Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pope: Marriage is brave promise to love like Jesus, not showy ceremony.

VATICAN CITY (CNS)  A Christian marriage isn’t just a big ceremony held in a church with nice flowers and everyone wearing fancy clothes and taking lots of pictures, Pope Francis said.

Marriage is an act of faith between a man and woman who are both fragile and limited, but courageous enough to follow Christ and seek to love each other as he loves them, the pope said May 6 during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

“Men and women, courageous enough to carry this treasure in the ‘earthen vessels’ of our humanity, are an essential resource for the church and for the whole world,” he said. “May God bless them a thousand times for this!”

The pope continued a series of talks about the family by focusing on the beauty of Christian marriage as a sacrament that builds up the church and the world.

A Christian marriage “is not simply a ceremony that you have in church with flowers, the dress, photos. Christian marriage is a sacrament that takes place in the church and is also something the church does, ushering in a new domestic community,” he said.

All Christians “are called to love each other like Christ loves them,” and to be at the service ofeach other, he said. But the love between husband and wife is given greater, even “unthinkable,” dignity when St. Paul says the love between a husband and wife reflects the love between Christ and his church, the pope said.

Just as Christ loves his church, every husband, too, must love his wife and give himself completely for her, he said.

Looking up from his text, the pope asked all of the married men in the crowd if they fully grasped what was being asked of them. Such responsibility and a commitment to offer so much love and dignity to a woman “is no joke, you know; it’s serious,” he said to applause.

While the analogy between husband-wife and Christ-church may be imperfect, he said, its spiritual significance is “revolutionary, and simple at the same time, and within the means of every man and woman who trust in God’s grace.”

This love has been inscribed by God in the human creature, “and with Christ’s grace, countless Christian couples, even with their limits, their sins, have achieved” it, the pope said.

The selfless, reciprocal, fruitful and indissoluble union between a man and a woman is part of God’s original plan and “the sacrament of marriage is a great act of faith and of love,” he said.

Marriage “gives witness to the courage to believe in the beauty of the creative act of God and to live that love that drives one to always go beyond, beyond oneself and beyond one’s own family,” he said. “The Christian vocation to love without reserve and without measure is what, with Christ’s grace, is at the foundation of the free consent that constitutes marriage,” the pope said.

The pope said the church is intimately bound up in every Christian marriage and it is edified with each union’s “successes” and suffers with every failure. “But we must ask ourselvesin all seriousness: Do we fully accept we as faithful and pastors, too  this indissoluble connection between the relationship of Christ and the church with the relationship of marriage and the human family? Are we willing to seriously take on this responsibility? That is, that every marriage takes the path of the love Christ has for the church? This is something huge.”

Such a path takes courage,and that is why whenever “I greet newlyweds, I say, ‘Look, the courageous ones!’ Because you need courage to love each other as Christ loves the church,” he said to applause.

At the end of the audience, the pope noted May 8 marked the70th anniversary of the end of WorldWar II in Europe.  He said he hoped humanity would “learn from past mistakes.” Given the “current conflictsthat are tearing apart” certain parts of the world, the pope asked all leaders to commit themselves to “seeking the common good and promoting a culture of peace.” Among the tens of thousands of faithful present in St. Peter’s Square was a large group of Chinese Catholics from the Diocese of Wenzhou.

The pope met with them before the start of the audience after he gave indications to Vatican security to deviate the popemobile’s usual route through the square and head to where the group was standing, sending a few undercover Swiss Guards scurrying when the vehicle did not take its expected turn.  The pope descended from the popemobile to greet members of the large and enthusiastic group of pilgrims who waved Chinese and Vatican flags. They vigorously shook the pope’s hands or grabbed at him while he smiled and blessed a few babies.

Also in the audience was a uniformed delegation from the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. The Globetrotters performed for Pope Pius XII in 1951, St. John XXIII in 1959 and Pope Paul VI in 1968. They met St. John Paul II a number of times and even awarded him “honorary player” in 2000.

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service.

Reprinted with permission from CNS. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pope says ‘scandal’ of inequality, fear of marriage must be addressed.

VATICAN CITY (CNS)  Two millennia after the “Gospel of the family” defeated an abusive social practice that humiliated women, the “radical equality” of spouses in Christian marriage must now bear “new fruit” in society, including “the right to equal pay for equal work,” said Pope Francis.

This “disparity” between men and women in the workplace is “a pure scandal,” Pope Francis said April 29 during his weekly general audience.

Continuing a series of audience talks about marriage, the pope began by saying Jesus demonstrated his great fondness and solicitude for marriage and family when he changed water into wine at the wedding at Cana.

The love between man and woman in marriage is “God’s masterpiece,” the pope said, straying from his prepared remarks. Though Jesus’ message to married couples is always the same, “many things have changed” since then, he said.

Today there are fewer marriages, more marriage breakups, and fewer children, the pope noted. Family and marital bonds are broken with “always greater frequency and speed,” and children are always “the biggest victims,” he said.

The pope said that if a person, since childhood, experiences marriage as a temporary bond, then “unconsciously” he or she will tend to live that way, too.

Though young people rank family first as a social indicator for happiness, he said, many give up on the idea of “an irrevocable bond” and of a long-lasting family life.

