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,

The Easy Yoke

I’ve written before how tough times can either make a person better and closer to God or worse and further from God. This is the decision I faced when my health went downhill. As I developed social anxiety, digestive problems, and several other health problems, I suffered more and more. My health was not looking good. Without seeing anything in the world able to help me, I made the decision to become better and focused on God.

First was the complaining:

“God, you have to help me with this. I need healing. I can’t do anything with these health problems.”

After a few years came acceptance:

“God, I don’t like my suffering, but you’re not going to heal me. My health is so bad I could die at any moment. I will follow your will and prepare myself for heaven.”

Another few years I reached gratitude:

“My God, thank you for the blessing of being able to offer my suffering as a gift for Jesus on the cross. I still don’t like suffering, but I thank you for giving me a use for it.”

Most recently I found joy:

“Glory to you, O Lord, for allowing me to do penance for the world. My God, whether you will that I suffer or not, I welcome your plan with all my heart!

As I went through these stages, I became closer to God. The big breakthrough was when I saw for the first time all the ways God loved me. God was expressing his love to me in unique ways just for me and no one else. While God had always loved me, it was only when I recognized his love that I was able to love him back and form a real relationship. I no longer cared much what others thought of me. I didn’t need anyone else’s love to be happy. God’s love for me was enough. With that the anxiety started to dissipate.

I still deal with social anxiety every time I’m around strangers. My body automatically becomes stressed even when my mind is calm and clear of worry, but most times, prayer, putting my trust in God, and offering my suffering dissipates the anxiety after a few minutes. Sometimes my anxiety does get out of control, but it’s pretty rare. I am still working on introducing myself to more stressful situations as well. It’s not over with but progress is being made. I will probably always have to deal with anxiety at the beginning of social situations, a temporary suffering before my body relaxes and I can have a good time.

Years of chronic anxiety and stress has caused permanent damage to my body though. This means my digestive problems, chronic injuries, muscle weakness, trouble sleeping, and more will not be going away, no matter how much better my anxiety gets. My suffering from these problems will continue, though I can work on treating each of them individually for some improvements. There is always the chance I could be completely cured, but I don’t expect that at this point.

My suffering rarely bothers me now. Some days I do feel pretty bad physically, but those days have their own blessing, patiently offering up my suffering for Jesus and the world. Despite the difficulty of getting through those days, this is usually when I am most close to God. As Jesus said in the Bible, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:30). It’s not that my suffering is gone, but my closeness to God makes me so happy, positive, and joyful, suffering just doesn’t bother me anymore. In short, I will continue to work on treating the health problems and hope for an end to my suffering, but with God and his love, I can endure any suffering, put it to good use, and even be joyful about it.

May God bless you with his abundant grace,


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,


What is Good Prayer?

You can’t live a good, holy life without consulting God on a regular basis. Prayer is the primary way we receive guidance and support from God (CCC 2566, 2611), so it’s super important to have a good prayer life. If you don’t, you will slowly move in a different direction than God, possibly wandering far away from where God wants you. If your prayer life is not doing well, you will get tired of prayer and likely abandon it. If your prayer life is doing great, you will look forward to prayer everyday and can’t imagine life without it. This is achieved through good prayer.

Good prayer is peaceful, relaxed, and easy. There is no effort involved. When you have a stressful day, you look forward to your prayer to calm you down. Good prayer warms the heart. Whether dealing with depression or sorrow, you feel the love of God in your prayer. No matter how bad you feel when you start, you always feel better after. Good prayer is desirable. When you forget to pray or don’t have the time, you feel something missing in your life. You look forward to your prayer time every day after work. Good prayer is meaningful. You’re mind isn’t blank when you pray. It is full of hopes, dreams, love, sadness, anger, and a deep longing to be with God. Good prayer is revealing. During prayer you unveil the depths of your soul to God and God unveils part of his essence, an insight that leads to a deeper understanding of your Creator. Good prayer is such a wonderful gift from God, but how do you get there?

