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Pope wants more merciful tweets, posts and comments

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(Photo: CNS)

Pope Francis says a lot of surprising and challenging things.  Often I read something he’s said or written and say to myself, “I can’t believe he said that.”  Still—as with anything else—we can become desensitized to his spontaneity and candour, and we risk glossing over some of his highly consequential statements.

One recent statement that we should not gloss over is his message for World Communications Day 2016 entitled, Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter. In it, he reflects on the urgent need for more charitable and merciful communication between individuals, with a clear focus on the world of social media and communications.  The message prompted atypical news coverage from the digital world: “Apparently Pope Francis Can’t Stand Internet Trolls Either,” read the headline at ThinkProgress. Or, my personal favorite from RawStory, “Pope Francis opens a can of whoop a** on hateful internet trolls—and it’s beautiful.”

With this message Pope Francis did what he so often does; he struck a nerve with a wide audience by using simple, relatable and deeply Christian language. The message applies to all types of communication certainly, but since many people today live “online”, here are 7 direct quotes that should prompt all of us to reflect on how we communicate using social media:

1) “What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all.”

Here the Pope makes an important observation that how we say something is as important as what we say. It’s easy to forget that and it’s often difficult to try to rephrase something we want to say in light of another person, let alone with “compassion, tenderness and forgiveness”.  Perhaps for every tweet, post or comment we should send another one explicitly expressing compassion, tenderness or forgiveness.

2) “Our words and actions should be such as to help us all escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred.”

Here Pope Francis flips the script on us and reminds us that how we communicate has a deep impact on us too. The purpose of communicating is, as he says, to create “closeness”, which is a reciprocal phenomenon. We can ask ourselves, how do my communications on social media affect my own attitudes toward others and my relationships with them?

3) “The words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil, they should never try to rupture relationships and communication.”

Pope Francis, the “sinner whom the Lord has looked upon,” never forgets that being Christian starts with conversion of self. No statement condemning vicious and vengeful comments online would be complete without a direct challenge to his fellow Christians, who are often the most viscous and vengeful trolls. But the deeper challenge here is that condemning evil—something the Church does very often—shouldn’t destroy relationships or communication. The logical conclusion here is analogous to that old saying our mothers used, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it.” When there are human beings involved, jumping to condemn all kinds of evil through objective, categorical statements may not be the most merciful method of communication and relationship building.

4) “The truth is ultimately Christ himself, whose gentle mercy is the yardstick for measuring the way we proclaim the truth and condemn injustice.”

It’s often said in church circles that the greatest act of mercy is to tell the truth. Therefore, if someone is committing an unjust act, I am being merciful by categorically condemning it. That may or may not be the best approach, depending on the situation. The most important variable, according to Pope Francis, is how Jesus would communicate in a particular situation. This requires a deep familiarity with the Jesus of the Gospels whose “gentle mercy” time and time again overwhelms both sinner and judge alike, to the point that the person committing an unjust act truly encounters God’s forgiveness and the person standing in judgement feels it necessary to get rid of Jesus. The question becomes, not whether or not we’re proclaiming the truth, but whether or not we’re proclaiming the truth as Jesus did.

5) “Harsh and moralistic words and actions risk further alienating those whom we wish to lead to conversion and freedom, reinforcing their sense of rejection and defensiveness.”

This statement builds on #4 by taking us a step further. Speaking the truth in a harsh and moralistic way is no guarantee that a person will be converted or freed. In fact, it will most likely have the opposite effect and kill any chance of further communication. Just because we may be right about something doesn’t give us the right to communicate it if a person will feel rejected because of it. Pope Francis’ whole pontificate is the preeminent example in our world today of communicating truth without using harsh or moralistic words.

6) “I would like to encourage everyone to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome.”

Communications technology has turned the world into a global society. We may be more connected, but the online world doesn’t particularly feel like a family. Often we come across comments or tweets that are so negative or competitive and we wonder why someone would say something online that they would never say to a person in real life. Again Pope Francis takes us a step further. When we communicate online, we shouldn’t ask ourselves, “would you say this to the person’s face?” but, “would you say this to your brother’s or sister’s face?” The analogy of the family for society as a whole is a bold one. The key here is unconditional inclusivity. I’m not sure how we can put that into practice, especially because, sadly, even many families fall short of this lofty goal. Pope Francis certainly does swing for the fences, but then again so did Jesus when he proclaimed the Kingdom of God was at hand.

