Wise Words in “Amoris Laetitia”: Part 4

There is much wisdom to be found in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), but at over 200 pages long it’s not always easy to pick out the wise words from all the prose. This project sifts through the wisdom Pope Francis has provided for us in this document. Each part of this project contains quotes (in italic font) from Amoris Laetitia that I believe contain wise words. Each quote is accompanied by a few of my own words (in normal font) to shed light on that wisdom.

I encourage everyone to read Amoris Laetitia for themselves. You can download a free copy from the Vatican website. For those that haven’t read it, this list of quotes can serve as an index to skip to just the most important parts of the document. For those that have already read it, my commentary accompanying each quote can supplement or reinforce what you read before.

Headings indicate the main section or chapter in Amoris Laetitia that a list of quotes comes from. Quotes are numbered according to the paragraph they come from in Amoris Laetitia. If multiple quotes come from the same paragraph, I add a dash and a number for clarification (e.g. 5-1, 5-2). Some paragraphs are skipped because they summarize other parts of the document or feature more common knowledge most people will already know.

Chapter 2: The Experiences and Challenges of Families (continued)

39 “We treat affective relationships the way we treat material objects and the environment: everything is disposable; everyone uses and throws away, takes and breaks, exploits and squeezes to the last drop. Then, goodbye.”

These words pretty much stand on their own. I can only add that loving relationships are give and take. Relationships based on what each person gets out of the other do not last.

40-1 “At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.”

These are two separate problems. When money is the problem, there is no option to marry. When the finances are okay, another problem emerges: too many potential marriage partners. As far as money, two obstacles to successful marriages and families are the high price of housing and lack of quality employment (see 44-1 and 44-2 below). Many young people choose to remain single because they can barely support themselves let alone a family with children.

As far as too many options, dating websites and apps have become so advanced, a person can be meeting a new person every day of the week. Knowing they can only make a lifetime commitment to one person, there is a great fear they will choose a person today only to find a better person tomorrow. They can get into a yearslong cycle of dating and never take the next step to marry.

40-2 “We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage.”

This statement simply elaborates on 2-1 in Part 1.

41 “Marital problems are ‘often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another.'”

See my commentary for 38-1 in Part 3.

43 “The Synod Fathers noted that “one symptom of the great poverty of contemporary culture is loneliness, arising from the absence of God in a person’s life and the fragility of relationships.”

No matter what the problems are, they usually go back to a lack of religion. When people are not religious, it is hard to live a life of selflessness and love towards others. Religion provides the primary incentive to do good throughout every moment of life, not just when the person feels like it. The more selfish people there are, the more suffering people don’t get the help they need. Then some of those people become selfish themselves, leading to more selfishness in the community as a whole. It just spreads through culture until large portions of the population never think to help others and even make fun of the misfortune of others.

This is evident simply walking down the street. No one talks to each other. They keep their head down, eyes on their phone, not saying a single word to each other. There’s very little sense of community. Despite the streets being full of people, everyone is a stranger, all focused on their own individual goals. There’s a phrase relating to this: “living alone together”. People have a lot of others around them, but each is doing their own thing. It’s no wonder people are lonely. If everyone lived a life of sacrifice for others, there would be no loneliness. We can each do our part, but the ideal of no loneliness is something that we will mostly have to wait for heaven to see.

44-1 “The lack of dignified or affordable housing often leads to the postponement of formal relationships.”

There is a worry about the reduction in the number of marriages these days compared to the past. One of the causes is the high cost of housing. Housing has always been a big obstacle to marriage and the family, but it’s much worse these days. In most parts of the country, the couple has to at least make the median income to afford a house. In other words, 30-40% of the population cannot afford a house. The number is even higher for young people. In many places, even apartment rents are too high. They either have to live with roommates or parents. Marriage is usually not an option in that situation.

The problem is clear, but the solution is not. This is where the government and academic community can help. They should study what’s causing high housing prices and what’s keeping wages low relative to those prices. Only then can solutions be proposed. Are investment companies overcharging for housing? Then maybe price caps have to be temporarily implemented. Are businesses artificially keeping wages low for extra profit? Then maybe the minimum wage has to be temporarily increased. The causes are likely more complex than this, but something must be done or else population decline and an endless cycle of economic hardship will break the country apart.

44-2 “Workdays are long and oftentimes made more burdensome by extended periods away from home. This situation does not help family members to gather together or parents to be with their children in such a way as to nurture their relationships each day.”

Even when a family can afford housing, it usually requires both parents to be working, many times for long hours. This forces them to put their children in daycare, another huge cost for the family to bear. Furthermore, the parents aren’t getting to spend much time with their children. When they get home from work, they are so tired, they can barely keep up with the basic chores let alone be an active presence in their children’s lives.

45 “A great number of children are born outside of wedlock, many of whom subsequently grow up with just one of their parents or in a blended or reconstituted family”

The big problem in America is unstable families. The economy plays a part — life is always more secure when families can pay their bills comfortably — but the bigger problem is when parents are not dedicated to their children. For too many parents children are an accident that they only begrudgingly raise. I see this especially with new fathers, who do nothing but complain about their children. If the parents don’t care, the children will probably not do well.

Studies have shown that children have the best chance of success when they have both a mother and a father to learn from. Cohabitation many times leads to single parents, at least one parent has no commitment to the children. Same-sex couples can only provide two mothers or two fathers. Both the popular lifestyle (cohabitation) and another lifestyle with popular support (gay marriage) lead to unstable families and children that aren’t well-rounded.

This isn’t to say that children raised by cohabitating or gay couples cannot turn out well, but it’s much harder. It’s clear that most times children will do better when raised in a stable household with a mother and father, so there should never be any consideration for raising children outside that situation. Accidents can happen and couples have to do the best they can, but society should never encourage behavior that potentially harms children in the long run. Cohabitation and gay marriage both carry this potential.

