francis’s groundbreaking new document “Amoris Laetitia” ( “The Joy of Love”) asks the church to meet people where they are, to consider the complexities of people’s lives and to respect people’s consciences when it comes to moral decisions.
“Amoris Laetitia” consists of reflections on the Gospels and church teaching on love, the family and children and a great deal of practical advice from the pope. Pope Francis reminds married couples that a good marriage is a “dynamic process” and that each side has to put up with imperfections. “Love does not have to be perfect for us to value it” (122, 113). The pope, speaking as a pastor, encourages not only married couples, but also engaged couples, expectant mothers, adoptive parents, widows, as well as aunts, uncles and grandparents. He is especially attentive that no one feels unimportant or excluded from God’s love.
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In this second episode of “The Joy of Love,” Fr. Daniel P. Horan, OFM explores Chapter One of Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.”
Study guide for ‘Amoris Laetitia’
When I received a copy of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, I had to do an “all-nighter” reading of it so I could write a column to be posted when the embargo expired at 6 a.m. Eastern time. That is not how you should read the exhortation. Rather, you want to take your time, as I did in reading it the second time.
Like his earlier writings, this exhortation, “The Joy of Love,” is written in a personal, pastoral style and is accessible to most readers. It is not an academic tome, but it is long — 260 pages. It would be best to read it a chapter at a time rather than all at once as I was forced to do.
This document cries for discussion in families, parishes, and schools. There is no need for people to wait while the bishops and pastors organize a response to the document. Anyone can download the exhortation, call their family and friends and say, “Let’s read and discuss the exhortation.” Anyone part of a book club can recommend that the exhortation be their next selection.
To assist you in your reading, I have drawn up a list of study questions that will be helpful for individual reading or group discussions. The numbers in parentheses refer to paragraphs in the exhortation.
For background, it is important to remember that this exhortation comes after a process that went on for more than three years, beginning with a worldwide questionnaire on family issues that was sent out by the Vatican to bishops in order to get input from experts and the laity.
Then came the synod of bishops that took place in October of 2014, followed by another questionnaire and another synod in October of 2015. Each synod issued a report, called a “relatio.” The reports were not binding on the pope, but he took them and all he heard from the synod delegates and used them in writing his exhortation.
He quotes extensively from the Second Vatican Council, popes, and the synod, which is normal in any papal document, but he also quotes from bishops’ conferences and even authors like Martin Luther King, three Latin American poets, Josef Pieper, Erich Fromm, and Gabriel Marcel.
The exhortation is divided into nine chapters.
The first looks at the family from a scriptural perspective. Next comes an examination of the actual situations of families. The third recalls some essential aspects of the church’s teaching on marriage and family, paving the way for what the pope calls the two central chapters on love.
If you are not going to read the whole exhortation, you should certainly read chapter 4, and if you have children, chapter 5.
Chapter 6 highlights some pastoral approaches “that can guide us in building sound and fruitful homes.”
Chapter 7 deals with the raising and education of children. The next chapter offers “an invitation to mercy and the pastoral discernment of those situations that fall short of what the Lord demands of us.”
Priests and those who are divorced should especially read chapter 8.
And the final chapter concludes with a brief discussion of family spirituality.
The pope begins his exhortation by saying, “The joy of love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” He says that complexity of the issues discussed at the synod “revealed the need for continued open discussion of a number of doctrinal, moral, spiritual, and pastoral questions.”
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). To which group are you closest?
The pope asserts that “not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium” (3). Do you like this approach, or do you prefer to have clear answers?
“Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it” (3). How do you think unity and diversity should be balanced in the church?
Chapter 1: In the light of the Word
The Bible is full of stories about families and passages directed at families. Pope Francis cites many of these in this chapter.
Which biblical family do you like? Which speaks to you and your family?
What Scripture passages did you use (or plan to use) at your wedding? Why?
What does Francis means when he writes, “The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon … capable of revealing God the Creator and Saviour” (11)?
