Thursday, May 26, 2016

Family as Domestic Church and Vital Cell of Society

Cf. Wikimedia Commons--Steve Polyak
Pope Francis

Amoris Laetitia #’s 321-325

Christian couples are, for each other, for their children and for their relatives, cooperators of grace and witnesses of the faith.  God calls them to bestow life and to care for life.  For this reason the family has always been the nearest “hospital.”  So let us care for one another, guide and encourage one another, and experience this as a part of our family spirituality.  Life as a couple is a daily sharing in God’s creative work, and each person is for the other a constant challenge from the Holy Spirit.  God’s love is proclaimed through the living and concrete word whereby a man and the woman express their conjugal love.  The two are thus mutual reflections of that divine love which comforts with a word, a look, a helping hand, a caress, an embrace.  For this reason to want to form a family is to resolve to be a part of God’s dream, to choose to dream with him, to want to build with him, to join him in this saga of building a world where no one will feel alone.

All family life is a shepherding in mercy.  Each of us, by our love and care, leaves a mark on the life of others…  Each of us is a fisher of men who in Jesus’ name casts the nets to others, or a farmer who tills the fresh soil of those whom he or she loves, seeking to bring out the best in them.  Marital fruitfulness involves helping others, for to love anybody is to expect from him something which can neither be defined nor foreseen; it is at the same time in some way to make it possible for him to fulfill this expectation.  This is itself a way to worship God, who has sown so much good in others in the hope that we will help make it grow.

It is a profound spiritual experience to contemplate our loved ones with the eyes of God and to see Christ in them.  This demands a freedom and openness which enable us to appreciate their dignity.  We can be fully present to others only by giving fully to ourselves and forgetting all else.  Our loved ones merit our complete attention.  Jesus is our model in this, for whenever people approached to speak with him, he would meet their gaze, directly and lovingly.  No one felt overlooked in his presence, since his words and gestures conveyed the question:  “What do you want me to do for you?”  This is what we experience in the daily life of the family.  We are constantly reminded that each of those who live with us merits attention, since he or she possesses infinite dignity as an object of the Father’s immense love.  This gives rise to a tenderness which can “stir in the other the joy of having loved.  Tenderness is expressed in a particular way by exercising loving care in treating the limitations of the other, especially when they are evident. 

Led by the Spirit, the family circle is not only open to life by generating it within itself, but also by going forth and spreading life by caring for others and seeking happiness.  This openness finds particular expression in hospitality, which the word of God eloquently encourages:  “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  When a family is welcoming and reaching out to others, especially the poor and the neglected, it is a “symbol, witness and participant in the Church’s motherhood.”  Social love, as a reflection of the Trinity, is what truly unifies the spiritual meaning of the family and its mission to others, for it makes present the kerygma in all its communal imperatives.  The family lives its spirituality precisely by being at one and the same time a domestic church and a vital cell for transforming the world.

The teaching of Christ and Saint Paul on marriage is set in the context of the ultimate and definitive dimension of our human existence.  We urgently need to rediscover the richness of this teaching.  By heeding it, married couples will come to see the deeper meaning of their journey through life.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Transgenderism, Civil Rights, and Ideology

Fr. John Pasquini, Th.D.

The Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch argued that the North Carolina “bathroom law” was a violation of the civil rights of transgender persons. The question:  In making such a statement did the Attorney General know the implications to her words?   

It is one thing to say that no one should be discriminated against on the bases of his or her orientation; it is quite another to declare that a transgender person is a “male” or “female” simply by assertion or self-identification.  It is also naïve of human nature to think that such people will not be differentiated from their male or female counterparts.

To think that a transgender person in a male shower room will not be harassed is to deny human nature.  To deny a transgender person in a female shower room will not be ostracized, ridiculed, and shunned is likewise to deny human nature.  Any person who has ever taught school, at any level, can recognize the absurdity of such an ideological agenda.  Our schools are already plagued with the harassment of “straight” persons in “straight” environments.  If “straight” boys are being given “swirlies” in school bathrooms, it is naïve to think that transgendered persons will not be harassed.

Ideological agendas detached from human nature have always been naïve and tragic. 

The further question:  Is there any limit to the transgender person’s self-identification? 

How could we deny a genetically male, transgender “female” person of his/her civil right to be part of a female soccer team, or any other female team?  How could we deny such a person the right to play female tennis, running, figure skating, etc.?  How could we deny a genetically male, transgender “female” his/her civil right to be part of the Olympics—as a “female athlete?”  To deny such people from participating in such activities would be a violation of their civil rights!

When we throw out the term “civil rights,” we should be clear of the implications. 

In pursuit of ideological agendas—secular agendas, which are too often detached from the reality of human nature—we often find ourselves standing in a pile of absurdity.  