7) “Listening is much more than simply hearing… Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says.”

Well… then I’m not a very good listener. Imagine… listening to someone entails a desire to be closer to them in respect and understanding. We tend to think that communication is all about what we say, but there are two sides to every coin. How often do we really try to listen to another person’s views and try to understand where they are coming from? There are so many news outlets and blogs that adhere to one particular ideology and exclude any kind of constructive critique or dialogue with differing views. It may be worth putting some time in to read one of those blogs that we typically ignore for ideological reasons, and share something from it on our own social media platforms that is respectful and constructive. In other words, listen, and show it.


On Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice for dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and host at Salt+Light TV.

Connect5: Pierluigi Molla, on his mother, St. Gianna

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Pierluigi Molla, son of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, shares memories of his mother and the lessons Catholics can learn from her life.


How are you going to spend the next five minutes of your time?  You could browse social media or check your email, but how about meeting a fascinating person and learning something relevant that will broaden your perspective?  Sit down with host Sebastian Gomes and his various guests, and go straight to the heart of the matter.  It will be five minutes well spent…

Connect5 airs on our network every Friday at 8:25 pm ET, immediately following Vatican Connections. Catch a new episode of Connect5 online every Wednesday.

The Duty and Obligation of being Pro-Life

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What does it mean to be pro-life?

To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. There can be no true peace unless life is defended and promoted. Remember the prophetic words of Pope Paul VI:

Every crime against life is an attack on peace, especially if it strikes at the moral conduct of people…But where human rights are truly professed and publicly recognized and defended, peace becomes the joyful and operative climate of life in society.

Abortion is without a doubt the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. We must never lose sight of the atrocities against the unborn, the untold and too-seldom spoken of pain and lingering anguish experienced by those who have been involved in abortions.

I know about the tragedy of abortion and I know about the good work of many people involved in the pro-life Movement who work hard to prevent this tragedy. However a singular focus on abortion as the arbiter of what it means to be “pro-life” has severely narrowed our national discourse about moral values in the public square. People claiming to be fervently Catholic, always right, and blinded by their own zeal and goodness, have ended up defeating the very cause for which we must all defend with every ounce of energy in our flesh and bones. Their anger vitiates their efforts.

Could it be that some of us are turned off or even repelled by current definitions or behaviors of some of those people claiming to be pro-life, yet manifesting a tunnel vision? The Roman Catholic Church offers a consistent teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and the dignity of the human person: a 20/20 vision for which we must strive each day if we claim to be pro-life. Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. We must strive to see the whole picture, not with tunnel vision.

What is also troubling are those who claim to be on the “left”, always championing human and civil rights, respecting and upholding the dignity and freedom of others. This of course has included the protection of individual rights, and the efforts of government to care for the weak, sick and disadvantaged. Why then are the extension to the unborn of the human right to life, and opposition to the culture of death, not central issues on the “left?” They must be, for they are clearly matters of justice and human rights.

A few years ago, Cardinal Séan O’Malley wrote to the people of Boston with these words:

If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us… Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.

We cannot ignore the other great challenge faced by humanity today–the serious question of mercy killing, or euthanasia as it is sometimes called, no longer found in abstract cases and theories. It concerns ordinary people and is debated not only in Parliament but also around dinner tables and in classrooms. Aging populations, especially in the west, and resulting smaller workforces are now creating a market push towards euthanasia. As Pope John Paul II wrote: “a right to die will inevitably give way to the duty to die.” This issue strikes to the very core of who we are and what we believe. Even when not motivated by the refusal to be burdened with the life of someone who is suffering, euthanasia must be called a false and misguided mercy. True compassion leads to sharing another’s pain, not killing the person whose suffering we cannot bear.

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Furthering the Common Good

Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself, whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons… all of these things and more poison human society.

It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. There can be no true peace unless life is defended and promoted.

In Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, (Truth in Charity), the Holy Father addresses clearly the dignity and respect for human life:

Openness to life is at the centre of true development… When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.