The keys to good prayer are trusting God, understanding how you relate to God, and having a dedicated time and place for prayer. You have to trust that God exists and is listening when you pray (CCC 2609-2610). For new believers, prayer many times feels empty or stale. It takes time and dedication to become sensitive to the presence of God. Some people will hear the voice of God, but this is extremely rare. Most people only have the “feeling” of God, and it’s usually only barely perceptible in prayer. The closer you get to God, the more sensitive you are to his presence. Very holy people feel God throughout the day in everything they do.

If you start a new prayer habit, do not give up if you don’t feel like the prayer is doing anything. Just keep praying. Eventually, you will start to feel something (CCC 2613). It probably won’t be every time you sit down to pray. Unfortunately, on earth God will always be distant. Most people will barely feel God even after years of prayer, but occasionally you will have a really intense prayer session. Those times you are blessed with a small taste of what heaven will be like, something to look forward to after your resurrection.

Trusting God is important to good prayer, but it’s also important to understand how to you relate to God. As Creator of all the living, God is the father of everyone. Just as a child learns from his or her father or asks him for help, we as adults learn from God and ask him for help (CCC 2564). Remember when you were growing up at home and how you interacted with your father. Hopefully, you had daily communication with your father. That is how your relationship should be with God in prayer (CCC 2565). If you’re father was missing or emotionally absent, God can fill in as the perfect father.

When you talk to God in prayer, it should be the same as how you talk to a best friend, close relative, or spouse. You should be comfortable saying anything on your mind and not worry about being made fun of or taken advantage of. You should speak from the heart, not from a script. When talking to a human you can congratulate them, look up to them, thank them, ask them for something, give them something, or talk about others with them. All of these ways of communicating work pretty much same with God through the prayers of praise, adoration, thanksgiving, petition, offering, and intercession (CCC 2626-2643). The best part about prayer is that God is perfect. Even people we really trust on earth can sometimes treat us badly, but God is perfectly good. He will never do anything to harm us, so we can always look to prayer for a deep conversation with the Father we love.

Lastly, you need to get away from others in a quiet place for good prayer to happen (CCC 2602). Similar to how kids spend times with their parents as a group and one-on-one, every Catholic needs some alone time with God. This is where those deepest prayers can happen. To prevent other people from barging in on your time with God, you will probably have to dedicate certain times of the day for prayer. This might be in the morning before others get up or at night after everyone has gone to bed. Maybe the home is too chaotic, so you have to go to a nearby park, church, or some other peaceful place away from others. Whatever you choose, you have to get away from distractions to be able to pray deeply.

Good prayer is something that has to be worked on, but the reward is invaluable to Catholic life. Going from a life alone to a life with God is night and day. You will go from a shallow and dull life to a life full of meaning and purpose. It’s all through continued good prayer. I am a cradle Catholic who has prayed for decades, but I still continue to improve my prayer every year. The reward for this effort has been a deeper and deeper relationship with God as the years go by. It is just so comforting and pleasing throughout the day being with God. Some days I suffer a lot or people treat me badly, but it just doesn’t bother me much because I am with God. You, too, can have this peace and support if you work on good prayer a little every day.

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,


What Being Catholic Means to Me

I was born into a Catholic family, but I really just went through the motions when it came to practicing the faith. I learned about religion in school, and my regular family activities involved going to church and receiving the Sacraments. I liked to please everyone, so I did what my teachers and parents wanted. Entertainment was what drove me though. Early on, it was toys like action figures and Legos, later it was movies and video games. I didn’t really care about anything but having fun. This remained the same until I graduated from college.

By this time video games had become my favorite source of fun. There was an endless amount of new games coming out, and I wanted to play them all. All my plans and goals were centered around games. I had lists of what I had done in existing games and what I wanted to do in the future with those games. I also had lists of all the future games I wanted to get and the things I wanted to do in them. In short, all I cared about was short term pleasure. When I got bored with one game, I always had another lined up to keep me entertained. This kept me busy in the moment, but one day I just felt like I needed to be doing more.

