This responsibility you have all given me (I could never call it just a job, since it means so much to me and to my family) fills my heart and soul every day when I wake up with purpose to help our church and our community grow in love and joy. There have been several moments during my past two years here at St. John that have made me pause and recognize how truly blessed we are as a Parish Family. One of those moments occurred before I started working at St. John, as the facilitator for our parish’s response to Bishop Dewane’s request for comments on the first Synod on the Family, back in 2014. It was so heartening to hear various opinions from the spectrum of our parish, young and experienced, all with respect and care for each other. Another was the opportunity as the only parish from our Diocese to send a formal group to the World Meeting of Families last September, continuing that dialog on the challenges of how the church should support and engage families around the world. We learned more about the field hospital that is the Catholic Church in those discussions, whose role in the world is to welcome (with a smiling face), care for, and heal.
Through these moments, we have all been looking towards Our Holy Father, who sets the tone and tenor for the Catholic Church. After both Synods of the Bishops and the World Meeting of Families, he has released his plans for our Church on Earth. “Amoris Laetitia”, or “The Joy of Love”, is a clear direction on how we should approach supporting family life in the Church. Even more, this Exhortation illustrates Pope Francis’ pastoral vision to remove judgment and the imposition of rules without considering the struggles of those most in need of God’s mercy and acceptance. This is not a short document, coming in at over 250 pages (although to be fair, the Vatican likes to use big fonts and small page sizes). I have made it available for free from our website, and we will be purchasing paper copies for our church once they are available. I urge every single member of our Parish Family to read this document for themselves. Some people have told me “It changes nothing, but changes everything”. A few sections I think are especially important:
- When a loving person can do good for others, or sees that others are happy, they themselves live happily and in this way give glory to God, for “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). Our Lord especially appreciates those who find joy in the happiness of others.
- The main contribution to the pastoral care of families is offered by the parish, which is the family of families, where small communities, ecclesial movements and associations live in harmony.
- It is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” mercy. No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.
We will be having a discussion on the pilgrimage for the World Meeting of Families in July or August, so we are looking forward to continuing this dialog, and I am very excited about the future of St. John and making more moments together that will enliven us all.
Additionally, we will have a Book Study beginning at Saint John on The Joy of Love. Please download the study guide questions if you are interested in signing up and contact the office for the specific days and times for you to participate in our Book Study.