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The Joy of the Family

“The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.”  That is the beginning and the heart of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the joy of love.

Amoris Laetitia reflects the results of recent synods on the family as well as other writings of Pope Francis and his predecessors.  It speaks of the gifts and joys of families but, also, acknowledges the contemporary challenges which they face.

The pope emphasizes the importance of marriage and family life, writing, “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and the Church.”  The family, thus,  is a source of strength for the Church, just as the Church is a source of strength for families.

To celebrate, promote, protect and strengthen marriage and families in our world, the Diocese of Portland has launched the Joy of the Family initiative. A specific theme featured in Amoris Laetitia will be highlighted each month and will include opening and closing prayers, a reading, a passage from Amoris Laetitia, a "contemplate and share" section, intercessions, weekly suggestions for practical activities, and a reflection from an individual or individuals who possess a special personal connection to the monthly theme. You will find this month's reflection below.

It is hoped developing these themes will help the faithful understand the teachings in Amoris Laetitia and inspire us all to integrate these teachings in our daily lives.  


NOVEMBER 2017 - JOY OF LOSS

OPENING PRAYER

Lord, source of all comfort,
     You are close to those who are broken-hearted,
     facing times of sadness and loss in their lives.

Help them to know Your presence in their time of need;
     touch them with your unfailing love and support;
     flood them with Your peace and hope;
     guide them to your grace and mercy.

Give me a heart that is sensitive
     to those who are grieving,

The wisdom to know when to speak words of comfort
     or when to offer a silent prayer.

Help me to be a channel of encouragement and hope,
     through whom your healing peace will flow.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

READINGS

John 11:3-5,11-14,17,20-26     

So the sisters sent word to him, saying, ‘Master, the one you love is ill.’  When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘this illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. … He said this, and then told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.’ So the disciples said to him, ‘Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.’ But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.  So then Jesus said to them clearly, ‘Lazarus has died. …’  When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  … When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.  Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.’  Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”  

AMORIS LAETITIA

“To turn our backs on a grieving family would show a lack of mercy.” (n. 253)

Respect needs to be shown especially for the sufferings of those who have unjustly endured separation, divorce or abandonment, or those who have been forced by maltreatment from a husband or a wife to interrupt their life together. …  Family breakdown becomes even more traumatic and painful in the case of the poor, since they have far fewer resources at hand for starting a new life. (n. 242.)

At times, family life is challenged by the death of a loved one.  (n. 253)

It consoles us to know that those who die do not completely pass away, and faith assures us that the risen Lord will never abandon us. (n. 256)

CONTEMPLATE & SHARE

  How can I reach out to someone who has lost a loved one through death or abandonment and bring them hope?

  Think of an occasion when my family can invite someone who is alone to spend time with us? 

  How can I (my parish) best accompany people during a separation or divorce?

  Name a time in my life when I have experienced the pain of loss.  Where did I find comfort? How can I share that comfort with others?

INTERCESSIONS

Solemnity of All Saints -  That the Church may continue to invoke prayerfully all the holy men and women of every age, confident in the power of their intercession before the throne of God, we pray to the Lord:

Commemoration of All Souls -  That all who mourn the loss of a loved one may be strengthened by the Church’s hope in Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life, we pray to the Lord:

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - That Christians may humbly recognize the hand of God’s fatherly care, even in the face of our everyday toils and troubles, we pray to the Lord:   

Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time - That Catholics who experience loss and grief may joyfully reflect the hope that comes from Jesus’ death and resurrection, we pray to the Lord:

Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time -  That we may live as missionary disciples who will receive our Master’s invitation to come and share in his joy for all eternity, we pray to the Lord:

Solemnity of Christ the King - That our death and final judgment may be embraced as graces to inherit the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world, we pray to the Lord:

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer for Those Suffering Loss

 Lord God,
you are attentive to the voice of our pleading.
Let us find in your Son
comfort in our sadness,
certainty in our doubt,
and courage to live through this hour.
Make our faith strong
through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Concluding Prayer for the Vigil of the Deceased
Order of Christian Funerals (1989, ICEL, Liturgy Training Publications)

JOY IN ACTION

Weekly suggestions for the faithful to consider

November 5: Pray for someone who is ill or in need of comfort.

November 12:  Contribute to a Thanksgiving food drive or volunteer at a community dinner.

November 19: As you gather for Thanksgiving, reflect upon and give thanks for the times that God has given you the strength to get through a difficult time.

November 25: Reach out to or visit someone you know who has suffered a loss.  Be ready to listen with a compassionate ear if they wish to talk.

REFLECTION

Joy of Loss
By: Carolyn Houston, Holy Spirit Parish, Wells

I was the busy mom of two young children when my husband announced that he no longer wanted to be married.  I had taken my marriage vows seriously and had depended on the grace of the sacrament of matrimony to get us through the rough patches.  Why hadn’t that grace worked?

Three, instead of four, of us continued to attend Mass.  Our family’s loss was not acknowledged.  I understood that people felt awkward and didn’t know what to say, but the deafening silence left me feeling avoided and isolated.  One Sunday after Mass, a duo of older church ladies pulled me aside and questioned the appropriateness of a divorced person receiving Communion.   As misinformed as I knew they were, the encounter stung, and I longed for kindness and understanding.

God’s mercy is so much deeper than our wounds.  God led me to a weekly Bible study, where I found empathy and comradery among the participants, and peace and clarity in the Word of God.  It was in studying sacred Scripture, and in exploring questions about vocation, that I was inspired to research the annulment process.

My research led me to a fuller understanding of sacramental marriage and made me question whether my own marriage had in fact been sacramental.  While supportive of my exploration of annulment, friends and family questioned how an annulment would affect my children’s legitimacy.  All were relieved to learn that an annulment concerns the sacramentality and not the legality of a marriage.

Sacramental marriage is the loving, living, growing union of two, with God as its source and center.  For an increasing number of people who are raised in markedly dysfunctional families, normal growth and maturity are often inhibited.  These individuals may have little understanding of what a healthy, life-giving love is.  One cannot promise something that they are not yet able to comprehend, so the consent required in a truly sacramental marriage may not be present.

I expected the annulment process to be painful but was surprised by the healing and self-revelation that I encountered along the way.  Completing the annulment testimony helped me to realize that I needed to grow and change, and it motivated me to begin those changes.  I recognized God’s hand in the blessings of children and other successes in our marriage but also realized that we had failed to make God the center of our union.  We had loved but not in the life-giving, sacramental way that God had intended for married couples.  God forgave me for my failures, and I felt called to forgive those of my ex-husband.

In his great mercy and love, God gave me another chance to experience sacramental love.  I am happily remarried and am blessed with the joy and grace of a sacramental marriage.  I pray for those who are on similar journeys.  I hope that their faith communities can acknowledge their loss, while also providing encouragement and guidance on how to heal, mature spiritually, and grow closer to our loving, merciful Father.