Many feminists note that the Bible comes out of a patriarchal culture. How does Francis respond to this critique (9-10, 12-13)?
Does what the Bible says about children reflect your experience (14-18)?
Do you find comfort in what the pope says about suffering (19-22)?
Chapter 2: The experiences and challenges of families
Facts are important to Francis, so in chapter 2 he looks at the current reality of families. He notes that at the same time that families have come to enjoy greater freedom, they have come to receive less support from social structures. He discusses what the church and the state can do to respond to the challenges families face.
How are families more free today than in the time of your parents and grandparents? How do they receive less support from social structures (32-34)?
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?
How has the way the church presented its beliefs and treated people contributed to the problem (36-38)?
What does Francis mean by saying, “We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them” (37)? There is more about conscience in chapter 8.
What moves younger people to postpone marriage, family, or children (40-42)?
What can government in the United States do “to ensure the future of young people and help them realize their plan of forming a family” (43-47)?
What does your community do in welcoming and helping migrants and persons with special needs (47)?
What are the special challenges of the elderly and single parents (48-49)?
Stress, drugs, violence within families, and fears about employment and the future of their children — all are threats to families, according to Francis. What are the threats to families in your community?
Francis speaks of the advances in women’s rights but notes that much remains to be done (54). What are the things you think need to be done? Do you see the Spirit at work in the women’s movement?
What do you think of Francis’ description of the role of women and men in marriage (55-56)?
Chapter 3: Looking to Jesus: The vocation of the family
In this chapter, Francis recounts the life and teachings of Jesus and how they relate to family life. He also describes what is said about the family in church documents, especially Vatican II and recent papacies.
Do you find the teachings of Jesus on the family hopeful, inspiring, full of love and tenderness (58-66)?
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?
What do you think about the way Francis talks about “imperfect situations” and “seeds of the Word” in other cultures (76-79)?
What do you think about the way Francis writes about the transmission of life and the rearing of children (80-85)? More on that in chapter 5 and 6.
Do you experience the church as a “family of families” (87-88)?
Chapter 4: Love in marriage
Francis says that we cannot express the Gospel of marriage and family without speaking of love. He begins this chapter with a meditation of St. Paul’s hymn to love (1 Cor. 13:4-7). The meditation is part exhortation, part examination of conscience. He speaks of the joy and passion of married love as well as the dark side of violence and manipulation in sex.
What part of his meditation on Paul’s hymn to love moved you most (90-119)?
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?
Pope Francis quotes St. Ignatius of Loyola who said, “Love is shown more by deeds than by words” (94). Do you agree?
“Envy is a form of sadness provoked by another’s prosperity; it shows that we are not concerned for the happiness of others but only with our own well-being” (95-96). What makes you envious?
“Love is not boastful” (97-98). What do you boast about?
“Loving ourselves is only important as a psychological prerequisite for being able to love others” (101). Agree? Disagree?
Francis talks a lot about the need for forgiveness in families (103-108). Is he right? What do you find helpful in his advice? What do you forgive? For what have you been forgiven?
“Love does not have to be perfect for us to value it. The other person loves me as best they can, with all their limits, but the fact that love is imperfect does not mean that it is untrue or unreal” (113). Is imperfect love enough to hold a marriage together?
What does Francis mean by “trust enables a relationship to be free” (115)? Does that match your experience?
Francis has a long quote from Martin Luther King (118). Are we as individuals, as a nation, able to observe what he says? What does this say about our political culture and our response to terrorism?
“After the love that unites us to God, conjugal love is the greatest form of friendship,” says Francis quoting St. Thomas Aquinas (123). Describe a couple you know who are truly friends.
What do you think of Francis’ argument for “indissoluble exclusivity” in marriage (123-124)?
Francis, the celibate, speaks of the passion, joy, and beauty of marriage (125-130, 142-152). Does he get it right? What rings true? What doesn’t?
Francis speaks to young people about the importance of marriage (131-132). Is he convincing?
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)?
Is Francis realistic in his description of violence and manipulation in sex (153-157)?
