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If you’re wondering what to do with your life after Easter, Pope Francis has a suggestion for you. You can read his new apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), on Love in the Family.”

At 60,000 words and over 250 pages, it should keep people busy for a long, long time – especially if they have to sneak time for it into busy days packed with work and child care responsibilities. (A PDF download is available free here; various paperback editions are also available.)

The new document, released at the Vatican April 8, is Pope Francis’ reflections on family and church issues in the wake of synods held in 2014 and 2015.

  • In October 2014 there was an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on topics related to the family and evangelization; and,
  • In October 2015 there was an Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2015, on the same topics.

Pope Francis’ new document addresses the issues of how to build more loving families and how the church can and should mercifully help families in whatever conditions they are found.

Simple gestures

Catholic News Service reported that the document “not only addresses major themes discussed during the 2014 and 2015 meetings of the Synod of Bishops, but also delves deeper into the church’s teachings on true love and the family.

It also highlights the importance of sexuality and passion as a manifestation of true love as a gift. Sex, Pope Francis said, should not be seen as just ‘a source of fruitfulness and procreation’ or ‘a burden to be tolerated.’”

Pope Francis suggested that couples can strengthen their relationships with simple gestures such as a kind look, a morning kiss, or family prayers.

Such little gestures, he said, can help people avoid focusing only on their marriage partner’s shortcomings.

He also pointed to St. Paul’s description of true love in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 – which is ideal for busy people because it is only 13 verses long.

Loving outreach

“No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love,” the pope said, urging the church to make special efforts to reach out and embrace families, especially those in “irregular” situations.

At the same time, he insisted that God’s plan for families called for them to be lifelong unions of one man and one woman who are both open to having children.

Helpful summary

The Jesuit Catholic magazine America said Pope Francis “asks the church to meet people where they are, to consider the complexities of people’s lives and to respect people’s consciences when it comes to moral decisions ... But it is also the pope’s reminder that the church should avoid simply judging people and imposing rules on them without considering their struggles.” 

America also offered a short, helpful summary of the document called Top Ten Takeaways from Amoris Laetitia.

 

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