Engaging the Culture Around Us

Being pro-life does not give us the right and license to say and do whatever we wish, to malign, condemn and destroy other human beings who do not share our views. We must never forget the principles of civility, Gospel charity, ethics, and justice. Jesus came to engage the culture of his day, and we must engage the culture of our day. We must avoid the sight impairment and myopia that often afflict people of good will who are blinded by their own zeal and are unable to see the whole picture. Being pro-life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum. It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and centre! If we are pro-life, we must engage the culture around us, and not curse it. We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us. Being pro-life in this day and age is truly prophetic, and it will bring about authentic development and enduring peace in our world.

We are all invited pray these words each day, especially during this week:

LupitaEternal Father, Source of Life, strengthen us with your Holy Spirit to receive the abundance of life you have promised.
Open our hearts to see and desire the beauty of your plan for life and love.
Make our love generous and self-giving so that we may be blessed with joy.
Grant us great trust in your mercy.
Forgive us for not receiving your gift of life and heal us from the effects of the culture of death.
Instill in us and all people reverence for every human life.
Inspire and protect our efforts on behalf of those most vulnerable especially the unborn, the sick and the elderly.
We ask this in the Name of Jesus, who by His Cross makes all things new. Amen.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation

(CNS photo/Bob Roller)
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

6 things to consider ahead of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family

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Among the many topics discussed in our recent 2015 Year in Review program was the highly anticipated and much debated Synod of Bishops part two, on the vocation and mission of the family today.

It was easily the biggest news story in the Catholic world last year, and could very well carry over into 2016. That’s because we’re still awaiting the definitive conclusion to the Synods on family life in the form of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation.

Since the 1960’s, an apostolic exhortation has been the traditional form of teaching that concludes a Synod of Bishops; a teaching document written by the Pope alone but factoring in the deliberations and propositions of the Synod Fathers. There’s no scheduled date for the release of Pope Francis’ exhortation on the family, but it is expected to drop sometime before the end of the Year of Mercy (November 20, 2016).

In the meantime it’s a good idea to read, study and discuss the Final Report from the 2015 Synod of Bishops, recently translated into English. This is the result of the more than two-year reflection that took place in the universal Church and among the Bishops gathered in Synod during October 2014 and 2015.

About a third of the 265 bishops who voted on this Final Report were also present at the Synod in October 2014. In that sense there was a great deal of continuity between the Synods. To get a sense of the content and tone of the Synods, this Final Report is key. Here are 6 things to consider as we await Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family:

  1. This will be Pope Francis’ second exhortation.  This doesn’t seem that important until we recall how revolutionary his first exhortation was. Evangelii Gaudium dropped in November of 2013, less than a year after his election. It was supposed to be an exhortation based on the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization under Pope Benedict. Then Cardinal Bergoglio wasn’t present at that Synod.  So instead of using the draft text that was prepared for him when he became Pope, Francis simply wrote his own document on evangelization. The document is unlike any papal teaching we’ve seen. It’s full of practical ideas that are easily understood by everyone. It also contains some profound challenges for the Church like this programmatic line from paragraph 49: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” If the new exhortation on the family is anything like Evangelii Gaudium, we’re in for another rollercoaster ride.
  2. This will be the second exhortation on the theme of the family. There have only been fourteen general Synods since their inception back in the 60’s. So it might be surprising to learn that two have dealt with the same topic: the family. The first took place under Pope John Paul II in 1980 from which came the influential document Familiaris Consortio. Now Saint John Paul II is widely regarded as “the Pope of the family” because of the frequency and depth of his teaching on the subject. Many in the Church still consider this body of teaching to be relevant, so the question can be asked, why was it necessary to have another Synod on the family? Along with the Final Report from the 2015 Synod, a reading or re-reading of Familiaris Consortio is vital for anyone interested in seeing where and how Francis might develop the teachings of JPII.

  3. An exhortation is official Catholic teaching. Considering what was just said in #2, it’s important to remember that all exhortations are “official” Catholic teaching. It wouldn’t make sense to say that Francis’ exhortation will diminish or discredit John Paul’s. History has shown that Popes will build on previous papal teachings rather than nullify them. Certainly there will be differences in tone, style and content between Francis’ and JPII’s exhortations, but don’t expect a complete whitewash. At the same time, we have to remember that Francis is the Pope, Peter, the Vicar of Christ, and whatever he says about family life at this moment in history is highly consequential for every Catholic.