46-1 “In accompanying migrants, the Church needs a specific pastoral programme addressed not only to families that migrate but also to those family members who remain behind.”

This is a much bigger problem for Europe than the United States, but it still would be a good exercise to think about how we would address this if it became a large problem here. When people move to a new place, they have the basic needs of food, water, clothing, and shelter, but the critical element is integration into the community. Many terrorists have become radicalized because they never adopted the culture of their new country. Instead, radical groups create that sense of community by actively seeking out lonely or isolated people and slowly swaying them towards evil.

As an example, here is one way to integrate Syrian refugees. The Church (along with government and charities) could foster connections between Syrians that migrated years ago and Syrians that just migrated a week ago. Veteran migrants have lots of experience in the new place that would really help the new migrants. In addition they speak the same language and might even have the same religion. Once the new migrants have integrated with fellow immigrants in the new country, the Church can aid them with integration into the wider community of the nation, perhaps by connecting the new family to Catholic families that could introduce them to the wider culture (e.g. sports, barbeques, and holidays).

46-2 “The persecution of Christians and ethnic and religious minorities in many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, are a great trial not only for the Church but also the entire international community.”

There has and always will be persecution against Christians, but it seems to have worsened in recent years. In the Middle East, religious extremists are fighting Christianity. In the West, atheist extremists are fighting Christianity. Things are not nearly as bad here than the Middle East, but the trend is still negative. We are going in the direction of greater persecution, where Catholics and the Church are under more and more restrictions. There are entire organizations devoted to eradicating every last vestige of Christianity from our culture. If this continues long enough, the Catholic Church will be forced to go underground like during Roman times. We will have regressed 2000 years. No doubt the Enemy rejoices at the thought. We may not be able to stop this from happening, but we have to continuing resisting the hostility with peace, hope, and most of all, love.

Read the other parts:

May the Lord guide you on your faith journey,


Wise Words in “Amoris Laetitia”: Part 3

There is much wisdom to be found in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), but at over 200 pages long it’s not always easy to pick out the wise words from all the prose. This project sifts through the wisdom Pope Francis has provided for us in this document. Each part of this project contains quotes (in italic font) from Amoris Laetitia that I believe contain wise words. Each quote is accompanied by a few of my own words (in normal font) to shed light on that wisdom.

I encourage everyone to read Amoris Laetitia for themselves. You can download a free copy from the Vatican website. For those that haven’t read it, this list of quotes can serve as an index to skip to just the most important parts of the document. For those that have already read it, my commentary accompanying each quote can supplement or reinforce what you read before.

Headings indicate the main section or chapter in Amoris Laetitia that a list of quotes comes from. Quotes are numbered according to the paragraph they come from in Amoris Laetitia. If multiple quotes come from the same paragraph, I add a dash and a number for clarification (e.g. 5-1, 5-2). Some paragraphs are skipped because they summarize other parts of the document or feature more common knowledge most people will already know.

Chapter 1: The Light of the Word

27 Christ proposed as the distinctive sign of his disciples the law of love and the gift of self for others (cf. Mt 22:39; Jn 13:34).

I like to say this more boldly: true love is sacrifice. In the media we see many false forms of love, especially infatuation and romantic feelings. These are part of love but not the most important. Infatuation and romantic feelings come and go in a relationship. Any relationship based solely on feelings will not last. Conversely, a relationship based on sacrifice endures. This love is not limited to dating and marriage but should be present to some extent in all relationships. The world would be a better place if more people understood this and strove to live by it. Thankfully, there are a lot of good people out there that sacrifice for others, but there are many who never lift a finger for others or do so very sparingly.

28 There is a closeness that is conscious and not simply biological.

As humans we have both a spiritual side and a physical side, but the spiritual side is hard to sense because it is invisible to our physical senses. We do have a spiritual sense though, which is love. The deep love between mother and child is so great that many times the mother and child are completely at peace with each other. In these moments they have no need for words. It is a spiritual connection more than a physical one. This is also why connecting with God requires silence more than anything else. We cannot receive peace and guidance from God through prayer in the presence of noise and chaos. We must retreat from the world, whether that means praying in a quiet room or making a trip to some remote place. Refer to my commentary on 12-2 in Part 1 [LINK] for more on the silence of love.

Chapter 2: The Experiences and Challenges of Families

32 It is…evident that “the principal tendencies in anthropological-cultural changes” are leading “individuals, in personal and family life, to receive less and less support from social structures than in the past”.

These days, parents have to work so much they don’t have much time to spend with their children. They might also have to move far away for work, so they have a harder time getting help from their their parents or grandparents. This is one of the problems of the day that the Church needs to provide direction for. Our culture needs to transform in a way that the good behavior of parents serving their children is valued and promoted by every person and society as a whole. In addition to the Church, government and charities can also work towards this goal.

It’s important to realize that every period in history has good things and bad things. As bad as it is for families these days, there are other good things to be happy about. For example, a really good thing now is the acceptance of homeschooling. Whether by choice or out of necessity the option to homeschool allows parents to guarantee their children will be raised in a religious environment. The key challenge of every generation is maintaining the areas we have made positive change in while replacing or transforming the areas with negative change.

33 “The tensions created by an overly individualistic culture, caught up with possessions and pleasures, leads to intolerance and hostility in families”.

A few years back I started noticing a lot of problems in society all went back to the family. When a child grows up in a broken family, it greatly affects the decisions they will later make in life. When that takes hold on a grand scale over several generations, which is what’s currently happening in the West, it causes massive damage to society and even to the nation. If this problem is not addressed, the United States will collapse. There is no question. It might take a while, but it will happen eventually if we cannot turn things around.

So many children these days witness the suffering of another and make a crude remark like, “sucks to be you”. In many cases their behavior has devolved to that of an animal. They act on instinct and believe in survival of the fittest. This is not progress but regression. These children then grow up to create broken families which leads to more broken families. This cycle will not be broken until we can evangelize these people on the way of love. The way of love is the way of Jesus. The Catholic faith is emulating Jesus’ life.

