“O God be gracious and bless us and let your face shed its light upon us.” Psalm 67

posted Oct 2, 2016, 4:10 PM by Colleen Moran   [ updated Oct 2, 2016, 4:10 PM by Friar Suppliers ]

I suppose by now you are all back into the swing of things as the new school and church year of activities have begun.  We are off to an exciting new season.  Now that Charlie and I are retired, we have a lot more energy for ministries.  Charlie is busy making plans and fund raising for the next Haiti mission in January.  The Friars and sisters each have 5 or 6 new postulants or candidates who entered last month.  Everyone has been busy moving around from friary to friary and convent to convent to make room.  I think the dust is finally settling.

For the past five months I’ve been sharing a synopsis of Pope Francis’s “Joy of Love.”  We are up to Chapter six, titled “Some Pastoral Perspectives.”  MMMM sounds boring, right?  Not really!  In fact, it’s probably the most controversial and talked about chapter among the bishops and media. Pope Francis starts out by warning us that he is only touching on the need for some new pastoral methods in a general way.  In other words, he is just proposing and “throwing out there” some ideas that came from the Synod on the Family last year.  What makes it controversial and open for attack by the media is that he is leaving it up to different communities (or dioceses) to come up with practical and effective initiatives that respect both the Church’s teaching and the local problems and needs.   Ok Holy Father, that‘s arguably good or bad. He is clearly not going to tell us how to “fix” the family.  That’s up to us here in the families, parishes and dioceses. However in this chapter he chooses to reflect on some “significant pastoral challenges.”  Is he just speaking to Bishops, Pastors and priests?  No, he is speaking to all of us.  He, you might say, is giving us a pep talk with some ideas on how to get started to help marriages and families.  (Chapter 6, para 199)

Throughout Chapter 6, Pope Francis clearly identifies the problems that today’s families are having.  He hits on the usual stresses of family life, such as; financial difficulties, unemployment, poverty, sickness, death.  The normal marriage stresses of communication, getting along with each other, raising children, work.  The more difficult family problems such as separation, divorce, remarriage, same sex marriage. The Church and our Holy father are not sitting in the dark in the Vatican.  They know what is going on in families. We, who are out here in the world, living and experiencing many of these problems in our families, are not alone.  Families are suffering greatly and the Church knows it.

Pope Francis states; “ The Church wishes, with humility and compassion, to reach out to families and to help each family to discover the best way to overcome any obstacles it encounters.”  (para 200, pg 152)  So, who in the Church is he saying should do this?  Well, since we all are the Church, he must mean all of us.  The main source of pastoral care of families takes place in the parish.  Pope Francis stresses the need for pastoral outreach aimed specifically at families. Priest, deacons, religious, catechists and other pastoral workers need more adequate formation to train them to deal with the complex problems occurring in families.  He also suggests that lay leaders need to be trained to assist in the pastoral care of families with the help of professionals; doctors, social workers, psychologists etc.  However this in no way diminishes the value of spiritual direction, and sacramental reconciliation as a rich spiritual treasure of the church.

In paragraphs 205-230 Pope Francis talks about the need for Marriage Preparation (Pre-Cana), the sacrament of marriage and the pastoral care of newly weds. Aimed at giving couples a genuine experience of participation in ecclesial life and a complete introduction to various aspects of family life.  He says, we do not need to teach them the entire catechism.  “It is not great knowledge, but rather the ability to feel and relish interiorly that contents and satisfies the soul.”  (Para 207, pg 157)  Pope Francis gives many helpful insights into marriage preparation.  This is an important chapter for anyone especially those contemplating marriage or involved in marriage prep in the parish.  Pope Francis says:  “Nowadays, pastoral care for families has to be fundamentally missionary, going out to where people are.  We can no longer be like a factory, churning our courses that for the most part are poorly attended.”  (para 230, pg 175)

Next, Our Holy father turns his attention to marriages that are in crises.  He states;  “ what is urgently needed today is a ministry to care for those whose marital relationship has broken down.” (para 238, pg 180)  He states further:  “separation must be considered as a last resort, after all other reasonable attempts at reconciliation have proved vain.”  At this point, he encourages “divorced people who have not remarried and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life.”  (para 242, pg 183)  “For those who have divorced and entered a new union should be made to feel part of the church.”  “They are not excommunicated.”  (para 242, pg 185)   The controversy that arises in these statements is that Pope Francis doesn’t address the issue of divorced and remarried civilly receiving communion.  The teaching of the church stands the same. Without an annulment, a married person can only receive communion if they are living chastely. Pope Francis emphasizes the need for a free of charge, more accessible and less time-consuming nullity process.  He deputizes the local Bishop as the appointed shepherd to judge these cases. (para 244, pg 185)  Christian communities must not abandon divorced couples and parents who have entered a new union, but should include them and support them within the community.

Further on in the chapter, Pope Francis states that “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” He is very clear on that!  (para 251, pg 190)

The final six paragraphs deal with the pastoral support for grieving families who have lost a loved one or one who is about to die.

Having read and studied Chapter six thoroughly, I think the confusion is not in what Pope Francis says, because he is very clear.  He’s a very loving Holy Father.  The confusion comes from those bishops, priests, lay people and media who are trying to put their own twist on the document. Pope Francis is expecting the church (all of us) to implement ways of ministering to families.  The trouble I see, is that everyone has different opinions on how to do it.  Every bishop, priest, lay-person and public voice has what I call “therapeutic” suggestions.  These are merely “painkillers” that help a little but do not cure the disease. It gets down to this:  What would Jesus do?  Pray, love, forgive, and sacrifice. This is what we all need to teach, preach and do to cure the family ills of today. Read Chapter six if you can; there’s so much to learn.

A message from Eileen Garbe:   “God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.  Thank you all for your prayers, support and good wishes these past few months.  Treatments are over and all looks good.” Thank you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for being faithful supporters of Friar Suppliers and our Haiti Mission.  Please know that each and everyone of you is important to us.  You are each a part of our community family.  We can all pray for each other.  Feel free to call us any time with your questions, suggestions, and prayer requests.

Next food packing date Oct 8th.