  4. There is a clear shift in tone and approach. As with everything Francis, we witnessed at the 2014 and 2015 Synods a clear shift in tone and approach to important theological and pastoral issues. One example is the kind of language used to describe complex situations people find themselves in today and the Church’s pastoral attitude in response. In paragraph 70 the Synod Fathers wrote that in complex situations, “Pastoral ministry on behalf of the family clearly proposes the Gospel message and gathers the positive elements present in those situations, which do not yet or no longer correspond to this message.” Throughout this Final Report we find this type of pastoral approach: to begin the conversation by pointing out what’s good in people’s lives as opposed to where they fail to live up to the Christian ideal. Look for nothing less in Francis’ exhortation.

  5. The Final Report says a lot in what it doesn’t say. Navigating the 2014 and 2015 Synods can be difficult. It’s not always clear where developments happened. I often say that if a Catholic who didn’t follow the Synod picked up the Final Report out-of-the-blue and read it, he or she would conclude that nothing has changed. The Catholic Church doesn’t change drastically overnight—even under Pope Francis—rather many of the important developments in our understanding of teaching and practice happen subtly. Perhaps the best example of subtle development in the Final Report concerns the highly contentious issue of the reception of Communion by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. From the time of Familiaris Consortio the Church has articulated very clearly and directly its position of not admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion. The issue reignited at the 2014 and 2015 Synods. Some Bishops advocated for re-examining the Church’s position in some cases, others defended the established teaching unequivocally. Interestingly, the Final Report did not mention at all the reception of the Sacraments by divorced and remarried Catholics. It simply did not make a definitive statement one way or the other. But considering the Church’s aforementioned categorical denial of the possibility of admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion, the fact that the Synod Fathers did not reaffirm this established position is highly significant. So generally speaking, in order to understand what’s happening we must read between the lines and see that something consequential can be said by not saying anything. In any case, it’s up to Francis as the Pope to make an authoritative decision.

  6. There’s much more in the Final Report than the issue of the reception of the sacraments by divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Considering what was just said in #5, it’s important to remember that the Synods were about much more than the issue of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. The Final Report consists of 94 paragraphs that address countless challenges facing families today. They also express much hope and faith in families and promote a spirit of encouragement and accompaniment among the pastors of the Church. One of the great developments of the 2014 and 2015 Synods often overlooked was the call for a new kind of language that reaches people today. The mission of evangelization is still at the heart of the Catholic Church, and what permeates the Final Report is that positive and hopeful spirit that we’ve come to know and love in the Church under Pope Francis.  We should remember that before getting bogged down in any one particular issue.


 

SebastianG

On Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice for dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and host at Salt+Light TV.

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for December 2015

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Join us in prayer for the intentions entrusted to us by Pope Francis. For December 2015, we join the Holy Father in praying for:

  • Experiencing God’s Mercy – That all may experience the mercy of God, who never tires of forgiving.
  • Families –That families, especially those who suffer, may find in the birth of Jesus a sign of certain hope.

Daily Offering Prayer
God, our Father, I offer You my day. I offer You my prayers, thoughts, words, actions, joys, and sufferings in union with the Heart of Jesus, who continues to offer Himself in the Eucharist for the salvation of the world. May the Holy Spirit, Who guided Jesus, be my guide and my strength today so that I may witness to your love. With Mary, the mother of our Lord and the Church, I pray for all Apostles of Prayer and for the prayer intentions proposed by the Holy Father this month. Amen.

Traditional Daily Offering of the Apostleship of Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month. The Apostles of Prayer offer themselves to God each day for the good of the world, the Church, one another, and the Holy Father’s intentions.

Thank you for praying with us!

In a tradition that is centuries old, the Apostleship of Prayer publishes the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions. To become a member of the Apostleship of Prayer, you need only to offer yourself to God for his purposes each day. When you give God all the “prayers, works, joys and sufferings” of your day, you turn your entire day into a prayer for others. You are joining your will to God’s will. If you feel called to this simple, profound way of life, find out more at Apostleship of Prayer.

U.S Bishops respond to California’s Assisted Suicide Ruling – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, U.S. Bishops respond to California’s assisted suicide ruling and Sebastian Gomes continues his coverage of the Bishops’ Synod on the Family. Today he speaks with several of the Synod Fathers and delegates and we hear from Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Ghana and Syriac Patriarch Ignatius Joseph Younan of Antioch. He also shares part 2 of his conversation with Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service.

How’s your married life?