One of the key parts of the Catholic faith is the Golden Rule: “treat others as you would want others to treat yourself”. Living by this rule forces you to imagine what it would be like in another person’s shoes which leads to understanding of others and ultimately selflessness. Without religion, many people don’t really have that driving goal to treat others well. There’s some direction from education and our laws, since these have their foundation in the Christian faith of our forefathers, but they are clearly not enough. People must believe in a religion of love for real change to happen.

34-1 [The family] can come to be seen as a way station, helpful when convenient, or a setting in which rights can be asserted while relationships are left to the changing winds of personal desire and circumstances.

So many times these days I see a family that rarely spends any time together. Each member is doing their own thing, barely helping each other. I don’t think parents ever set out to create a disconnected family. It’s something that just happens. Once everyone has gotten used to having their way, it’s very hard to get them to change. I think the key to change is starting small.

The parents, of course, have to come together and agree that the family needs to spend more time together. Then they can start a new practice like eating one meal together as a family each day. The children will definitely protest, but the parents must be persistent until the habit is formed. With one positive change implemented, the next can be started. A few years later the family may look totally different with everyone much closer to each other. Change is not easy, especially over the long run, but the increase in love and happiness within the family more than makes up for it.

34-2 The ideal of marriage, marked by a commitment to exclusivity and stability, is swept aside whenever it proves inconvenient or tiresome.

This is what happens when a married couple doesn’t have true love. True love is more than just the feeling of love. It’s the choice to be with someone through thick and thin for life. In the Catholic wedding vows, the Church calls on the bride and groom to accept that sacrifice: “I promise to be faithful to [you] in good times and in bad…all the days of [my] life.” See my commentary on 27 above for more information.

36 Nor have we always provided solid guidance to young married couples, understanding their timetables, their way of thinking and their concrete concerns.

It’s good that Pope Francis admits mistakes by the Church, mainly not supporting and guiding young people towards good, strong marriages. This was a huge problem in the past. I regularly see stories of Catholic couples who went into marriage with impossible expectations because they never received instruction on what marriage is supposed to be. It’s no surprise that many of them ended up divorcing a few decades later when the marriage became difficult.

These days most parishes at least require couples discerning marriage to do marriage preparation founded on Church teaching. This is an improvement, but waiting until couples are a few months from their wedding date is too late to make a real difference. Instead, much critical marriage teaching should be taught during the teenage years. Then marriage preparation would be a reinforcement of what the couple already knows plus a few discussions on more mature topics that would be inappropriate outside the engagement period.

Of course, we wouldn’t want to influence young people away from vocations of consecrated life and the priesthood, so the teaching during teenage years would need to cover all vocations. After all, every vocation is in decline these days, even marriage. Many parishes already have year long Confirmation programs, so why not a year long vocation program? The Church could recommend parents enroll their teenagers in this program in preparation for their futures. For engaged couples that didn’t take the program, the recommendation would be to take an adult version of the program the first year after marriage.

Support before marriage is only half of the equation though. Newly married couples also need support. Most parishes do have family activities, but they tend to be more about socializing than support. Newlyweds have to do a lot of the leg work finding experienced couples that are willing to support them through trials. It would be better if there was a more concerted effort to support newlyweds at the parish level. Some parishes already do well, but in others couples are only given a little marriage preparation and then left on their own. This would be a great opportunity for more experienced couples to volunteer to help new couples build the skills they need for successful marriages.

37 We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations.

This statement is potentially confusing. By saying people can form their consciences on their own, it appears Pope Francis is saying right and wrong is solely based on what their conscience tells them. This is not the case. He is actually saying that people can have many logical explanations for their sinful actions. They may be wrong in God’s eyes, but they make sense to the individual. Rather than throwing out that logic entirely, the Church should work with the individual to explain which parts of their logic are correct and which are incorrect. For anything that is incorrect, the Church can then provide the next small step towards holiness. Many small steps over time lead to many miles and eventually, complete transformation into the image of God.

Strong statements meant to scare people into returning to the truth do not work. People need patient, gentle correction to put them back on course. Imagine a close friend was divorced and remarried without an annulment. You wouldn’t try to scare them with strong words like, “You’re going to hell if you don’t change your ways!”. Instead, you would try to understand why they made that decision, explain how their life doesn’t fit Church teaching, and give suggestions for improvement. All this would be done with patience. Rushing just frustrates people. Without patience, you only push them further away, possibly never to come back again. This is what faces the whole Church, both clergy and lay people.

38-1 Nowadays we are grateful too for the witness of marriages that have not only proved lasting, but also fruitful and loving.

Continuing my commentary for 36 above, those entering into marriage can easily be discouraged by the early trials. The critical time when the initial romance wears off sets the tone for the rest of the marriage. If the newly married have the support of couples whose marriages have stood the test of time, they will have a much higher chance of success. Experienced couples have wisdom and knowledge about how to make a marriage work. They can make a huge difference in the success of newer marriages. This is something I hope the Church leadership will call for more in parishes.

38-2 Yet we have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness.

All Catholics are guilty of this. We see the ideal and then see how far away others are from that ideal. We can develop a habit of criticizing others or only talking about the bad. It’s true that Catholics are called to admonish the sinner, but we are also called to feed the sick and clothe the naked. Most times, admonishment should be between family and close friends, not strangers. Even then it shouldn’t be the only thing you do with friends and family. People follow positive people. If we are always negative, we can never lead anyone to God.

Having said this, the only way to improve ourselves is to identify problems, find solutions, and implement the solutions. Jesus said he came not for the righteous but for the sinners (Lk 5:32). The righteous were already doing good. It was the sinners that needed help. They cannot be helped without ignoring their sins. All this is to say we need to be positive and hopeful in our admonishment. In any correction, focus on the end result of peace, happiness, joy, and true love. When people can see the result, they are more than willing to make the necessary yet painful sacrifices.

