The Holy Spirit has been hard at work.
Last week, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, issued a very special teaching to help foster Catholic family life and indeed family life among all people of good will.
It may be good to refresh our minds and hearts on how we have come to this important moment in the life of the Church.
Pope Francis has shown his love for marriages and families in many ways.
In the first year of his papacy, he called for two consecutive synodal assemblies of bishops on the family. These synods are assemblies of bishops from around the world who assist the Holy Father by providing counsel on important questions facing the Church in a manner that preserves the Church’s teaching and strengthens her internal discipline.
In addition, he devoted over a year’s worth of weekly audiences to topics related to marriage and the family, and he gave stirring testimony to the beauty of God’s plan for the family during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
He also canonized Pope St. John Paul II, whom he called the “Pope of the family.”
The name of this new document, “Amoris Laetitia,” is Latin for “The Joy of Love.” The opening sentence reads: “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.”
The exhortation is meant to echo the conviction of the Synod Fathers that the Christian family is “good news indeed,” and to help the Church to draw close to families in all situations.
The exhortation is meant to share with the Church the Holy Father’s teaching and encouragement regarding pastoral ministry to families, and what marriages and families are called to at this time in history.
You may recall that in preparation for these two synods, the Pope also solicited input from all parts of the Church on the blessings and challenges of family life in our day.
As a result, this document is a lavish gift to the entire Church, an inspired trove of practical and spiritual wisdom that comes to us not only through Pope Francis but also the scores of bishops who have been advising him with an unprecedented level of input from hundreds of thousands of Catholics in dioceses all over the world.
“Amoris Laetitia” covers a wide range of topics related to marriage and family life, with a particular emphasis on the family’s vocation and mission of love.
It speaks about the family’s strengths and gifts, and also the contemporary challenges faced by families throughout the world.
The exhortation encourages married couples, families and pastoral ministers to accompany and care for families and others in need of the Lord’s mercy and healing.
It includes an extended reflection on love and what it means in the day-to-day reality of marriage and family life.
“Amoris Laetitia” will be a valuable guide for all those engaged in ministry to those discerning and preparing for marriage and to married couples and families at all stages.
Catholic leaders would do well to study “Amoris Laetitia” in its entirety, being attentive to how the Holy Father’s insights may enrich and enliven a particular ministry.
Pope Francis himself has urged a patient and careful reading of the document, with the hope that, “in reading this text, all will feel called to love and cherish family life… .”
If for no other reason, simply due to the document’s depth and magnitude, it will take time for us to fully digest, understand and integrate everything contained within it.
But we see right off that it’s vintage Pope Francis — biblical, insightful, accessible, unapologetically joyful, deeply rooted in the relationship among the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, and radically reliant on a loving God Whose luxuriant mercy cannot be matched.
Many of the things our Holy Father is calling us to prioritize are already being given considerable attention in parishes throughout these 38 counties — especially widening and strengthening the bonds of familial love within the Church, promoting the spiritual and practical benefits of family life to individuals and all of society, working to promote healing and reconciliation within broken families and communities, and making full use of the instruments of mercy our Lord has left for us.
Altogether, I am deeply confident that with God’s help, we will meet the challenges put forth in this document.
The Holy Spirit has been hard at work.