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“How’s your married life?” is the question I was most frequently asked after I got married. You read that correctly, I got married two months ago on August 8, 2015. Thanks be to God that the wedding went so smoothly. Thank you to everyone who helped us out on that day.

Do you want to have the quick answer or the long one? Quick answer is –  “NO DIFFERENT” at all. If there were differences right after I said “YES” in front of the altar, then somebody, either my wife or I, was lying before ceremony! There were definitely no differences. She did not gain weight right away, thank God! However, after I answered this question too quickly, I realised immediately that if there are no differences, why did I get marry? Wow, that is a bigger mystery.

My wife and I never lived together before we were married. She came to my place from time to time for movies, board games and supper. I thought I knew enough of her habits and living style. However, once we began to live together, it was a completely another story. We have different way of washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning, etc. In the first two weeks, I was a little frustrated with her way of doing things, which is not my way. I was frustrated because I had always thought that my way was the best way.

Whenever I feel frustrated, I always go back to prayer. At that small moment, a bible passage passed through my mind:

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mark 10:6–8).

So, we are now one flesh, right? A new baby was born and is now called “Mr. and Mrs. Chan.” My brain flashed back to the engagement period. We prepared for our new life – we got a new bank account, searched for a new place, bought new furniture…etc. The day August 8, 2015 was the birthday of little Mr. and Mrs. Chan. We had our wedding in a church and we promised to each other that we would live together and love each other forever unconditionally.

When it comes to a newborn baby, they also need to learn how to walk, to talk, to eat, to control emotions, to solve problems … then later on to do homework, to help washing dishes, to do laundry… etc.

Wait a minute, the newborn baby “Mr. and Mrs. Chan” is also doing the same thing. Instead of one learning, now it is both of us ‘together’ learning. We need to learn how to walk together, to talk together, to make supper together, to control emotions together, to solve problem together… We need to love each other as ourselves. Of course, we are now one flesh, we need to love ourselves, so each other and that also means oneself… ahhhhh… anyway, point is… I need to love my wife and my wife needs to love me!

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In conclusion, an early married couple is basically just like a newborn baby. We will need to learn from scratch. It is ok for a baby to make mistakes, in fact, is is expected! Likewise, it is necessary for a couple to forgive one another when they mistakes. Babies need encouragement and the same goes for a newborn couple! So, when you see us next time, please encourage us!

So, when somebody asks me next “how’s your married life?”, my answer will be “Go read my blog please!

:) Amen


Billayy

Billy Chan, a former radio host and motivational speaker,  spent the past ten years working with youth in Montreal. He enjoys using  humour to illustrate his relationship with God. In his blog, you will find reflections on his experience with youth ministry and his special way of working with youth today.

 

Deacon-structing Love : The Family

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The last two weeks we’ve been looking at love (part 1 and part 2). Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love neighbour (Matthew 22:36-40). He also said we have to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Last week we looked at seven qualities of love. Today let’s begin by looking at some myths about love.

First myth: Love is a feeling.

Love is not a feeling. Loving someone should feel good, but what you feel is not love. If love was a feeling, Jesus would not have hung on the Cross out of love; I can guarantee you that didn’t feel good.

Instead, love is a choice. Love is an act of your will. We choose to love. That is why Jesus can command us to love our enemies. When we love someone we do something for them. That is why I always ask couples who are preparing for Marriage what they mean when they say, “I love you.” Usually we mean, “I feel good when I am with you” or “you make me feel so good” or “I love the feeling I have when I’m with you.” That’s not “I love you,” that’s “I love me”!

When we say “I love you” it should mean: “I am going to put your needs before mine every time, all the time, no matter what.” That’s love. Love is “doing.”

That’s why, in some ways, the best way to understand love is by looking at the love of a parent.

Parents who love their children do so intentionally (that’s why the theme of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia is “Love is Our Mission”). There is a purpose to their love. When we parent, our job is to work ourselves out of a job. We want our children to grow up and be healthy, holy adults (who don’t need parents). That’s why so many experts will say that our children are not our friends. I can be friendly with my kids, but my kids are not my friends – especially when they are young. As adults, by all mean, be friends with your kids (you worked yourself out of a job, remember?) but when they are young, you are not their friend; you are the parent. Your job is not to make your children happy; your job is to make them healthy and holy.