Don’t say, “You better not do that or God will punish you.” Instead say, “I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. I think you’ll be happier if you do this instead.” In some cases you might take things a step further with, “I’d love to help you with this. Just let me know.” You are taking on a sacrifice to help them, but sometimes knowing someone is there for them is just what they need to take the first step.

Read the other parts:

May the Lord guide you on your faith journey,

Wise Words in “Amoris Laetitia”: Part 2

There is much wisdom to be found in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), but at over 200 pages long it’s not always easy to pick out the wise words from all the prose. This project sifts through the wisdom Pope Francis has provided for us in this document. Each part of this project contains quotes (in italic font) from Amoris Laetitia that I believe contain wise words. Each quote is accompanied by a few of my own words (in normal font) to shed light on that wisdom.

I encourage everyone to read Amoris Laetitia for themselves. You can download a free copy from the Vatican website. For those that haven’t read it, this list of quotes can serve as an index to skip to just the most important parts of the document. For those that have already read it, my commentary accompanying each quote can supplement or reinforce what you read before.

Headings indicate the main section or chapter in Amoris Laetitia that a list of quotes comes from. Quotes are numbered according to the paragraph they come from in Amoris Laetitia. If multiple quotes come from the same paragraph, I add a dash and a number for clarification (e.g. 5-1, 5-2). Some paragraphs are skipped because they summarize other parts of the document or feature more common knowledge most people will already know.

Chapter 1: The Light of the Word

13 The very word “to be joined” or “to cleave”, in the original Hebrew, bespeaks a profound harmony, a closeness both physical and interior, to such an extent that the word is used to describe our union with God: “My soul clings to you” (Ps 63:8).

Just as the family on earth is a sign of the divine family in heaven, the union between husband and wife on earth is a sign of our future perfect union with God in heaven. On earth the greatest expression of this union is the sexual act. However, in heaven the perfect union between God and man (or woman) will be expressed in an even greater way. We can’t comprehend or understand this until we get to heaven. Indeed, marriage ends with our earthly death and in heaven all people will be “mystically married” to God as Ss. Teresa and John of the Cross experienced. God will say, “You are mine”, and we will respond, “I am yours.” Knowing this may help those that struggle with chastity to remain pure.

14 The presence of children is a sign of the continuity of the family throughout salvation history, from generation to generation.

A society without children is dying. Adults eventually age and die. If there are no children to replace them, that society eventually won’t exist. This is measured in our modern age by the fertility (or birth) rate. Several countries already have flat or negative fertility rates and the problem is spreading. In America, the fertility rate has been in decline for years. This problem arose with urbanization.

In the past most families lived on farms and were fairly self sufficient. Children could help with the labor and contribute to the family business. These days work is so specialized children can’t contribute to the parents’ work, so children are a huge cost until they become independent. In the past, the community helped with child raising, but now families have vastly different values. As an example, Catholic parents might not be comfortable with a Muslim family helping babysit.

A possible solution is for families to stick closer together. Instead of everyone moving out when they become adults, the extended family maintains a large house with space for multiple families. Sometimes there are lessons to be learned from the past, and this is one of them. Extended families living together was what everyone did for centuries. It is a proven way to survive. If a group of families share a home, each individual family will get a lot of help raising their children. Unfortunately, this is illegal in many parts of the country, with most cities only allowing two families on a lot. It’s possible in rural areas, but those areas tend to not have many jobs.

17 Parents have a serious responsibility for this work of education, as the Biblical sages often remind us (cf. Prov 3:11-12; 6:20-22; 13:1; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:17).

One of the primary responsibilities of Catholic parents is spreading the faith to their children. Unfortunately, many parents forget or neglect this responsibility. Some parents assume Catholic school will do that for them. Catholic school is a good start, but it is only through reinforcement at home that the things they learn are remembered and practiced. For parents that must send their children to public school, it is even more important to teach them the faith at home.

18-1 “The Gospel goes on to remind us that children are not the property of a family, but have their own lives to lead.”

While some parents are too controlling, it’s interesting that, for the most part, the problem in the modern world is parents being too lax. Many parents give their underage children absolute freedom to make every decision. I’ve heard of parents letting their children decide to eat junk food for dinner and sometimes even decide which house or car to buy. There is nothing wrong with asking children for input on these decisions, but the parents should always make the final decision even if their children don’t like it. Parents know what is best in the long run while many times children will make choices only for short term benefit. Some exceptions can be made on special days like birthdays, but for the most part, parents should make all the major decisions.

I’ve read studies about how some parents want to be “friends” with their children rather than “parents”. They are not leading their children to success but suffering when the children find themselves lacking basic skills for surviving in the real world. Parents need to be proactive in teaching important values and skills as early as possible so their children are prepared for almost any obstacle they face.

18-2 “Jesus goes so far as to present [children] as teachers, on account of their simple trust and spontaneity towards others.”

One of the things we hear a lot in the Catholic faith is that we must become childlike to enter heaven. Because they haven’t had any bad experiences, children easily trust parents and siblings. On the other hand, every parent has had a few bad experiences with their spouse which leads to distrust. Jesus and our Pope asks you to always trust your spouse, even when there is a possibility of negative consequences. This doesn’t mean to blindly trust others though. There are many people in situations of abuse or other danger where trusting would be harmful. In most couples, the spouses are not in any danger though. They should work towards accepting the sacrifice of trusting their spouse.

19 The idyllic picture presented in Psalm 128 is not at odds with a bitter truth found throughout sacred Scripture, that is, the presence of pain, evil and violence that break up families and their communion of life and love.