What do you think of Francis’ exegesis of St. Paul’s women “be subject to your husbands” (156)?
What do older couples think of Francis’ treatment of love and aging (163-164)?
Chapter 5: Love made fruitful
“Love,” the pope says, “always gives life” (165). “The family is the setting in which a new life is not only born but also welcomed as a gift of God” (166). He speaks of role of mothers, fathers, and grandparents in a family, the experience of pregnancy, and feminism.
How does Francis describe the love of parents for their children being a reflection of God’s love for us (166)?
“Large families are a joy for the Church,” writes Pope Francis, but he also speaks of “responsible parenthood” (167). How are these two balanced?
How does Francis describe pregnancy (168-171)? Do mothers agree with what he says?
The pope describes the roles of mothers and fathers in a family (172-177). Where does he get it right? Wrong?
Despite women”s “wish to study, work, develop their skills and have personal goals,” he writes, “we cannot ignore the need that children have for a mother’s presence, especially in the first months of life” (173). Do you agree? How do women balance their own needs and goals with those of their children?
Francis says he values “feminism, but one that does not demand uniformity or negate motherhood” (173). What does he mean? Do you agree?
What does he mean by “feminine genius” (173)?
What does Francis have to say to couples who are unable to have children (178-181)?
How does Francis want families to interact with the world around them (181-186)?
What is the role of the extended or wider family (187, 196-198)?
What is the relationship of children to their parents (188-190)?
What is the role of grandparents in a family (191-193)?
Does an “only child” miss something by not having brothers and sisters (194-195)?
Chapter 6: Some pastoral perspectives
Pope Francis says that he will not offer a pastoral plan for families, but rather reflections on some more significant pastoral challenges. It is then up to different communities to devise more practical and effective initiatives that respect both the church’s teaching and local problems and needs (199). He looks at the formation of priests, marriage preparation programs, crises in marriages, as well as the situations of single parents and gay couples.
What suggestions would you make for improving the formation of priests and lay ministers so that they could help families more (200-204)?
What preparation for marriage does Francis see as necessary for engaged couples (205-211)?
What preparation did you get for marriage? What was helpful? How could it be better (205-211)?
Francis criticizes elaborate and expensive weddings (212) and urges couples to focus on the spiritual and theological import of the ceremony (213-216). Is this realistic? How can we help couples do this?
Francis speaks of marriage as “a life-long project” (218) that moves through various stages (220). What stages has your marriage gone through?
Francis warns against “unduly high expectations about conjugal life” (221). Was this true with your marriage? How did you deal with it?
What is the role of conscience in decisions about responsible parenthood (222)?
Francis speaks of the role of “experienced couples” in helping younger couples (223). How were you helped by experienced couples in the early years of your marriage? How have you helped other couples?
What does Francis means by “Love needs time and space; everything else is secondary” (224-226)?
Francis says every family faces crises (232), which can either weaken the couple’s relationship or strengthen it. How does he encourage couples to face crises (232-238)? How have you dealt with crises in your family?
Francis writes about how “old wounds” and “scars” can affect a couple’s relationship (239). How does he advise dealing with them?
When is divorce “inevitable” and even “morally necessary” (241)? What is the proper pastoral care in such situations (242-243)?
Have you or anyone you know gone through the church’s annulment process (244-245)? What was your experience?
How can we keep children from being hurt by divorce (245-246)?
Marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics have special challenges (247-249). What can help or hurt such marriages?
How well does Francis balance church teaching on same-sex attraction with the desire to “reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity” (250-251)?
How can the Christian community encourage and support single parents (252)?
How can the Christian community help surviving spouses deal with the death of a loved one (253-258)?
Chapter 7: Toward better education of children
Parents play an essential role in the moral development of their children. Francis encourages parents to be “vigilant” but not “obsessive” over what their children are doing and what they are exposed to (260-261). He discusses the role of discipline, technology, sex education, as well as the role of parents in passing on values and the faith.
