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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.  


JULY 2017 REFLECTION - THE JOY OF UNITY & COMMITMENT

OPENING PRAYER

God of tenderness and love,
You created man and woman for each other so that, through marriage,
               they may grow in a life of grace.
We thank you for the gift of this relationship,
               where we strive to give ourselves in love to each other.
Guide us as we create a home where love, care, and growth in faith
               flourish among all family members so that we may reflect your love
               to each other and to the world.
Show us the way to be true to our word and promises.
Fill our hearts with hope as we face the future with trust in your grace.

We ask this in your holy name, Amen.

READINGS

Isaiah 43:1-4

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.  When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.  When you walk through fire you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in return for you.  Because you are precious in my eyes and glorious, and because I love you.

AMORIS LAETITIA

“In the family, we learn how to live as one." N.194

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.’  (n. 321)

Sexual union, lovingly experienced and sanctified by the sacrament, is in turn a path of growth in the life of grace for the couple.  It is the ‘nuptial mystery.’ The meaning and value of their physical union is expressed in the words of consent, in which they accepted and offered themselves each to the other, in order to share their lives completely.  Those words give meaning to the sexual relationship and free it from ambiguity.  More generally, the common life of husband and wife, the entire network of relations that they build with their children and the world around them, will be steeped in and strengthened by the grace of the sacrament.  For the sacrament of marriage flows from the incarnation and the paschal mystery, whereby God showed the fullness of his love for humanity by becoming one with us.  (n. 74)

Marriage is firstly an ‘intimate partnership of life and love’ which is a good for the spouses themselves, while sexuality is ‘ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman.’ (n. 80)

CONTEMPLATE & SHARE

  What qualities do couples I admire share in their witness of their love?

Recall a life experience that affirms this thought:  “It is in giving that we receive."  

Do I consider married life and family life as sharing in the life and love of God?   What are some ways my family can put this into practice?

•  How do you find a balance between time with your spouse and family and other daily demands?

INTERCESSIONS

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - May little ones, especially the poor and the stranger, be offered hospitality in our families and homes, we pray to the Lord…

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - May families welcome the Spirit of Christ to dwell in their hearts and homes so that every yoke will be easy and every burden light, we pray to the Lord…

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - May every person strive to be children of the kingdom by building up their family and the family of the Church, we pray to the Lord…

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time - May every member of our families recognize their God-given dignity and worth, we pray to the Lord…

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time -

May all family members strive to have a heart, like Solomon, that is wise and understanding, knowing right from wrong, we pray to the Lord…

CLOSING PRAYER

A Prayer for Family Commitment (USCCB)

Dear God our Father, you have called all
Christian families to be a sign of your love to the world.

Help us to be generous with the gifts of life
and love that you have showered on our family.

May we share them so that our homes become
true signs of unitive and fruitful love.

Let us never forget to thank you each day
for all that sustains us
and to look to Christ,
who comes to us in the events of family life,
in the sacraments of the Church,
and in service to the poor.

In all of this, our family becomes a living
expression of your Church, a hallowed home of
life and love. By the power of the Holy Spirit,
may all of us—spouses, parents, and children—
share, as members of his Body, in Jesus’ mission
to build a civilization of love.

Father, we ask this in Jesus’ name in union
with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

JOY IN ACTION

Weekly suggestions for the faithful to consider

July 2: Plan a family activity to celebrate Independence Day.

July 9: Pray for strength and guidance to love your spouse more, today and every day.

July 16:  Make an extra effort this week to support or affirm your spouse or a family member of friend.

July 23:  Go stargazing.

July 30:  Reflect upon and discuss what it is you are grateful for in your marriage or family life.

REFLECTION

Joy of Unity & Commitment
By: Theresa Bonner, Parish of the Precious Blood, Caribou

Theresa and John Bonner are celebrating their 23rd wedding anniversary on June 25.

Thinking about the reflection of the Joy of Unity and Commitment, my thoughts kept going to one strong and constant theme: the theme of giving of oneself completely to another, that is, completely in body and mind with no holding back.  Our intimate union in the sacrament of marriage “flows from the incarnation and paschal mystery, whereby God showed the fullness of his love for humanity by becoming one with us” (AL 74).

This is no easy task.  It can be a challenge, one given to us by the Holy Spirit.  In a society where we constantly hear that it is okay to do what is good for you, rather than do what is good for us, our marriage and our family can be a challenge.  It is a challenge that we as a couple are ready to combat.

The Joy of Unity and Commitment covers so much in the journey of our Catholic faith.  Giving ourselves is for the greater good of our faith.  We do for our partner as we know it will be for the good of our marriage and family life.

The unconditional love we receive from God is what we provide in our commitment to one another.  We take value in the sacredness of who we are in each other. The ability to provide support, love (both physical and emotional) and commitment for each other and our children is part of the lifelong process of the Joy of Unity and Commitment.

Marriage is not just the wedding event, but it is a commitment of ourselves to one another. A union of man and woman as one entity.  What God has joined no man can separate.  We become one with each other and with the Holy Spirit. Like all aspects of our faith, our marriage is a journey in which we seek to understand God’s plan for us and one another.