While sin and its harmful effects are particularly devastating in the family, this statement can be applied more generally to all aspects of human life. As Catholics we see the ideal God teaches us in the Bible and the Catechism. Unfortunately, we sin and don’t live up to the ideal. Despite our failure, we are called to keep trying our entire lives to improve and grow. Over time this will lead us closer to God and closer to the ideal he wants for us. Most of us will never reach it in this life but some will become saints. We do our best and leave the rest to God.

21 Jesus knows the anxieties and tensions experienced by families and he weaves them into his parables…

When navigating family struggles it is sometimes easy to think that God doesn’t understand our suffering. The reality is that Jesus, Son of God, lived as a human, both witnessing and experiencing all the sufferings of human life including family struggles. God intimately knows all about what we’re going through. He also knows the way out of difficult situations in the family. When we find ourselves in these situations, we can always turn to God in prayer for guidance.

22 We can see that the word of God is not a series of abstract ideas but rather a source of comfort and companionship for every family that experiences difficulties or suffering.

Not only do we have God available to us in prayer (see 21 above), we also have the stories and teachings of the Bible to lead us. These are both infinite sources of wisdom our entire life. Those that have read the Bible for many years can attest to the fact that the Bible never gets old. No matter how many times you read it, you always learn something new. Prayer is the same. No matter how much we pray with God, we never somehow learn all there is. God constantly has more to teach us. Accept these blessings into your daily life and you will surely grow in holiness.

23 It is clear from the very first pages of the Bible that work is an essential part of human dignity…

One of the many problems we have these days is a lack of work. With new technology, a lot of work has become automated, putting lots of people out of work. The average IQ score is between 70 and 130, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most high tech jobs require around 90 or higher. That means a huge chunk of the population can never do those jobs. There needs to be work for them that doesn’t require high intelligence.

One possible solution is to look at the examples of self-sufficient living among the religious brothers and sisters. That kind of life involves more simple work perfectly suited to those people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves unable to obtain a living wage. St. John Bosco created the Salesian Congregation as a way to support abandoned boys. Many of them ended up working for the congregation. I’ve also read a few stories about homeless people who eventually got jobs working for the charitable organization that originally served them. These are great success stories, but much more needs to be done if all the discouraged workers are to get back into the workforce.

25 Sadly, these realities are present in many countries today, where the lack of employment opportunities takes its toll on the serenity of family life.

When people don’t have reliable work, it’s easy to worry about the future. They can’t relax. Their minds are in survival mode, focused on how to how to get through the next hour or day. It’s hard for parents to focus on their children with all these fears clouding their mind. Family life really suffers. Arguments break out easily that can cause lasting damage even after the period of hardship ends. Parents might be so busy working they are not be able to spend time with their children, possibly resulting in their children leaving the faith, lacking good values, or not knowing basic life skills.

Read the other parts:

May the Lord guide you on your faith journey,


Wise Words in “Amoris Laetitia”: Part 1

There is much wisdom to be found in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), but at over 200 pages long it’s not always easy to pick out the wise words from all the prose. This project sifts through the wisdom Pope Francis has provided for us in this document. Each part of this project contains quotes (in italic font) from Amoris Laetitia that I believe contain wise words. Each quote is accompanied by a few of my own words (in normal font) to shed light on that wisdom.

I encourage everyone to read Amoris Laetitia for themselves. You can download a free copy from the Vatican website. For those that haven’t read it, this list of quotes can serve as an index to skip to just the most important parts of the document. For those that have already read it, my commentary accompanying each quote can supplement or reinforce what you read before.

Headings indicate the main section or chapter in Amoris Laetitia that a list of quotes comes from. Quotes are numbered according to the paragraph they come from in Amoris Laetitia. If multiple quotes come from the same paragraph, I add a dash and a number for clarification (e.g. 5-1, 5-2). Some paragraphs are skipped because they summarize other parts of the document or feature more common knowledge most people will already know.


1 For all the many signs of crisis in the institution of marriage, “the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people…”

It can be easy to get discouraged and lose hope in marriage due to the many negative statistics we have about it. Divorce rates are skyrocketing. Many couples cohabitate instead of getting married. We see news about child abuse and domestic violence pretty much daily. However, despite all these bad things, the majority of people look up to marriage as a good ideal for happiness and joy. The fact that so many young people believe in this gives us hope for the future.

2-1 The complexity of the issues that arose revealed the need for continued open discussion of a number of doctrinal, moral, spiritual, and pastoral questions.

Many issues have arisen that threaten marriage, including the high divorce rate, remarriage after divorce, popular support for abortion, prevalent use of contraception, and the emergence of same-sex marriage. The Church has preached against all of these for years, and yet they have continued to grow in popularity. Therefore, the Church must find a whole new way to communicate the harm of these activities while gently leading people back to the truth. It has to be done right the first time. Otherwise people will just be pushed further away. As a result, the proper approach is going to take a long time to discover. The synod was just a start. Years of work are still ahead to fight these evils. It’s likely that these evils will always exist in some form, but much improvement is possible.

2-2 The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations.

This is a long way of saying we should avoid extremes, good advice for these times. One extreme is to just throw out past Church teaching and replace it with teaching that would be popular in the world. This would address the problem of the popular world ignoring the wisdom of the Church, but the unacceptable cost would be the Church abandoning the truth. This obviously cannot happen. The other extreme is mandating blanket rules for all people, no matter the situation. This also cannot happen since people are not robots or clones. They have different circumstances that affect what they should or should not do. As 2-1 states above, the problem is complex. The two extremes may be quick and easy but neither are acceptable.

3 Since ‘time is greater than space’, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium.

This quote explains Pope Francis’ approach to making positive change in the world. The Church is not here to write laws for every miniscule detail of life. Instead, it simply gives people the main idea or guideline on how to live holy. Applying that broad guideline to an individual person is a matter of discernment, which might require the aid of a priest or spiritual director but is ultimately the responsibility of the individual believer.