Transgender persons are transgender persons and should be treated with dignity and respect according to their self-designation.  All forms of discrimination should be fought against, according to their self-designation as transgender persons, not as traditional male or females.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Joy and Beauty of Authentic Love

Pope Francis

Excerpts from Amoris Laetitia, #s 126-130

In marriage, the joy of love needs to be cultivated…  Marital joy can be experienced even amid sorrow; it involves accepting that marriage is an inevitable mixture of enjoyment and struggles, tensions and repose, pain and relief, satisfactions and longings, annoyances and pleasures, but always on the path of [charity], which inspires married couples to care for one another…  Loving another person involves the joy of contemplating and appreciating their innate beauty and sacredness, which is greater than my needs.

The aesthetic experience of love is expressed in that “gaze” which contemplates other persons as ends in themselves, even if they are infirm, elderly or physically unattractive…   Love opens our eyes and enables us to see, beyond all else, the great worth of a human being…

[Joy grows] through pain and sorrow…  After suffering and struggling together, spouses are able to experience that it was worth it, because they achieved some good, learned something as a couple, or came to appreciate what they have.  Few human joys are as deep and thrilling as those experienced by two people who love one another and have achieved something as the result of a great shared effort.

[Married love is marked by joy and beauty.]

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Political Correctness, the LBGT Community, and False Compassion

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Political correctness often denies truth out of a false sense of compassion.  Compassion that is not based on truth is not compassion at all.  In fact, it is in the long run, cruelty.  It is like a mother who fails to confront her son’s sexually promiscuous lifestyle.  She may be doing so in the name of love or acceptance or in the name of ‘not judging.’  The reality, however, is that what she is displaying is ‘false love.’ This unconditional acceptance or ‘not judging’ is not love but cruelty, for promiscuous lifestyles ultimately lead to psychological and often physical tragedies.  In the “name of love” great harm often comes to fruition!

Today it is politically correct to accept the LBGT, the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender lifestyles as normal and healthy for individuals and cultures.  Studies to this date do not support this false belief. 

Perhaps we are still discriminating against the LBGT community? History has shown that what is contrary to the natural order of “things” is always unhealthy psychologically and physically.  We often forget that pagan cultures like Greece and Rome accepted all forms of lifestyles, even some that would still be shocking to today’s peoples.  With time, pagans realized that such lifestyles were destructive, unhealthy, and a sure path to disappointment and unhappiness.  Christianity and Islam flourished and vanquished paganism in part and in response to pagan lifestyles. History, perhaps prickly, is very clear on this issue.

The new neo-paganism of the West has not caught up with the paganism of the past; that is, in recognizing paganism’s inadequacies in building healthy cultures.  So what are we to do now in the 21st century?   So how are we to respond to the LBGT community in today’s politically correct society?    

  • First, all people are to be treated with respect and dignity.  A human person’s dignity must never be compromised!
  • Second, we must employ what is often referred to as a “philosophy of accompaniment.”  That is, we are to make clear that we believe that certain lifestyles are unhealthy.  We are to make clear that we will not abandon people and that we will be there when the “crash” comes, for it inevitably always does. 
  • Finally, we must encourage study and research into the causes of these alternative lifestyles.  We must seek to overcome political correctness and look for cures for LBGT orientations.  Whether we are dealing with psychosexual development, hormone imbalances, genetic abnormalities, or a combination of all, we should be seeking cures.  Political correctness has made this area of research taboo!  Given the current studies, finding a cure for LBGT orientations would be better for the gene pool, the process of evolution, and for the individuals themselves. 
Political correctness often denies truth out of a false sense of compassion.  Compassion that is not based on truth is not compassion at all.  In fact, it is in the long run, cruelty.  Let us overcome the tremendous pull of political correctness, and be more concerned with true love and charity.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Francis: Marriage and Lifelong Sharing

Pope Francis

Cf. Amoris Laetitia (123-125 in Summary)

After the love that unites us to God, conjugal love is the ‘greatest form of friendship.’  It is a union possessing all the traits of a good friendship: concern for the good of the other, reciprocity, intimacy, warmth, stability and the resemblance born of a shared life.  Marriage joins to all this an indissoluble exclusivity expressed in the stable commitment to share and shape together the whole of life….

Marriage is likewise a friendship marked by passion, but a passion always directed to an ever more stable and intense union.  This is because ‘marriage was not instituted solely for the procreation of children” but [it was also instituted so] that mutual love ‘might be properly expressed, that it should grow and mature.’ Precisely [for this reason] this union is exclusive, faithful and open to new life [for love by its very nature is life-giving].  [Conjugal love is unitive and procreative by nature].

A love that is weak or infirm, incapable of accepting marriage as a challenge to be taken up and fought for, reborn, renewed and reinvented until death, cannot sustain a great commitment.  It will succumb to the culture of the ephemeral…. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Pope Francis on Love in Marriage

Cf. images
 Summarized by Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Amoris Laetitia (89-164)

Saint Paul describes love in the following manner (1 Cor. 13:4-7): 
“Love is patient, love is kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at what is wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Love is patient
To be patient is to be slow to anger, to be merciful and forgiving, and to avoid giving offense by acting on selfish impulses:  “Unless we cultivate patience, we will always find excuses for responding angrily.  We will end up incapable of living together, antisocial, unable to control our impulses, and our families will become battlegrounds.” 