“For fear of failure, many do not even want to think about (marriage),” Christian youth included, he said.

“I believe we need to reflect with great seriousness about why many young people ‘don’t feel’ like getting married,” the pope said. Why do they “often prefer cohabitation” and why do “they have so little faith in marriage and family?”

The pope dismissed economic difficulties as a major factor, “even if these are truly serious.”

The argument that marriage has changed in recent decades because of women’s emancipation “is not valid either,” he said.

“This is an insult. It is not true,” he added, straying again from his prepared remarks. “It is a form of chauvinism that wants to dominate the woman” and that follows in the footsteps of Adam who blamed Eve because he ate the apple.

“Poor woman,” the pope said. “We must defend women.” “In reality,” the pope continued, “almost all men and women would like permanent emotional security, a solid marriage and a happy family.”

The pope said the fear of failure in marriage is perhaps “the greatest obstacle to welcoming the word of Christ, who promises his grace on the marital bond and on the family.”

“The most effective witness to the blessing of marriage is the good life of Christian spouses and their families. There is no better way to communicate the beauty of the sacrament,” he said.

“Marriage, consecrated by God, safeguards that bond between man and woman that God has blessed since the creation of the world, and it is the fount of peace and goodness for marital and family life,” he added.

The pope also spoke of “an abuse” at the time of the early Christians, “which was the right of husbands to repudiate their wives,even with the most pretentious and humiliating reasons.” This practice was “then considered to be normal,” he said.

“The Gospel of the family, the Gospel that proclaims this sacrament (of marriage) had defeated this culture of habitual repudiation,” he added off the cuff.

“The Christian seed of radical equality between spouses must today produce new fruit,” he continued.

“Therefore, as Christians, we have to become more demanding in this respect. For example, backing to the right to equal pay for equal work; the disparity is a pure scandal!” he said. “At the same time, we must recognize the motherhood of women and the fatherhood of men as a treasure that is always precious, especially for the children’s benefit.”

He urged Christians to be unafraid to invite Jesus to their “wedding feast” and into their homes, so that Jesus may “safeguard the family.”

“When Christians marry ‘in the Lord,'” he continued, “they are transformed into an efficacious sign of God’s love. Christians do not marry only for themselves; they marry in the Lord for the benefit of the whole community, all of society.”

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service.

Reprinted with permission from CNS.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Long Term Commitment

You have heard me say many times that our Charlie was a rescue dog. I don’t know if I have ever explained his adoption process.

Via I found a 9 year old golden mix named Charlie in Youngwood. I had a late evening planned at the office, so for my lunch break, I had Robert meet me at the shelter so we could see if this Charlie was the dog for us.

When we arrived, the lady in charge had me fill out an application, which was actually pretty complicated. I needed to include my social security number, place of work, and three personal references. They wanted to know who lived in our house and their ages. How we would discipline our new dog was also required information. They wanted to know if our yard was fenced, and how much time the dog would spend outside. I also had to sign a contract that said that if for any reason I felt the dog was beyond my capacity to care for, I was to return the dog to them at the shelter.

Although that Charlie was not to be our dog, we were approved as possible pet parents. I feel certain that the complex application helped us to eventually adopt OUR Charlie from the shelter in Greensburg.

I often hear from people how complicated it can be to adopt a dog from a shelter, because the shelter staff really wants to keep these animals safe and well cared for. What’s difficult is an application can never cover what having a pet is really like. For instance, having a fence seems like a safe way to contain a dog, but not Charlie. He has to be supervised when in the back yard in case he decides to jump said fence. No application can fully anticipate the specific needs of a pet.

Unfortunately, we often apply an application mentality to our relationships with one another. Dating sites are prime examples.  If someone meets all my criteria, then they are suitable to date or even marry. We expect our kids to live up to application standards as well. They have to be able to “check all the boxes” so to speak. Even when we think we are living outside of others’ standards, casual conversation can bring up those feelings of guilt when we’re not keeping up.

This approach to relationships creates a superficiality that lacks the depth that characterizes intimate relationship. Feeling that we will only be loved if we meet outside standards builds a level of uncertainty and distrust into our relationships. Not being assured that another will be with you through thick and thin creates insecurity, which leads to pain and hurt.

God’s love is unconditional, but how can we even begin to understand that when we constantly put standards on our love of one another?

Relationships can’t be relegated to simple expectations and returns. Love is to desire the best for another and we should be seeking that in the context of the other, not according to our own wants or standards.

That puts a whole new spin on marriage. We shouldn’t be looking for a person who meets our standards, but instead  be the person who strives to love beyond standards. We don’t look for the best spouse, we attempt to be the best spouse possible. When we stop putting all kinds of requirements on each other to earn love, we can be free to love as Jesus taught us. And really, isn’t that we are supposed to be about?

Marriage is supposed to be our human example of how Christ loves his church. We have to be willing to let go of all the superficial conditions to love each other fully. Being loved unconditionally creates assured and trustful relationships. No application could ever create that.

Charlie is a special dog, with special needs. He is loved for his doggy self, not for what I knew about him through our application process. We would do well to put down the standards and love each other as we are.