Pope Francis studied for three years about family life in our times at world level. Two international conferences or synods on family life for bishops and for expert couples were held in Rome 2014 and 2015. The deliberations and decisions of the two conferences were the basis of Pope Francis’ study. Then, he wrote an Apostolic Exhortation ‘The Joy of Love’ (Amoris Laetitia in Latin).
He wrote the Apostolic Exhortation in his typical style of simple language and high thinking. In the English edition of 288 pages the document discusses at length marriage, family and children. In the beginning of the book ‘The Joy of Love’ Pope Francis says, the experience of love in the family is the same experience of love in the Church.
The ideal way is to read ‘The Joy of Love’ one chapter at a time with much meditation and reflection instead of reading the whole document at one stretch. As we see Pope Francis has taken quotations from the documents of Vatican Council II about family and also from a few bishops and from some documents of bishops’ conferences. Pope Francis also quoted Martin Luther King Jr, three poets from Latin America – Joseph Esper, Eric Francis and Gabriela Mistral. Such is the specialty of ‘The Joy of Love’.
There are many references about love and family. In the first chapter of ‘The Joy of Love’ Pope Francis has built up the context by giving a lot of quotations from the Bible. Beginning with Adam and Eve and reaching up to Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus. Pope Francis looks at the life of husband and wife and children in family life. Pope Francis considered the couple, who loves each other and lives new life, as the true and ideal family icon.
Pope Francis takes note of current realistic situation of the family in the context of experiences and challenges of modern family in the second chapter. Pope Francis says that in the ideal marriage there is responsibility, continuity and unity. Such married life may sometimes find boring and problematic. At the same time people may experience and desire for stable and truthful life together with the fear of loneliness. The chapter also takes notes of a number of things like young men and women post-phoning their marriage. They want to be free from marriage bond and from children. They also have to face the naked truth of their parents’ challenges against their attitude and free life style. In this context Pope Francis describes in detail what the country and the Christian Church can do. The chapter also has taken note of women liberation and living together and lending womb.
In the chapter three entitled ‘Looking to Jesus: the Vocation of Family’ Pope Francis makes clear the teaching of the Church about marriage, transmission of life in the light of New Testament and Vatican Council II as well as of papal encyclicals and other documents. Pope Francis described marriage as intimate relationship of man and woman with total sharing of love and life. Pope Francis says that the intimate sexual union is naturally oriented to give life to children. He says that the Church is the family of families. The Pope exhorts the priests to work with deep discernment and the vision of truth in the context of family experiences and challenges.
The critics of ‘The Joy of Love’ say that those who do not have time to read the whole Exhortation should read the chapters four and five. In chapter four about ‘Love in Marriage’ Pope Francis says that we cannot speak the Gospel of marriage and family without speaking about love. Pope Francis quotes from St. Paul’s first letter to Corinthians about the great importance of love. He has quoted four verses from chapter 13 of the letter “Love is patient and kind; It is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail” (1Cor: 13: 4-7). Pope Francis takes each sentences and comments on them. In it we see Pope Francis’ study and understanding of love. Here Pope Francis’ advises are inspirational not only for couple but also for all people. The couple and family people who wish to live an ideal family life should read this chapter.
Pope Francis’ quotation of the bishops of Chile calls for special attention, “The perfect families proposed by deceptive consumerist propaganda 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 the heads of families” (No 135). In this two chapters of 4 and 5 there are practical suggestions and advises husband and wife to form and lead a perfect family.
The fifth chapter ‘Love Made Fruitful’ speaks about marital life making fruitfulness. Pope Francis says that love always gives life. New life is born in the family and it is welcomed as a gift from God. Pope explains the duties and responsibilities of everyone in a family: parents, grandparents and children. Pope Francis says “Large families are a joy for the Church”. Speaking about the importance of education for woman and developing her talents and taking up job. Pope Francis says that mothers’ presence is needed in the first months of the birth of a child. Pope Francis advocates equal rights for women and men both in the family and outside the family. And he also emphasizes that women have exclusive qualities like motherhood. The humanity should protect the special mission of womanhood.
Pope Francis says that against the spread of selfish individualism, motherhood is the most powerful medium. Pope Francis advises the barren couple to adopt orphan children and give them a bright future. In this chapter Pope Francis gives advice like an expert family councilor to children, parents and grandparents and everyone in a family about their rights and duties. Pope Francis says that for a child to love its own brother or sister and experience of taking care of him/her is precious and unparallel. So where there is only one child the parents should take special care that the child should not suffer loneliness and friendlessness.
Pope Francis discusses the challenges of various services in Christian religion. Here Pope Francis advises that the light of principles the local Church and parishes should find solutions for the problems and difficulties faced by the people. Pope Francis emphasizes very much the importance of preparing for marriage as marriage is a long term programme. Pope Francis criticizes extravagant, wasteful expenses of marriage. Pope Francis says that there should be arrangement for suitable counseling and guidance in the beginning of the young couple’s married life and subsequent years at the level of parishes and of dioceses. Pope Francis emphasizes the training of seminarians, deacons and other religious teachers that their pastoral services should be helpful to married people. Besides, Pope Francis has exhorted the concerned people to care especially for divorced people and remarried couples and the children who are the victims of such problems, with special care and compassion.
The seventh chapter deals with ‘Towards a Better Education of Children’. Pope Francis says that in moral and ethical formation of children parental influence may affect for good or bad. So the parent should consciously take responsibility in this regard without interfering the freedom of their children. The parents should be watchful about what their child is doing, whom he/she meets, and similar things. Family is the first school for children for their moral and value education. In the process of their family education between parents and children one need to see whether modern technology and electronic media are helping or creating obstacles.
Knowing that teenagers are not mature in matter of regarding sex the parents should take care to give them appropriate positive sexual education. Pope Francis says that the children understand the beauty of religious faith and prayer in the family. Similarly the children learn from their parents in the family the values of loving and serving neighbors. Thus the families become the medium of proclaiming and witnessing Jesus and his Gospel.
Pope Francis in chapter eight discusses divorce, unlawful and inappropriate sexual relationship as well as sinful situation. Here some of the Pope Francis’ statements have become controversial. For Pope Francis has cautioned to be careful about evaluating different cultures and customs only in the light of accepted rules and regulations.
In the ninth chapter Pope Francis speaks about ‘The Spirituality of Marriage and Family’ as Vatican Council II has noted the spirituality is born in a family. Pope Francis says that in the family life and their relationship between members of the family spirituality is expressed. Ideal family does not descend from heaven. Family spirituality is expressed in the values, attitudes and ideals of Jesus as the way of love and prayer in the family. (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Mo. 09428826518)
Changed On: 16-02-2018
Next Change: 01-03-2018
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018