Chapter 1: The Light of the Word

8 The Bible is full of families, births, love stories and family crises. This is true from its very first page, with the appearance of Adam and Eve’s family with all its burden of violence but also its enduring strength (cf. Gen 4) to its very last page, where we behold the wedding feast of the Bride and the Lamb (Rev 21:2, 9).

Many times people ask, “why are Catholics and the Church so focused on families?” The reason is clear. In the Bible every story has to do with family to some extent. The story of civilization is the story of family. It’s very important to think about family. When families are doing well, civilization is doing well. On the other hand, if families are struggling or failing, civilization will follow.

When addressing a problem, you always start with the source. We have many problems in the world, but many of them start with family troubles such as neglect and abuse. For example, look at minority neighborhoods. They have some of the highest poverty rates. How do we reduce that poverty? By improving families in those neighborhoods. If we can ensure all children have a stable household with two parents plus friends and relatives for support, both parents and children will be more successful, leading to future generations with less poverty.

9 [The father and mother] embody the primordial divine plan clearly spoken of by Christ himself: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Mt 19:4).

Marriage is a divine plan of God. He created humans male and female to fulfill this plan. Everyone is naturally called to marriage. Some people do not get married due to circumstances beyond their control, such as disease or severe injury, but they are still called to marriage which may cause suffering. Other people receive a supernatural call by God to do something special with their lives (religious life). Without that supernatural calling, those people would also be called to marriage.

10 Does [“image of God” (Gen 1:27)] mean that sex is a property of God himself, or that God has a divine female companion, as some ancient religions held? Naturally, the answer is no.

Pope Francis corrects those that would take the Bible’s use of “image” literally. When the Bible says male and female were made in the image of God, it does not mean God is actually male and female. In fact, God is something greater. He cannot simply be pinned down to one sex. He contains all that it is to be human plus the infiniteness of his divine person. So all of the male traits like strength are in God plus all of the female traits like gentleness also exist in God plus infinitely more. God is everything in one being.

11 …the couple’s fruitful relationship becomes an image for understanding and describing the mystery of God himself, for in the Christian vision of the Trinity, God is contemplated as Father, Son and Spirit of love. The triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living reflection.

Seeing the human family gives us a clue as to its Creator. In the human family, there are parents and children. In the divine family, there is a parent (the Father) and a child (the Son). In addition, the love between parents bears fruit in the form a child just as the love between the Father and Son bears fruit in the form of the Holy Spirit. Marriage and family are evidence for the existence of God and the three divine Persons.

12-1 …we see the man, who anxiously seeks “a helper fit for him” (vv. 18, 20), capable of alleviating the solitude which he feels amid the animals and the world around him.

Pope Francis explains the incompleteness of man and how he needs woman to complete him. As I wrote for 9 above, marriage is a natural calling. Everyone at a certain point longs for another. They just don’t want to be alone anymore. Some people are made complete by marrying the Church (priesthood) or marrying God (consecrated life). The rest are made complete by marrying another human, the opposite sex. Of course, our Pope is looking at the ideal of marriage here. Many people in real life do not get married due to impairment, illness, or other reasons.

12-2 …for where love is concerned, silence is always more eloquent than words.

This is a beautiful poetic statement about true love. While we speak in words, God has no need for it. Love is more powerful than words. I’m sure you can remember an experience where someone aided you before you even asked. In love a person can be so attuned to the other that they just know their needs and how to address them before a single word is spoken. Also think about how God speaks to us. It’s very rare that he speaks in audible words. Almost always it’s in the silence of our hearts. This is a hint at what heaven will be like. We will be so close to God and everyone else in heaven, we won’t even need words. This doesn’t mean heaven will be silent, but it will definitely be quieter than earth.

Read the other parts:

May the Lord guide you on your faith journey,


27 Easy Questions to Prepare for Confession According to Fr. Larry Richards’ Speech on Confession

During Fr. Larry Richards’ speech on Confession he mentioned how anyone who didn’t know what their sins were in confession could just ask him for these easy questions. By the end, they would have a pretty good idea what their sins were. At the end of the speech, Father quickly rattled them off. After being reminded of their sins, I’m sure some people were ready to go to confession immediately after the speech ended. Anyways, I thought this list would be a good reference for others. I reordered the questions and polished it up slightly compared to the list given in the speech. It’s just an examination of conscience. You can find several of these online, but maybe this one is right for you. God works in mysterious ways.

Warning: According to the speech, Fr. Larry primarily works with college students, so he is very frank in these questions. Some of the language or wording may be inappropriate for children. Parents should review this list before handing it over to their children. You probably don’t want to explain some of these things to young children. 🙂

27 Easy Questions to Prepare for Confession

  1. Do you pray every day?
  2. Have you used God’s name in vain?
  3. Have you missed mass?
  4. Have you dishonored your parents?
  5. Have you gotten angry?
  6. Have you hurt others with your words?
  7. Have you made fun of others?
  8. Have you lied?
  9. Have you cheated?
  10. Have you gossiped?
  11. Have you been jealous?
  12. Have you been judgmental?
  13. Have you been proud?
  14. Do you consistently give to the poor?
  15. Have you gotten drunk?
  16. Have you gotten high?
  17. Have you had impure thoughts?
  18. Have you had impure actions with yourself?
  19. Have you looked at pornography?
  20. If not married, have you had oral sex with another?
  21. If not married, have you had intercourse with another?
  22. If married, did you commit adultery?
  23. If married, have you used artificial birth control?
  24. Have you had sex with someone of the same sex?
  25. Have you had an abortion?
  26. Have you helped someone else have an abortion?
  27. Are you sorry?

For a more detailed list, refer to the Sins List [PDF] from Fr. Larry’s Reason For Our Hope Foundation. You can also purchase a recording of his speech from that same website.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,


The Depth of the Commandments According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

While The Ten Commandments are popularly known as God’s rules for Christians to live by, there really is just one commandment: the commandment to love. All the others follow from just this one overarching commandment. The commandment to love can be split into two more specific commandments: love God and love one another. The commandments to love God and one another can then be expanded further into The Ten Commandments. The first through third commandments involve loving God. The fourth through tenth commandments involve loving one another.