Love is at the service of others
Love, by its nature, is directed toward the other.  It seeks to do good, to provide assistance.  “It thus shows its fruitfulness and allows us to experience the happiness of giving, the nobility and grandeur of spending ourselves unstintingly, without asking to be repaid, purely for the pleasure of giving and serving.”

Love is not jealous
Love makes us rise above ourselves, our selfish interests, our envy at the fortune of others.  Love values and rejoices in the other’s blessings.  Love recognizes that God has a plan for each individual.  Love seeks to complement a couple along the road to salvation and happiness through the joy of self-giving and the joy that comes in the success and blessings of the other.

Love is not boastful
Love is not vain, haughty, nitpicky or pushy.  Love is not focused on the self but on the other.  Love is not self-centered but other-centered.  Love understands, shows concerns and embraces the other in their strengths and weaknesses.   Love begins with humility, self-knowledge, and the knowledge of knowing who we truly are— as seen by God.  By being humble, by knowing oneself as one truly is, then one can love authentically.

Love is not rude
Love is gentle, thoughtful, sensitive, restrained, and thus marked with trust and respect.  It seeks to listen in prudence, to speak with prudence, and at times to remain prudently silent.  Love seeks to comfort, console, strengthen, and encourage.  It seeks to build bonds and relationships. 

Love is generous
Love is generous for it does not seek its own interest nor seek what is its own.  To love generously is to recognize that loving the self is not the goal of love but the prerequisite for loving others.  Generous love seeks to love rather than being loved.  Such love expects nothing in return and is always willing to sacrifice, even to the point of “laying down one’s life for another.” 

Love is not irritable or resentful
Love is not indignant and not overcome by evil.  It is a call to peace, a call to heal anger with a blessing.

Love forgives
Love overcomes resentment through forgiveness.  It seeks to understand weakness rather than condemn it:  “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34).  It seeks understanding, forbearance, openness, sacrifice, communion and reconciliation.  Love overcomes selfishness, discord, tension, and all forms of conflict. 

Love rejoices with others
Love rejoices in the good fortune and happiness of the other.  It does not see the other as a competitor or someone to be compared with.  Rejoicing in others means that one is a cheerful giver, one who is more interested in giving than receiving.

Love bears all things
Love bears whatever might threaten it.  One seeks to “hold one’s peace,” limiting judgment and ruthless condemnation.  Love cherishes the good name of others.  Love focuses on the name of others.  Love focuses on the good of others rather than on the weaknesses and faults of others.  Love expects in the other that which is reasonable and attainable, not what is perfect.

Love believes all things
Love is about trust, the kind of trust that fosters the kind of freedom that makes love possible:  “Love trusts, its sets free, it does not try to control, pressure or dominate.”  Such love makes people flourish as “themselves.”

Love hopes all things
Love recognizes that change, maturation and untold potentialities are part of the beauty of life and love.  Such recognition embraces the fullness of life and authentic relationships.

Love endures all things
Life is full of trials.  Love is marked by an attitude that bears such trials and tribulations in a positive manner.  Love endures every challenge, never gives up, does not yield to resentment, neither scorns nor takes advantage of others.  It endorses an irrepressible commitment to goodness.  Love is heroic.

“Love is patient, love is kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at what is wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Cutting the Chain of Hate: A Lesson for Our Modern World

Rev. Martin Luther King

The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it.  And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls ‘the image of God’, you begin to love him in spite of everything.  No matter what he does, you see God’s image there.  There is an element of goodness that he can never sluff off…   Another way that you love your enemy is this: when the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it…  When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system…  Hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe.  If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and so on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum.  It just never ends.  Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person.  The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil…Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.

Cf. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, 17 November 1957.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Never Ending Hope

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

A professor of philosophy asked his students to debate an issue.  The professor stated:  “What would you do given the following situation?” 

There was a man who was born into a poor family where his distant alcoholic father would beat him on a nightly basis.  He lived in a hostile and abusive home environment.

In adulthood, he suffered from bouts of depression, irritability, and various mental and panic disorders. He suffered from bouts of chronic abdominal pain and colic, diarrhea, nausea, thoracic gout, plumbism, poor digestion, rheumaticism, deafness, alcoholicism and possibly syphilis. 

He was a complete failure in love and in his relationships.

“Given what you know,” the professor stated, “would it have been better for this person to never have been born?” 

The overwhelming answer came back, “Yes. No one should be asked to live such a life,” the students answered.

The professor stared at the students and quietly responded:  “You have just killed Beethoven!”

The class was silenced.

How many Beethoven’s have we killed? How many Pius Xs, John Paul IIs, Martin Luther Kings, Gandhis, Mother Teresas of Calcutta, George Washingtons, Abraham Lincolns, Michelangelos, Raphaels, Shakespeares, Dantes, and so forth, have been aborted? How many religious leaders, presidents, world leaders, discoverers, scientists, doctors, teachers have been aborted? 

Would there still be cancer in the world?  Would there still be heart disease?  What about diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, depression, pneumonia, influenza, cerebral palsy, hepatitis, HIV, AIDS, kidney and liver decease? Have we killed the person or persons who would have cured these diseases?