Since the only other thing I did regularly besides video games was go to church, I decided to focus on the Catholic faith. I immediately saw many ways to improve myself. While working on improvement goals, I became aware of the power of prayer. I also discovered that there was an endless amount of studying I could do about the faith. In addition to the Bible, there were countless writings by the Popes, Church Fathers, Saints, and fellow lay Catholics I could read and think about.

Just like there was always another video game to play, there was always another way to improve myself, another prayer to say, or another Catholic work to study. Unlike video games, which was just about short term pleasure, these activities were about the long term. These things would contribute to my salvation or the salvation of others. Going to heaven is a big deal, so these activities were all important. That made me really happy. I didn’t really know what I was looking for when I started focusing on the Catholic faith, but I found it. I was looking for purpose in my life.

Being Catholic means being part of something bigger than myself. This purpose drives all of my actions. I do have free time, where I just do what I want, but a lot of times I am thinking about how I can help myself or others get to heaven. I realize my actions can have a huge impact, mostly on myself but also on the few other people I am able to interact with during my life. I can’t be Jesus and help everyone, but I can help just a few people. All of my actions contribute to Jesus’ overall mission of saving souls.

Being Catholic means being part of a family. At the local level, I have my parish family that continually prays for all the needs in our community. At the national level, I have the U.S. clergy that are all working towards improving the sanctity of the country. At the global level, I have the Church in Rome directing the world towards holiness. Finally, there is the Communion of Saints at the spiritual level that encompasses everything. All of God’s children have a unique connection to each other, especially during prayer. I have all these people pulling for me to get to heaven. I am never alone. In addition, I always have a good friend to talk to in God.

Being Catholic means losing a lot of worries. I don’t have to wonder what I should be doing. I still have free will to decide how I will seek holiness for myself or others, but I always know right from wrong. I know what will lead me to holiness and what will hold me back. The faith allows me to ignore many useless short term things and focus on the things that have meaning in the long run. I don’t have to worry about death because I believe in eternal life. Just as a child goes through puberty to become mature, a person must go through death to go to heaven. I don’t have to worry too much about the future. I only have to make sure I am doing good in the present. The future will work itself out.

Being Catholic means understanding what true love is. It’s not about what I am getting out of the situation. It’s what I can do for others. I might not get anything in return during this life, but it will all be rewarded in heaven. God will give me something for my good actions. True love is sacrifice. That doesn’t mean I have to kill myself to help others, but I do need to be regularly expending energy for others in some way. It means always being able to love others even in the worst of times.

Being Catholic also means having high standards. The way of Jesus is very hard. I can’t just go through life doing whatever I want. I constantly work to avoid sin. Until I die I will never be able to truly rest. There are times when avoiding sin is easy, which can function as a time of rest, but avoiding sin is mostly a constant battle. In addition to avoiding sin, I also have to find opportunities to serve others. I can’t just keep to myself. I have to give back in some way. I push myself as much as I can with these things. Sometimes I work too hard on these things and have to force myself take breaks. This always reminds me of my human weakness, which I look forward to overcoming when I am purified in purgatory.

Despite how hard it is being Catholic, I absolutely love the faith. In good times and bad, it always keeps me going. I might not know exactly what God wants me to be doing, but I know what actions are good. I know the possible choices. Life is a lot easier without the pressure to make all these decisions alone. God and the Church are there helping me. Some days I’m more interested in the faith than others, but I never get truly bored. A lot of times I will be having a lot of fun with some entertainment, but it eventually ends. I become bored with it. That doesn’t happen with the faith. There is always something meaningful to do related to my Catholic faith.

No matter how secular the world becomes, I will never leave the faith. I love it too much. As long as I live, I will be doing my best to become a saint and help the people around me to do the same. Some of those efforts will be through this website, and some will be in other areas of my life, but I will always be participating in Jesus’ mission to save souls.

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,