Every single sin can be described by how it opposes one of these commandments. There are no sins that do not fit under a commandment. In some cases, it’s not clear why a sin fits under a commandment, but that’s where the Catechism of the Catholic Church fits in. It explains each commandment in detail including all the opposing sins.

Interesting is the fact that the ninth and tenth commandments are more extensions of the sixth and seventh commandments than entirely new commandments. The sixth commandment (“You shall not commit adultery.”) covers the sinful actions related to impurity while the ninth commandment (“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”) covers the sinful thoughts related to impurity. The seventh and tenth commandments follow the same model except covering sinful actions (seventh) and thoughts (tenth) related to stealing.

I have summarized this information in the chart below. It starts at the top with the commandment to love, then to love God and one another, then to the ten commandments, and finally, the sins that oppose those commandments. I have made the ninth and tenth commandments extensions of the sixth and seventh commandments, all under Love One Another. The commandments are in circles with orange text while the sins are in rectangles with red text. In parentheses next to each sin is the reference number of the corresponding passage in the Catechism of the Catholic Church for further reading.

The commandments and their opposing sins.

Click image to view full screen.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,


The Top Ten Qualities of Jesus According to the Bible

One of my first religious books was Be a Man by Fr. Larry Richards. My father bought this book for me during a Catholic Men’s Conference. One of Fr. Larry’s bold claims in the book was that if the reader did all of the tasks he put forth, he would become a real man. Most of the tasks were pretty easy for me, but some of them required a lot of work.

One task involved the reader writing down all of Jesus’ qualities in the Gospels, and then praying for God to give them these qualities. I’m not sure how far Fr. Larry intended the reader to go, but I went all the way with the task. I read all the Gospels line by line, writing down the qualities I believed Jesus was exhibiting through his actions. I also made note of how often he displayed each quality. At the end of it all, I had a list of 23 qualities, which I then ranked according to frequency.

For this list I kept just the top then qualities. For each quality, I included the total number of references from all four Gospels for that quality along with the breakdown from each Gospel. Some Bible references involved multiple qualities, so the same reference may appear under multiple qualities. Now for the list:

The Top Ten Qualities of Jesus

1. Teaching and Wisdom

This was the most frequent quality by far. It was around three times more frequent than the second place quality. Jesus knew he couldn’t live forever, so he had to teach the apostles and anyone else who would listen the most important parts of the Christian faith. Jesus founded the church, but his followers had to build it. This is the beauty of education. As long as the knowledge is passed on, it never dies. It will last forever. That was critical because Jesus was founding the eternal Church that would last forever. It would exist until the end of time on Earth as well is in eternal Heaven.

Jesus also had great wisdom. Giving the apostles this wisdom, they could focus their efforts on things that mattered in the long run, not waste time on useless things like amassing wealth. Catholics are all called to convert the world to faith in God. Today, this would be called spreading the Gospel. The Gospel is the wisdom of God. It is the recipe for eternal happiness. We don’t have to be teachers in front of a group. We can teach any individual we come across.

Total Gospel References: 238

Matthew: 52 references Mark: 42 references
14:27, 15:4,10-11,16-20
Luke: 67 references John: 77 references

2. Faith, Trust, and Prophecy

Jesus continually told the apostles they had to trust him. Things always happened how he described they would happen. Once the apostles trusted him, he could bring in the idea of faith. This is seeing without believing. The apostles were able to experience some miracles the average person doesn’t get to see, but they didn’t get to see all that Jesus promised come to pass in their lives. They had to have faith. Jesus himself had faith towards his father in heaven, God. The ability to prophesy is a special gift no human normally has. Jesus was God, so he could prophesy. Without faith there can be no belief, so every Catholic must have faith. When we fully believe in something, it’s easy to talk about it with others. We can’t follow Jesus’ example of prophesying, but we can repeat all his prophecy to nonbelievers. In this way we are aiding Jesus in his act of prophesying.

Total Gospel References: 104

Matthew: 20 references Mark: 22 references
Luke: 22 references John: 40 references

3. Leadership

Because Jesus had the wisdom of God, he knew what everyone should be doing. Someone that has wisdom can be a natural leader. They know things that others don’t. Not only that, wisdom is knowledge that leads to success. It betters the lives of people that have it. When people know someone is wise, they go to that person for advice. This happened with Jesus, but it’s also a calling of every Catholic to use the wisdom they have learned from God for the good of the world. Religion comes up in conversation all the time. It is then that we must do our best to lead people to Jesus, and ultimately, to eternal happiness.

Total Gospel References: 65

Matthew: 7 references Mark: 17 references
Luke: 21 references John: 20 references

4. Healing

Jesus was a great healer, but he didn’t use it just to make money or gain fame. Instead, Jesus used his healings to convert people to the faith. We humans can’t heal the way Jesus did, but we can aid people that are sick or injured. For those with terminal illness, we can be a loving presence to comfort them in their last days. For those with a simple cold, we can help out with some of their chores or other responsibilities for a short time. We can’t directly heal them, but we can aid the healing process. Doctors and nurses have a more direct way of fulfilling this quality, but everyone can help heal in some way.

Total Gospel References: 63

Matthew: 20 references Mark: 14 references
Luke: 24 references John: 5 references

5. Reproaching and Rebuking

Jesus showed disapproval of others’ sinful actions in both of these ways, though rebuke was a more severe response than reproach. Jesus used whatever technique was best to the audience to get the message across. Most times he only had to tell someone the truth and they listened. A few times Jesus knew they would not respond unless he really got their attention through a harsh rebuke. In our lives, we sometimes do need to be severe in our rejection of sin. Certainly, if we know a loved one is committing mortal sin, we need to be pretty clear how serious their situation is. We also need to rebuke when someone is tempting us to commit mortal sin ourselves, as Jesus did when he referred to Peter as Satan.

