Amoris Laetitia. The joy of love. This is the title of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation which focuses on the love within the family. Just over a year ago, on the Feast of Saint Joseph, he launched the year “Amoris Laetitia Family,” which comes to an end this June during the World Meeting of Families in Rome. This year promulgated because he saw the great witness that the family can be to the world.
Within the family one can experience sincere communion when it is a house of prayer, when affections are serious, profound, pure, when forgiveness prevails over discord, when the daily harshness of life is softened by mutual tenderness and serene adherence to God’s will…the family evangelizes by the example of life.
To Married Couples
Pope Francis expressed a deep desire to show his love and support for all individuals, married couples, and families. He expressed this in his Letter to Married Couples for the “Amoris Laetitia Family” Year. He writes about his recognition that life often brings us out of our comfort zones. Sometimes to roads that may seem unpaved and rocky. Yet our relationship with God holds us steady and carries us on. This letter is pure gold.
Planting Seeds of Trust
Francis urges parents to be aware of how closely their children watch and observe them. It is to parents that they look to learn what love means and it is our love for which they hunger.
How important it is for young people to see with their own eyes the love of Christ alive and present in the love of spouses, who testify by the reality of their lives that love forever is possible.
Parents have the blessed responsibility of witnessing to their children the joy of what it means to know and experience God the Father’s love. Through seeing the love shared between their mother and father, children begin to plant seeds of trust in their Heavenly Father. The beauty of this example helps to build up a sense of security in your children. A confidence that they will never be abandoned.
The laity is charged with the mission to transform society. This can be done by one’s presence in the workplace and advocating for the needs of the family to be considered. It can also be done through the gifts and talents a couple may share, and by offering those to be used by your parish or diocese at large.
I encourage you, dear married couples, to be active in the Church, especially in her pastoral care of families…Never forget that the family is the ‘fundamental cell of society’.
The family is a domestic church. Through marriage and family life, Christian values are passed from generation to generation, thus building up the “culture of encounter” which Pope Francis speaks of.
Welcoming Jesus Into Your Boat
One of the things I love about Pope Francis are the word pictures he paints. He writes about the vocation of marriage in the context of a boat.
Marriage, as a vocation, calls you to steer a tiny boat—wave-tossed yet sturdy, thanks to the reality of the sacrament—across a sometimes stormy sea.
Though waves may abound, the Sacrament ensures that Jesus is with us amid the storm like in the Gospel of Mark when the winds died down after He got into the boat with the Apostles. Like Peter, we must fix our eyes on Jesus. In doing so, we will find peace to overcome. Problems won’t magically disappear, but He will help us to view them with new eyes. It is in suffering through the storm that we come to know Christ and learn to depend on Him more fully.
Pope Francis also acknowledged moments of tension which arise within marriages. Here he advises couples to go before the Eucharist in Adoration, a place of peace and refuge.
When one of you is a little angry, take him or her by the hand and force a complicit smile.
As hard as it might be, try not to let a spirit of stubbornness settle in your heart. Ask Jesus for the grace to forgive. He knows that our human love is weak and He is waiting for us to call on Him for strength, just as Peter called out to him when he was sinking.
Presence and Perseverance
Pope Francis ends his letter by asking Saint Joseph to pray for families to have “a creative courage” and for the Blessed Mother to help us practice the gift of being present to others so that we may truly encounter them.
Live out your vocation with enthusiasm… your husband or wife needs your smile. Your children need your looks of encouragement. Your priests and other families need your presence and your joy: the joy that comes from the Lord!
Reflect on your marriage and family life over this last year. Can you identify moments or seasons of grace in this year of the family?