What is the difference between being “vigilant” and “obsessive” in supervising children (260-262)?
How do parents instill “trust and loving respect” (263), foster “good habits and a natural inclination to goodness” (264-266), and develop true freedom in their children (267)?
How do parents teach their children that “misbehavior has consequences” (268-270)?
What does Francis mean by saying, “by demanding too much, we gain nothing” (271-273)?
What does Francis mean by saying, “the family is the first school of human values” (274)?
How does technology help or hinder the educational process that occurs between parents and children (278)?
What is the proper role of sex education (280-286)?
What do you think of Francis’ discussion of masculinity and femininity (286)?
What are the challenges for parents in passing on the faith to their children (287-290)?
Francis says that “older resources and recipes do not always work” in education in faith (288). What does work in your experience?
Chapter 8: Accompanying, discerning, and integrating weakness
This chapter, where the pope discusses divorce, is perhaps the most controversial and most discussed section of the exhortation. Conservative rigorists wanted no change in the church’s practice of barring divorced and remarried Catholics from Communion, while pastoral do-gooders had an “immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding” (2). Francis rather speaks of the need for reflection, discernment, and the role of individual conscience.
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?
Francis says that some forms of union “do not yet or no longer correspond to the church’s teaching on marriage” but “realize it in at least a partial and analogous way” (292-293). Can you give examples of such unions? On the other hand, what would be an example of a union that “radically contradicts” the ideal?
What does the pope mean by “pastoral discernment” (293), by “cultural and contingent situations” (294)? More on discernment below.
What do Popes John Paul and Francis mean by “the law of gradualness” (295)?
What is the role of discernment in “irregular situations” (296)?
Francis says, “I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves” (297). Who else would be included?
What are the cases to which Pope Francis seems to be most sympathetic (298)?
How does the church more fully integrate the divorced and remarried into the Christian community while also avoiding any occasion of scandal (299)?
In describing the process of discernment, Pope Francis offers some questions the divorced and remarried should ask themselves (300). Are these helpful? What other questions might they ask themselves?
What is the role of a priest in this process of discernment (300)?
Pope Francis says, “It can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace” (301). Does this surprise you? Do you agree?
What are factors that might limit the ability to make a decision or mitigate a person’s moral responsibility for his or her actions (301-302)?
What is the role of individual conscience in situations that do not objectively embody the church’s understanding of marriage (303)?
What is the role of discernment in the application of general principles and rules (304-305)?
Francis concludes that “it is possible that in an objective situation of sin — which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such — a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace” (305). Does this reflect the lived experience of couples in “irregular situations”?
Pope Francis says such couples should receive the church’s help, and in footnote 351 says, “In certain cases, this can include the sacraments,” including the Eucharist. How do such couples determine whether they can go to Communion?
How does “love cover a multitude of sins” (306)?
How can the church continue to propose the full ideal of marriage while at the same time showing compassion and mercy to those who don’t meet that standard (307-310)?
How does Francis respond to those who prefer “a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion” (308-311)?
Francis proposes “a pastoral discernment filled with merciful love, which is ever ready to understand, forgive, accompany, hope, and above all integrate” (312). Is this a game changer for couples in irregular unions?
Chapter 9: The spirituality of marriage and the family
In this chapter, Francis describes certain basic characteristics of the “specific spirituality that unfolds in family life and its relationships” (313).
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?
“The fraternal and communal demands of family life are an incentive to growth in openness of heart and thus to an ever fuller encounter with the Lord,” writes Francis (316). Is this your experience?
“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?
What does Francis mean by a “spirituality of exclusive and free love” (319-320)?
How does “a spirituality of care, consolation, and incentive” help families (321-324)?
“No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love,” writes Francis. At the same time, we must “stop demanding of our interpersonal relationships a perfection, a purity of intentions and a consistency which we will only encounter in the Kingdom to come” (325). Does Francis strike a proper balance between the ideal and the reality of marriage in his exhortation?
[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is email@example.com.]