“The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” That is the beginning and the heart of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the joy of love.
Amoris Laetitia reflects the results of recent synods on the family as well as other writings of Pope Francis and his predecessors. It speaks of the gifts and joys of families but, also, acknowledges the contemporary challenges which they face.
The pope emphasizes the importance of marriage and family life, writing, “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and the Church.” The family, thus, is a source of strength for the Church, just as the Church is a source of strength for families.
To celebrate, promote, protect and strengthen marriage and families in our world, the Diocese of Portland has launched the Joy of the Family initiative. A specific theme featured in Amoris Laetitia will be highlighted each month and will include opening and closing prayers, a reading, a passage from Amoris Laetitia, a "contemplate and share" section, intercessions, weekly suggestions for practical activities, and a reflection from an individual or individuals who possess a special personal connection to the monthly theme. You will find this month's reflection below.
It is hoped developing these themes will help the faithful understand the teachings in Amoris Laetitia and inspire us all to integrate these teachings in our daily lives.
FEBRUARY 2018 - JOY OF LOVING TENDERLY
Tender and Merciful God,
We come before you
grateful for all the ways you share your love.
Help us remember we pass this love along to those we meet
whenever we are kind, patient, truthful, or humble;
each time we say we are sorry or accept an apology;
every day we share in the joy or sorrow of another.
May we continue to trust and hope in your enduring compassion
made known through how we love one another.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes in all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1Cor 13:4-8)
"Love is always a gift of God.” (n. 228)
Young married couples should be encouraged to develop a routine that gives a healthy sense of closeness and stability through shared daily rituals. These could include a morning kiss, an evening blessing, waiting at the door to welcome each other home, taking trips together and sharing household chores. Yet, it also helps to break the routine with a party and to enjoy family celebrations of anniversaries and special events. We need these moments of cherishing God’s gifts and renewing our zest for life. As long as we can celebrate, we are able to rekindle our love, to free it from monotony and color our daily routine with hope. (n. 226)
CONTEMPLATE & SHARE
• What routines do we have in our household? How do these help us treat others and ourselves with love?
• How do we celebrate special events? When do we take time to simply enjoy being part of a family?
• When was the last time we tried something new to take better care of our physical or spiritual health?
• What might we do this Lent to learn more about God's love and tenderness?
• Is there anyone I know who is hurting or needs forgiveness? Practice compassion by praying for the people who come to mind.
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 3/4 - May family members ask that Jesus intercede tenderly on behalf of one another, just as Peter did for his mother-in-law, we pray to the Lord:
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 10/11 - May family members be moved with pity and reach out to others in compassion in the face of evil, we pray to the Lord:
Ash Wednesday, February 14 - May the Lord’s gracious goodness and merciful kindness inspire family members to forgive one another, we pray to the Lord:
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 17/18 - May God’s covenant with all living beings be a model of tender reconciliation for all family relationships, we pray to the Lord:
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, February 24/25 - May families renew their devotion to God and have their Catholic faith transformed during this Lenten season, we pray to the Lord:
Prayer for Every Family on Earth
O God, who in creating the human race
willed that man and wife should be one,
keep, we pray, in a bond of inseparable love
those who are united in the covenant of marriage,
so that, as you make their love fruitful,
they may become, by your grace, witnesses to charity itself.
Through Christ our Lord.
Source: USCCB, Adapted from "The Order of Celebrating Matrimony" 2013
JOY IN ACTION
Weekly suggestions for the faithful to consider
February 4 - As we approach Lent, discuss with your spouse and family members ways to spiritually journey together during the season.
February 11 - For Valentine’s Day, take a trip down memory lane with your spouse and recall some of your most cherished moments together.
February 18 - Set up a prayer corner in your house where you can pause to pray and reflect during Lent on your relationship with your loved ones and with God.
February 25: Enjoy a candlelight dinner at home together.
Joy of Loving Tenderly
By: Brian and Michele Bernier, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland
When we stopped to consider “The Joy of Loving Tenderly,” we both found ourselves reflecting upon the very ordinary and simple ways in which we find tenderness in our everyday lives. Tenderness is very rarely complicated. It is usually a simple action or way of acknowledging one another, born out of love and thoughtfulness toward the other.
In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis wrote that “Our loved ones merit our complete attention. Jesus is our model in this, for whenever people approached to speak with him, he would meet their gaze, directly and lovingly (cf. Mk 10:21). No one ever felt overlooked in his presence, since his words and gestures conveyed the question: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (Mk 10:51) This is what we experience in the daily life of the family… (giving) rise to a tenderness which can ‘stir in the other the joy of being loved’” (n. 323).
Every single morning, the two of us begin our day with coffee together. The first person to make it downstairs (usually Brian) pours a cup of coffee for the other, and we sit in the living room watching the sun come up as the world outside awakens. It’s such a peaceful time, before the kids are up, before we have to face the demands of another busy day. It could be 15 minutes or it could be a full hour, but that is our tender time, and whoever doesn’t have a cat on their lap, gets up to refill the cup for the other. We love, and we feel loved.
In today’s busy, overscheduled culture, it can be all too easy to lose track of one another. We have found that rather than tackling errands and chores separately, it can be fun to do them together. Even grocery shopping, not a favorite chore for either of us, allows us some time for tender moments when we do it together. Sharing jokes in the car as we travel, helping each other in the store, even waiting in line are opportunities to touch one another on the arm, consider what the other would need or want, and help the other by carrying the heavier bag or opening the door. We have been blessed to discover that tenderness has become a fortunate habit in our lives, and we hope to see it continue in the lives of our children.
In our household, we’ve always tried to keep kindness at the center of our interactions. Kindness, saturated with love, very naturally turns into tenderness. The Holy Father reminds us that “Christ proposed as the distinctive sign of his disciples the law of love and the gift of self for others...Against this backdrop of love so central to the Christian experience of marriage and the family, another virtue stands out, one often overlooked in our world of frenetic and superficial relationships. It is tenderness” (n. 27,28).
We have so many old photographs of our preschool son kissing our infant daughter on her head or, later, of their camaraderie as they tackled a project together, climbing a mountain hand in hand or stringing lights upon the Christmas tree in a fit of contagious laughter. Those are tender moments, and we find ourselves humbled and grateful for those times of simple joy expressed through small acts of kindness between our children.
t’s a funny thing, but after 24 years of married life, we have found that when attending Mass together, we often reach for the other’s hand for no particular reason. Fingers intertwined in a comfortable unity of values and purpose, we listen and pray, preparing ourselves to go back in to the world with greater love together. That is tenderness - the small gestures that remind us that we are not alone, that God has given us the gift of each other, and that we are to treasure that gift in not just big ways but in small ways, every day.