***A few things on my mind today. It is April 15. You think taxes. I think camino. Five short months from today we will board a plane (yes, tickets have been purchased) and fly to Paris. After spending the night there, we fly (cheaper than the train, go figure) to Biarritz, then make our way to St. Jean Pied de Port to begin the walking portion of our camino. God willing, all of this will happen and nothing will befall us before or during. We’ve both seen some setbacks of various sorts, but we press on – ultreia! My thanks go to many of you out there. In late July when I began to write about our pilgrimage, waves of generosity kept knocking me over, they still do! And my gratitude has me spring back up and keep going. If this has no context, click here to begin, or simply search the blog on the term camino.) Remember, if you have any prayer requests, you can send them to me now or at any time leading up to departure. And please pray for us! Thank you!
While we are all busy continuing to read and take in the words of Amoris Laetitia, which has unleashed many reactions, my mind drifts back to an earlier time. In September of 2013, Pope Francis was interviewed by fellow Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, SJ, who is the editor of the Italian Jesuit publication, La Civiltà Cattolica. You can find the interview at America Magazine. In that interview Pope Francis referred to the church as a field hospital. He said:
“I see clearly,” the pope continues, “that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”
These words matter – at least to me – as I read and study Amoris Laetitia. But more about what I think another day. When I saw the image below on Facebook, I laughed, but then stopped. It is what I call #FunnyNotFunny. Some in the field hospital are challenged by the doctor’s orders.
What about you? Are you happy with the document as you understand it? Disappointed? Outraged? What do you think?
Today we have the release of Post-Synodal Aposotlic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia
of the Holy Father Francis to Bishops, Priests, and Deacons,Consecrated Persons,Christian Married Couples, and all the Lay Faithful on Love in the Family. That is quite a title! The document was released about half an hour ago. At 260 pages, it will take me awhile to go through it, but here are some places to begin.
First up – the link to the PDF of the exhortation in English from the Vatican website. As I said, it is long.
“Given the rich fruits of the two-year Synod process, this Exhortation will treat, in different ways, a wide variety of questions. This explains its inevitable length. Consequently, I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text” (AL 7).
Our third link comes from Fr James Martin SJ offers us his top 10 takeaways in a piece from America magazine.This particular sentence struck me: “We should no longer talk about people ‘living in sin.’” To which I add a very loud AMEN!
There are many more things to read (see updates below), but these are great starting points. Of all who react, many will be overjoyed, many will be angered, many will be disappointed, many will be outraged. This will be interesting to follow. So much for my hiatus!
Also from NCR, Vatican correspondent Joshua McElwee begins with these words… “In a radical departure from recent pastoral practice, Pope Francis has asked the world’s Catholic clergy to let their lives become “wonderfully complicated” by embracing God’s grace at work in the difficult and sometimes unconventional situations families and marriages face — even at risk of obscuring doctrinal norms..” Read more here.
Lest one accuse me of presenting only “liberal” sources, here is a link from the National Catholic Register where Edward Pentin suggests that maybe chapter 8 has cause for concern, and the challenge of ambiguity. The link can be found here.
To all of this I will add – we all have to face God with our consciences. Do we expect and desire a God of exact certitude, one that directs all in a bittorent-like stream of teaching that is precise without interpretation and lived grace? Or do we expect and desire a God of transcendent mystery, joy, and hope who invites us into full relationship? There is doctrine, there is dogma, there are rules – but there is at the heart of all of this the inviting love of Christ. It all might be hard to pin down.
(Yes, I know – hiatus. Back briefly on this day.)
Many years ago, when I was an toiling away in corporate America, I used to call myself an E.L.F. – or executroid life form. It was a joke meant to poke fun at a world around me. It seemed that we were less and less focused on people, and more focused on getting sales and good numbers, whatever that meant. Today as I reflected on this, I thought of a business book that was popular many years ago, “Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Continue reading
It happened about midday on Monday, as I sat at my desk. It happens every year, in every way, but this year it hit me hard; perhaps I was snappish in my reply, I don’t know. This “it” is something we’ve likely all said or thought over the years. The gentleman sitting before me, a very “churched” person said, “I bet you’re glad that Easter is OVER!”
The snappish bit? When I looked up and (was I roaring like a lion?) Continue reading
On Good Friday we hear Jesus say:
“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
Today what was before us is gone, and now we begin anew.
When I was growing up in the 60’s, I went to a more old fashioned church, a mission parish, very tiny, and traditional. The changes from Vatican II trickled in, but I have very vivid memories of Latin masses, incense, the works. Yet it was not a strict and scolding message, which many others may have heard. Yet, Continue reading
A vaccine is made up of something that might harm us, but is used in such a way to give us a dose of it so that we might remain well. Homeopathic medicine has the “law of the similars” which says that substances that might cause ill, when used in particular doses, heal. I’m sure you see a theme emerging.
Once I met a woman who was deadly allergic to cats, but she fell in love with a man who was a cat person. She realized that if they were to ever find happiness, she would need a solution. She told me that she would go up to the cats and hold them to her face, breathing them in, causing congestion and asthma. Eventually she said the symptoms lessened, and her allergy was gone. Love and happiness ensued.
We were at a party when she told this story. A few people, despite seeing a young woman of robust good health before them asked why she would risk her life by going head first – literally – into what might have killed her. Her reply was simple – because of love.
Today we are faced with the Cross. The conundrum of death leading to new life hits is before us. Will we take some of the poison in order that we might be healed?
With that thought in mind I find myself going to John 5:6 when Jesus asks a man, “Do you want to be well?” Today I ask myself – do I want to live?
If the answer to either question is yes, I have to do something. No, not the rugged independence of healing or saving myself, but rather the taking of the medicine that might kill me, so that I might live. In this case the medicine is the cross, a sure and certain death, so that I might live. In this context, the question of whether I want to live or not takes on a new meaning.
Of course I want to live. Don’t you? But are we willing to die in order to do so? Today we commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion. Many non-Catholics recoil at our crucifixes with dead, sometimes bloody Jesus on them. Someone recently wrote to me in an email, “The first thing you Catholics have to do is get rid of those awful crosses!”
But no. We are the Body of Christ. The incarnation, which is at the heart of all of this, God made flesh, demands that we, like the woman at the party, inhale deeply the scent of death. The only reason to do such a thing is love, the love of Christ.
What will you choose today? Good Friday after Good Friday, frankly – day after day – I want to be healed, I want to live, but I employ stupendously complicated mechanisms to avoid the cross. That’s why I need to see the whole picture, not seeing just a dead and bloodied man, but seeing open arms and the invitation to love and to life.
The question comes before us today in a special way. What will we choose? Do we want to be healed? Do we want to live? The only response for me is to open my arms, inhale deeply, and go to the cross. Christ is there. Will you be there too?