Sometimes (more often than not) that means using what we call “tough love”. It means letting them learn real consequences. It means letting them experience hurt and disappointment. It means challenging them and disciplining them. It means giving them clear structures and boundaries (I’ll write about this some time). Love is attentive; love takes risks; love risks independence; risks commitment and risks confrontation. Love risks pain.

As we celebrate the World Meeting of Families, let’s reflect on what love means in terms of the family. Families love each other because they make sacrifices for each other. Families always look out for each others’ needs. Families care for each others’ health and well-being. Families pray together, eat meals together, celebrate together, and create rituals and memories together (I’m a big believer in taking the whole family, especially when the kids are little grocery shopping; tantrums and all. That’s how you teach your kids to be family). And remember the three phrases that Pope Francis always says families should never forget: please, thank you and I’m sorry.

Last night Pope Francis spoke to families gathered at a Prayer Vigil in Philadelphia. His prepared speech (before he put it aside in order to speak from the heart) said:

Let us help one another to make it possible to “stake everything on love”. Let us help one another at times of difficulty and lighten each other’s burdens.  Let us support one another.  Let us be families which are a support for other families.

Perfect families do not exist.  This must not discourage us.  Quite the opposite.  Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is “forged” by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences.  Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows.  Love can flourish in men and women who try not to make conflict the last word, but rather a new opportunity.  An opportunity to seek help, an opportunity to question how we need to improve, an opportunity to discover the God who is with us and never abandons us.  This is a great legacy that we can give to our children, a very good lesson: we make mistakes, yes; we have problems, yes.  But we know that that is not really what counts.  We know that mistakes, problems and conflicts are an opportunity to draw closer to others, to draw closer to God.

And don’t forget that the foundation for the family is Marriage. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). Wives, love your husbands the same way. Doing so will be the best gift you will give your children. In fact, you can’t adequately love your children if you don’t first love your spouse as Christ loves the Church.

Parents, nothing you do in life will be as important as how you parent your children. At the end of your life it won’t matter that you had a big house, or how many vacations to Disney you went to, or how much time you spent at work so you could afford the house and the vacation; what will matter is how you were a parent to your kids. What will matter is how you were a husband or wife to your spouse.

Indeed, the family is a school of love.

Write to me. (pedro@saltandlighttv.org) and tell me what has worked best in your family so we can share it with everyone, and come back next time and before we look at other myths about love, let’s look at three things we must never forget about love.


DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

Deacon-structing Marriage part 5: Total love

marriage1
Last week we learned that God not only created Marriage, but He has a design for Marriage. This was the plan from the beginning. When the Book of Genesis says that God created humans male and female in his likeness and image and then he blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:26-28), he is, in effect creating Marriage. It is in that fruitful and total union that can only exist between one man and one woman that we come closest to being an image of God.

In Marriage, according to God’s design, we come closest to being an image of God because it is in that fruitful and total union that we come closest to loving another person the way God loves us.

So of course the next logical question is, “how does God love us?”

We could spend the next couple of months studying Scripture, doing research, praying and reflecting on our own experience to try to figure out how God loves us, but the work has already been done. So let me save you the time.

There are four qualities to the way God loves us…

  • First, God loves us freely. God’s love is a gift. It’s free. There’s nothing you can do to earn it; there’s nothing you can do to not have it. You can’t buy it. If you don’t want it, too bad; you have it. And all love is free. If it’s not free, it’s not love. Especially married love has to be free. When couples get married in the Catholic Church they make three promises. The first one is that they’ve come freely and without reserve.
  • Second, God loves us faithfully. This is all over Scripture: God’s faithfulness is everlasting. God’s love is faithful, no matter what. You will always have his love. And again, all love has to be faithful. If it’s not faithful, it’s not love. If it has conditions, it’s not love. And faithfulness means forever. Need I say that especially married love needs to be faithful? The second promise married couples make when marrying in the Catholic Church is that they will honour each other for the rest of their lives: Faithful.
  • Third, God loves us fruitfully. This means that it always bears good fruit; it always leads to good things. God’s love makes us better. Furthermore, God’s love is creative. And all love needs to make us better. If love does not bear good fruit, it’s not love. Love makes us feel better, makes us grow and makes us love more. It is always fruitful (which is why sometimes it’s painful). Married love needs to be fruitful. And the fullest expression of that fruitfulness in married love is that it is procreative. The third promise that a couple will make when marrying in the Catholic Church is that they are open to children.

