Pope Francis is without a doubt, a highly captivating and inspiring figure. His papacy has been marked by a renewed public interest in so-called matters of faith, even though the culture is becoming more and more resistant to anything perceived to be unseen, unproven, or purportedly unfair.
I am sure many of us have encountered commentary regarding the post-synodal exhortation entitled Amoris Lataeitie ('Joy of Love'). Forgive me if this is too blunt, but the primary reason our culture has been eager for this document penned by Pope Francis to be released is quite simple: human nature is such that we never want to be wrong; we only want to be right. This is a blessing and a curse. We don't want to be mistaken regarding the reasons for the greatest war zone of the modern era: the family. However, there is an internal radar directing us towards the truth.
Our culture thinks that Pope Francis is going to legitimize a wide array of modern social trends, new rights, and unnatural behaviors, and even though moral authority is offensive to most in today's world, Pope Francis is in fact a moral authority capable of making a profound imprint on the mind of the majority.
And who is ultimately the purpose and therefore sadly the victim of the desecration and destruction of the family: children. Children have the most to lose because of the rapidly destabilizing breakdown of the natural, normal, fulfilling, and truly dignifying first cell of society: the family. And Pope Francis clearly demonstrates compassion towards families that are unable to put into practice the ideal vision, remaining unafraid to show mercy.
If you couldn't tell already, each day I am reminded of the vital importance of the family.
Pope Francis did not declare new types of families. He didn't feed the fodder for rationalizing using political freedoms to exalt anything besides the most effective and natural way to raise children, which is when a loving father and mother lay it all on the line for their children, enduring years of inconvenience resulting in an inward joy, caused by unconditional love.
I haven't recommended any book before, so allow this address to be my first recommendation. Consider reading some great practical wisdom for marriage, raising children, and dealing with strife in the family. You won't regret it.
How is this not profoundly moving? How does this not just make sense? (Pre-emptive apology, this is a long quote, but I tell students all the time to remember the context. Sound bites are not effective. Skip to classroom messages if you like). I think Pope Francis hits a home run!
Dialogue is essential for experiencing, expressing and fostering love in marriage and family life. Yet it can only be the fruit of a long and demanding apprenticeship. Men and women, young people and adults, communicate differently. They speak different languages and they act in different ways. Our way of asking and responding to questions, the tone we use, our timing and any number of other factors condition how well we communicate. We need to develop certain attitudes that express love and encourage authentic dialogue.
Take time, quality time. This means being ready to listen patiently and attentively to everything the other person wants to say. It requires the self-discipline of not speaking until the time is right. Instead of offering an opinion or advice, we need to be sure that we have heard everything the other person has to say. This means cultivating an interior silence that makes it possible to listen to the other person without mental or emotional distractions. Do not be rushed, put aside all of your own needs and worries, and make space. Often the other [family member] does not need a solution to his or her problems, but simply to be heard, to feel that someone has acknowledge their pain, their disappointment, their fear, their anger, their hopes and their dreams. How often we hear complaints like: “He does not listen to me.” “Even when you seem to, you are really doing something else.” “I talk to her and I feel like she can’t wait for me to finish.” “When I speak to her, she tries to change the subject, or she gives me curt responses to end the conversation”.
Develop the habit of giving real importance to the other person. This means appreciating them and recognizing their right to exist, to think as they do and to be happy. Never downplay what they say or think, even if you need to express your own point of view. Everyone has something to contribute, because they have their life experiences, they look at things from a different standpoint and they have their own concerns, abilities and insights. We ought to be able to acknowledge the other person’s truth, the value of his or her deepest concerns, and what it is that they are trying to communicate, however aggressively. We have to put ourselves in their shoes and try to peer into their hearts, to perceive their deepest concerns and to take them as a point of departure for further dialogue.
Imagine how much more practical wisdom can be found in the actual document, not the commentary.
Let us recommit our families and school to the powerful yet gentle intercession of St. Joseph, a model for fatherhood and patron of our school. By his prayers, may our children receive what they were created for: true love that hurts but heals at the same time.
Yours Truly In Christ,