Total Gospel References: 37

Matthew: 6 references Mark: 12 references
Luke: 18 references John: 1 references

6. Forgiveness, Mercy, and Repentance

When people repented of their evil actions, Jesus had mercy on them and forgave them. The apostles all sinned. So did the nonbelievers. Jesus was always willing to forgive if someone was sorry for their actions. Even more, he taught the apostles that they had to forgive too. As God had no limits on forgiveness, the apostles could have no limits either. It’s the same for us. We must always be ready to forgive someone when ask for it. We can’t hold a grudge. As God does when we go to confession, we must forget the sins they have committed against us, erase them from our mind. They do not exist.

Total Gospel References: 33

Matthew: 14 references Mark: 3 references
Luke: 10 references John: 6 references

7. Courage and Calmness

These two qualities are slightly different but also very related. Jesus urged the apostles not to be anxious about their future. The only thing they had to worry about was following God’s will in the commandments and what Jesus taught them. Then they could look forward to eternal life in heaven. Jesus warned them that most of them would be killed just like he was, but they still had their work to do. They couldn’t be all worried about the suffering they would go through. This required courage. They had to do the right thing no matter how bad it would be for them. Like the apostles, Catholics today are called to have the same courage because being Catholic is not easy. It is much easier to just live a life of sin. That’s what we are constantly tempted to do, but we follow a higher order, from God himself, to be good in our actions. We can’t worry about how this will cause us to suffer, we just have to do it.

Total Gospel References: 31

Matthew: 14 references Mark: 9 references
Luke: 2 references John: 6 references

8. Retreats

Jesus was God but even he had to get away from the crowds sometimes. It was then that he went on a retreat with the apostles. He used this time to teach the apostles without distractions, but a big part of Jesus’ retreats was praying to God. Jesus had a human body, which could be hurt like any of our bodies. He needed to get strength from God through prayer. He couldn’t do that in the city with all the noise. He had to get away. We need to do the same thing in our lives. We don’t have to go on formal retreats all the time, but we should try to get away from distractions a few minutes each day for our prayers. We can also take a day off to just focus on God. Not everyone has a schedule that allows this, but we should look for opportunities to spend time with God in our lives. That is what heaven will be. We can get a taste of heaven when we retreat from the world, no matter short it is.

Total Gospel References: 28

Matthew: 5 references Mark: 9 references
Luke: 10 references John: 4 references

9. Compassion and Pity

Because Jesus loved everyone so much, he had a deep sense of compassion whenever they were suffering. Some people were suffering because of original sin (illness), others were suffering because of the sins of others. No matter what, Jesus did not like to see people suffer. When he came across suffering, he did his best to remedy it. Compassion comes from pity, so we must have pity on the people of the world too. This should give us a sense of solidarity with the suffering of the world, urging us to help them if we are able. That solidarity also helps when we are suffering ourselves. We don’t feel alone because we know countless people are praying for our well-being.

Total Gospel References: 17

Matthew: 6 references Mark: 4 references
Luke: 5 references John: 2 references

10. Friendship and Love

Jesus is love, so it made sense that this quality would be in him. In fact, every quality on this list is part of love. However, I only marked down a quality as part of love if it did not fit anywhere else. A big part of love was friendship. Jesus showed the apostles how to be a good friend and told them to go out and make new friends. Many of these friends went on to become great church leaders themselves. Even their laypeople friends contributed to the spread of the faith. We can’t really help anyone without love. It is the core of everything we do. We might express that love in many different ways, but they are all part of love.

Total Gospel References: 13

Matthew: 4 references Mark: 2 references
Luke: 2 references John: 5 references

I must note that these qualities were based on my own subjective interpretation of the Bible readings. My findings may also be influenced by the translation I used: New American Bible – Revised Edition (NABRE). If you repeated this same exercise, you would most likely get different results, but hopefully they would be similar to mine. I encourage you to do this exercise for your own growth in the faith. Jesus is the example we should always be following. It is good to know some qualities we should be emulating in our lives.

The Remaining Qualities

For anyone curious, here are the rest of the qualities I noted down when reading the Gospels:

Sadness and Fear (12) – Matthew (4) 26:38-39,42-44, 27:46,50; Mark (4) 3:5, 6:45-46, 14:34-35, 15:34; Luke (3) 19:42-44, 22:42-44, 23:46; John (1) 11:35
Obedience (10) – Matthew (1) 10:37; Mark (1) 14:36; Luke (5) 2:49, 4:4,8,12,18-19; John (3) 17:1-26, 18:11, 19:30
Feeding the Hungry (8) – Matthew (2) 14:16, 15:36-37; Mark (2) 6:41-43, 8:6-9; Luke (2) 5:6, 9:16-17; John (2) 21:5-6,10-11
Glory and Praise to God (8) – Matthew (1) 11:25; Mark (1) 14:23; Luke (3) 7:9, 10:18-19,21-22; John (3) 11:4, 12:28, 17:1-26
Humility (7) – Matthew (4) 3:14-15, 21:5, 27:11,142; John (3) 18:20-21, 20:20,27
Life Purpose and Efficiency with Time (5) – Matthew (3) 9:15, 10:14, 13:58; Mark (1) 1:38; John (1) 21:22
Invitation (5) – Matthew (1) 11:28; Luke (1) 8:21; John (3) 9:35,37, 11:7
Anger (3) – Mark 3:5; Luke 19:45; John 2:15-16
Value of Life (2) – Matthew 12:15; John 11:54
Truth (1) – John 1:47
Righteousness and Justice (1) – Matthew 18:6-9
Law Abiding (1) – Matthew 17:27, 21:22
Caring (1) – Matthew 19:14

May God bless you with his abundant grace,