By Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND
Pope Francis wrote “Amoris Laetitia”, The Joy of Love, on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 2016 after a two year study and Synod of Bishops on the topic of Family. Here is a compilation of some of the most salient points in the document. The numbers refer to the paragraphs in the original.
11. God is a communion of love (Father, Son and Spirit), and the family is its living reflection.
16. Family is the place where children are brought up in the faith.
57. I thank God that many families, which are far from considering themselves perfect, live in love, fulfill their calling and keep moving forward, even if they fall many times along the way.
65. The incarnation of the Word in a human family, in Nazareth, by its very newness changed the history of the world.
84. Schools do not replace parents, but complement them
104. Just by a small gesture, a little something, and harmony within your family will be restored. Just a little caress, no words are necessary. But do not let the day end without making peace in your family.
105. The opposite of resentment is forgiveness. Something is wrong when we see every problem as equally serious; in this way, we risk being unduly harsh with the failings of others.
133. “Please, thank you, sorry” — the right words, spoken at the right time, daily protect and nurture love.
135. The perfect families … do not exist. In those families, no one grows old, there is no sickness, sorrow or death … consumerist propaganda presents a fantasy that has nothing to do with the reality which must daily be faced by families.
153. In our own day, sexuality risks being poisoned by the mentality of “use and discard.” Or the fact that the dignity of others and our human vocation to love thus end up being less important than an obscured need to “find oneself’?
166. For “when speaking of children who come into the world, no sacrifice made by adults will be considered too costly or too great, if it means the child never has to feel that he or she is a mistake, or worthless or abandoned to the four winds and the arrogance of man.”
172. Children need the spiritual gift of knowing with certainty that they are loved.
174. Mothers (and Fathers) are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism.
176. A reversal of the roles of parents and children is unhealthy, since it hinders the proper process of development that children need to experience, and it denies them the love and guidance needed to mature.
261. The questions I would put to parents are these: Do we seek to understand where our children really are in their journey? Where is their soul, do we really know? And above all, do we want to know?
264. Parents are also responsible for fostering good habits and a natural inclination to goodness.
268. It is essential to help children and adolescents to realize that misbehavior has consequences. It is important to train children firmly to ask forgiveness.
275. Educate in hope. Postponing desires does not mean denying them but simply deferring their fulfillment. When children or adolescents are not helped to realize that some things have to be waited for, they can become obsessed with satisfying their immediate needs and develop the vice of wanting it all now! When children realize that they have to be responsible for themselves, their self-esteem is enriched. This in turn teaches them to respect the freedom of others.
290. In all families the Good News needs to resound, in good times and in bad, as a source of light along the way. All of us should be able to say, thanks to the experience of our life in the family: “We come to believe in the love that God has for us.”
325. As this Exhortation has often noted, no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love. Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together. What we have been promised is greater that we can image. May we never lose heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communication which God holds out before us.
Sister Patricia McCarthy is provincial for the Congregation of Notre Dame. For many years she taught troubled children and victims of abuse.