Beauty in the Little Things

US Catholic recently interviewed Millennial writer Nichole Flores. The full interview is available in their upcoming July issue. But a preview can be viewed now:

The day Amoris Laetitia came out, a lot of my friends were live Tweeting passages. My newsfeed was glowing with all of these beautiful quotations about the beauty of marriage and family.

That’s one aspect of Pope Francis’ thinking that I would like to think more about: the role of beauty and the beauty of daily practice that makes it into all of his writings, whether about family or about the environment.

I really appreciate the way he highlights tenderness and the beauty of daily practice, of doing little things for spouses and being patient with each other—how those small acts, those small changes can really contribute to a loving relationship….

This is one of my hopes for both The Joy of Love, but also the entire corpus of teaching that has emerged from Pope Francis: that this subtle theme of beauty will be lifted up and help encourage us in our daily practices. That it will encourage us to perceive beauty in our daily lives and small activities, whether within our family, among friends, within the workplace, or out in the world.


Commentary on Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love)

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Here are a number of articles from millennial Catholics on Pope Francis’ recent post-synodal apostolic exhortation:

Look to the Margins by Meghan Clark: “Pope Francis offers what we have come to expect from him—a thoughtful, nuanced and substantial text that defies easy interpretation. It is also a text that looks to the margins, something else that is a clear Pope Francis trademark. He is attentive to the pressures and struggles of families living in poverty, but he also highlights another group on the margins: victims of domestic violence.”

Pope Francis’ new ‘Joy of Love’ precept offers no major overhaul of church doctrine, but urges a warmer approach toward ‘irregular’ couples by Christopher White: “This street level focus is why Francis dedicates the majority of this sweeping document not just to the issue of communion but the practical and concrete realities that often serve as an impediment to family life today. Within the document, he calls for the improvement of education for children as a primary means for passing on the faith, greater access to affordable housing, noting that “families and homes go together,” a rejection of pornography and “the commercialization of the body,” and pleas for us to show greater attention toward the elderly, the disabled, and migrants, as “they serve as a test of our commitment to show mercy in welcoming others and to help the vulnerable to be fully a part of our communities.”

Throughout his papacy, mercy has been the primary theme that has motivated Francis. Mercy, as understood by Francis does not come in the form of doctrinal change, but in greater pastoral care to the needs of those seeking to live out the faith in their everyday lives. The release of Amoris Laetitia reminds us that Francis is, indeed, asking that the Church reform its attitude toward modern family life. But his reform takes us back to the roots and serves as an invitation for us to recover the true meaning of marriage and family that is in danger of being lost.” Read More


Time for a More Personal Approach to Marriage Prep?

Of my many, many shortcomings, the one I perhaps dislike most is that I am not easily impressed.  It is a fault born of a blessed life, but a fault none the less.  On my second and final day of pre-Cana last weekend I tried, not always successfully, to keep this in mind.

Like on the first day, all of the content was solid.  Couples should be able to communicate with one another, have a shared set of expectations for how married life will be lived, and be able to formulate a budget and financial plan for themselves.

Additionally, I have nothing but praise for all of the speakers, who were a good mix of ages and conditions.  Even when I wasn’t engrossed in what they were saying, it certainly was not because they were presenting it poorly.  The young, attractive, clearly in love couple who spoke about their experiences with Natural Family Planning were especially effective, I think. Read More


Will There Be Civil War in the Church?

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Is civil war coming to the Catholic Church over the possible creation of a penitential path back to communion for divorced and remarried Catholics? On its face, this claim seems preposterous, a half-baked fantasy cooked up by a small group of Catholic traditionalists and reactionaries whose enmity toward Pope Francis has reached new heights. I asked Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, perhaps the most influential cardinal in Francis’ papacy, if he thought this was a realistic possibility. He responded, “This is a lack of faith.”

This may seem harsh. But it is important to remember that faith is about trust, not just belief. Those raising the specter of civil war quite clearly do not trust the Holy Father and the Church (and implicitly the Holy Spirit, as well). They have more faith in their own judgement.

