On a trip to MercyHurst University in PA for a Dance festival for pre-professional dancers I was able to get some reading time and prayer time in on the beautiful campus in different nooks and crannies on the campus, mostly unobserved and left alone. The Joy of Love On Love in the Family tackles a broad range of difficult Catholic teachings (Secular society, Abortion, Marriage, Sexuality and Gender, Euthanasia, Racism, Social Inequality, and other challenges of our day) and lays out the Catholic position in its most idealistic form in a manner that simultaneously defends the doctrines of faith while also embracing the humility, compassion, and mercy that are evident in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Chapel off to side of main church
“There is not family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally wound its own communion: hence there arise the many forms of division in the family life.” Pg. 84.
“We have to realize that all of us are a complex mixture of light and shadows.” Pg. 87
How do we contend with the varied individual forces, societal forces, our own limitations and dare I say “Devil’s” influence?
The Blessing statue
Faith and prayer, Trust in the trinity of Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit, and The Father. The first two are within us and the latter three are things we may seek and things we may be open to receive. That blend of seeking and being open to receiving is a simple conundrum. Catholic teaching is clear that God is there all the time – all we need to do is open our eyes and our hearts.
It is not that easy to do for some of us or perhaps most of us.
Pope Francis delves into detail on the vital importance of Love in the family, Love in the community, and in the Church.
He does so with the full expectation that we will all fall short in many areas of spiritual ascendency. He teaches on resiliency, on forgiveness, on support, on pastoral caring, on mercy.
We should embrace “even those who have made shipwreck of their lives.” Pg. 148. “Let us not forget that the church’s task is often like that of a field hospital.” Pg. 219. How depressing! And, am I on the gurney or helping carry one? Probably both.
The importance of self-reflection and discernment are discussed. The latter in detail on page 229. Perhaps some time with Mary will help?
Grotto at Student Union
We can be quick to judge when we get a taste of our own spirituality or an ounce of spiritual blessing. Very rapidly this can be turned against us as we encounter moral outrage at perceived ungodliness or evil of the “other.” There is no other. In everyone there is somewhere the face of Jesus Christ. That is not to say evil does not exist – it does – but people are not black and white. “The imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.” Pg. 230. How is that for taking every situation into context when contrasting people’s actions with the ideal to the context of their everyday lives? Pope Francis clear to not change dogma for relativism, but he is equally clear to use pastoral wisdom, judgement, and mercy when encountering the less than ideal.
Pope Francis returns to the theme of social love (pg. 252) and all its meaning in our interactions within the family and outside the family and the symbolic and literal relationship to the blessed trinity.
If you can pass this on to others – and they can hear you – and join Christ – you have Kerygma. “It is not great knowledge, but rather the ability to feel and relish things interiorly that contents and satisfies the soul.” Pg. 157.
However, our end goal is not satisfaction or renunciation of satisfaction. Our end goal is being closer to God. We may not understand our dissatisfaction or challenges. We may doubt our ability to meet them. Yet we cannot be passive. We cannot be silent. We most strive while always taking time to reflect – is this striving the path that God has intended – and ask – in prayer – is this the way?
Thursday, Friday and Saturday I enjoyed an abundance of food, of performed dances (27 performances), and countless youth being youth – laughing, striving, performing. We drove over 600 miles including a pretty massive storm. We arrived at our destinations safely to and fro and everyone to my knowledge experienced personal success and growth.
The dances were imbued with artistry and passion. Infused with life. And with mystery. We did not speak about God or religion. That does not mean the Trinity was not present. What a gift I have had this weekend.