So God’s love is free, faithful and fruitful and all types of love have to be free, faithful and fruitful.

But there is a fourth quality to the love that God has for us that is not necessary for other types of love, except Marriage. That is that God’s love is total.

God loves us totally. God gives each one of us his total love. He gives himself totally to each one of us. That type of love is not required in any kind of love (in fact it’s not appropriate in other forms of love) except in Marriage.

A husband has to pour himself out totally into his wife, all of himself: emotionally, spiritually, and sexually; his body, his dreams, his fears, his baggage, his fertility, his pain… totally, and his wife has to receive him totally – warts and all. In turn, she gives herself totally to her husband: emotionally, spiritually, sexually, her fertility, her dreams, fears, and pain; all her past… everything, and her husband receives her completely and totally. That is what it means to become one flesh.

God loves us freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally and that is the kind of love that needs to exist in a Marriage, which is why we can say that in Marriage, we come closest to loving another person, the way God loves us: freely, faithfully, fruitfully and totally.

What do you think? How hard is it to live this kind of love in your Marriage? Write to me. And come back next week to learn how to make loving this way in Marriage possible.


Photo credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring


DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm

Deacon-structing Marriage Part 4: From the Beginning

Thanks to Colleen Dulle who reached out to me via Twitter and shared this video that was made by the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri. Great idea to celebrate marriage! (Maybe Noel in his Weekly Round-up could dig up some other videos people have made about Marriage.)

My weekly round-up has been that in the last two weeks, I’ve preached at two marriages. As a Deacon, I don’t get to officiate marriages very often – mostly, deacons do ‘mixed marriages’, that is when a Catholic is marrying a non-Catholic, because in these cases, more often than not, there is no Mass. When two Catholics marry, chances are that the Marriage Rite will take place in the context of the Mass and when this is the case, the presider of the Mass (which, of course, has to be a priest) has to be the presider over the Marriage Rite. Since my ordination in 2012 I’ve presided over 4 marriages, but have had the chance to preach at several others.

Three of the most common Wedding readings are Genesis 2.18-24 (“Therefore a man shall leave his mother and father and cling to his wife and the two will become one flesh”); 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:8 (love is patient, love is kind, etc.) and Matthew 5:13-16 (Jesus talking about divorce and re-instating that the two become one flesh).

I love that word, “cling”. It reminds me of “cling-wrap.” You know the plastic saran wrap that sticks to everything? That’s how a couple has to cling to each other. That’s what it means to be one flesh.

And I love that Jesus doesn’t come up with this out of the blue. He says that “from the beginning it was so….” and then he quotes the passage from, literally, the “beginning”: Genesis 2.

When planning a wedding or deciding to get married, no one ever thinks what God’s plan for their marriage is. But this is a very good question to ask yourselves before you get married: What is God’s plan for Marriage? What is God’s plan for our Marriage? God has a very specific plan for Marriage in general. This is what I’ve been talking about for the last couple of weeks (read part 1, part 2 and part 3).

God has created and designed Marriage. Marriage is not something the Church invented or that randomly evolved out of our need to socially constrict our impulse to procreate. It is not a patriarchal imposition nor is it something that people do because it’s instinct. God planned it. God created it. God designed it.

From the beginning.

God creates the universe. He separates light from darkness, waters from the dry land. He populates the skies with planets and stars and populates the waters and land with plants and animals. Then on the sixth day he creates human beings.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28 New Revised Standard Version)

The first thing God does after He creates human beings is He creates Marriage. In fact, as He is creating human beings, He is creating Marriage: In his image and likeness, He created them, male and female. Then He blessed them and said, “be fruitful and multiply.”

God makes us male and female, with the desire for union and fruitfulness because it is in that union that we become an image of God.

Let me rephrase that: It is in the fruitful and total union that can only take place between one man and one woman that we come closest to being an image of God.

This doesn’t mean that we have to be married in order to be an image of God, but in the total and fruitful union that can only take place between one man and one woman we come closest to being the image and likeness of God, because it is in that kind of union (which we call Marriage) that we come closest to loving another person the way God loves us.

If that doesn’t make your head spin, I don’t know what will. This is what God designed from the beginning.

Let me know your thoughts and come back next week and find out how God loves us.


DcnPedro Radio1Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:
pedro@saltandlighttv.org @deaconpedrogm