At the same time, let’s not forget that Francis has called for a revolution. Ideally that would only lead to conflict between Christian principles and the false idols of the world that tear down human dignity and obstruct the flourishing of persons. But realistically, it was always bound to incite intra-Church conflict. Legalism was present in Jesus’ time, and it remains so today. This mentality will always conflict with the radicalism of Christ’s teaching, even for those aiming to uphold Christ’s teachings. And given the depth and richness of Church teaching, along with our imperfect human nature, virtually all Catholics are capable of slipping into a legalistic mindset. So legalistic opposition to Francis’ revolution of mercy was always likely. And given the importance of tradition for the Church, many were likely to favor the status quo rather than wanting the Church to become a field hospital of people who go forth to the peripheries.

But Cardinal Rodriguez also talked about seeing the visible presence of the Holy Spirit at the Synod. There was disagreement, but it most often led to dialogue, not threats of war or schism. Even those Church leaders who believe that altering the Church’s approach to those who are divorced and remarried would do more harm than good by undermining the clarity of Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage certainly understand why this is up for discussion. They understand what the Church is asking if it requires an abandoned spouse to be celibate for 60 years while raising kids on her own in order to receive communion and how difficult that road is. Since they are orthodox Catholics, they understand the need to comprehend the context of Christ’s words (both as a response to a question about divorce for any reason and within the larger context of the Gospel), rather than endorsing a narrow, literalist reading of just one or two passages. These Church leaders know that our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters are not just a bunch of liberal heretics with no regard for the words of Christ and no commitment to one flesh marriage. Cardinal Rodriguez may be right: the biggest difference may be that these leaders have faith that the Spirit will guide the Church to the right response on this difficult matter.

Pope Francis is bringing a revolution. We need one. We are too distant from the radical commitment to love demanded by Christ. And there will be opposition, even threats of civil war. But it seems most likely that it will be limited to a small group of Americans who are caught up in their own social media world of like-minded hysteria than among the broader Church and its hierarchy. Hopefully some of these will break away from their bubble, clear their minds from the cacophony of bitterness and hyperbole, and choose to trust the Church rather than plot a civil war that seems unlikely to ever materialize.



Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Poor Sanitation in India May Afflict Well-Fed Children With Malnutrition by Gardiner Harris: “An emerging body of scientific studies suggest that Vivek and many of the 162 millionother children under the age of 5 in the world who are malnourished are suffering less a lack of food than poor sanitation.”

Love People, Not Pleasure by Arthur Brooks: “People who rate materialistic goals like wealth as top personal priorities are significantly likelier to be more anxious, more depressed and more frequent drug users, and even to have more physical ailments than those who set their sights on more intrinsic values.”

How to deal with darkness by Matthew Warner: “If you struggle with pride, fall in love with humility. If you struggle with always being right, explore the wonders and freedom of admitting you’re wrong. If you struggle with lust, learn to value self-control and the dignity of others. If you struggle with envy, embrace admiration. Angry? Binge on forgiveness. Selfish? Commit to serving others.”

Learning from Bodies by Nora Calhoun: “If we let bodies speak to us in their own language, by being present to them and offering the gifts of touch and physical care, we can learn what is truly at stake and why it matters.”

Corrupting citizens for fun and profit by Michael Gerson: “Rather than building social competence and capital, politicians increasingly benefit when citizens are addicted, exploited, impoverished and stoned. And that deserves contempt, not applause.”

The age of entitlement: how wealth breeds narcissism by Anne Manne: “Even thoughts of being wealthy can create a feeling of increased entitlement — you start to feel superior to everyone else and thus more deserving: something at the centre of narcissism. They found this was true of people who were, in real life, better off.”

Parenting with Smartphones by Amber Lapp: “There are no rules, few guidelines to help us set boundaries between work and family life when we work from home. The freedom, the flexibility, the lack of script is both the blessing and the curse.”

Helping girls worldwide requires a united stand by Malala Yousafzai: “We are stronger than those who oppress us, who seek to silence us. We are stronger than the enemies of education. We are stronger than fear, hatred, violence and poverty.”

Choosing Transformational Marriage by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig: “Marriage lasts wherein the couple allow themselves to be transformed by it, and faithfully commit to that transformation, re-orienting the way they relate to one another and the marriage itself by willful habitation to the virtues of charity and kindness.”

Jihadists claim Baghdad blasts as Iraq rallies behind Christians by Jean Marc Mojon: “Until Saturday, there had been a continuous Christian presence in Mosul for about 16 centuries.”