The Joy of Love in the Family

Two years in the making, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on love in the family was published today. The Holy Father says in paragraph 5 that this document is an “invitation to Christian families to value the gifts of marriage and the family, and to persevere in a love strengthened by the virtues of generosity, commitment, fidelity and patience.”

Pope Francis discourages a rushed reading of the text. Just looking at an outline of the structure, no doubt the Holy Father has given us all, regardless of our state in life (married, single, consecrated religious) an opportunity to expand our hearts and grow in love right where we are. To that I would add, not only should we not rush, we should revisit, that is, re-read not only the paragraphs that speak to our hearts, but also endeavor to struggle with the ideas that challenge us.

Most importantly, though, I believe, is, before we approach the text, to drop our demands and preconceived notions. If you go with the mass media version of things, there are the “ultra-conservative” demands that the Holy Father uphold Church teaching in an explicit way, or the “liberal” demands that the Church change and the Holy Father implement that change from the top down. Both of these approaches must be dropped if we are to hear the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit tapping on the door of our soul. Jesus is always ready, if we are willing, to say to us, just as he said to the chief tax collector: “I must come and dine with you at your house tonight!” When you read this text, let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

Outline of Amoris Laetitia: On Love in the Family

Chapter 1: In the Light of the World

  • You and your wife
  • Your children are as the shoots of an olive tree
  • A path of suffering and blood
  • The work of your hands
  • The tenderness of an embrace

Chapter 2: The Experiences and Challenges of Families

  • The current reality of the family
  • Some challenges

Chapter 3: Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family

  • Jesus restores and fulfils God’s plan
  • The family in the documents of the Church
  • The sacrament of matrimony
  • Seeds of the Word and imperfect situations
  • The transmission of life and the rearing of children
  • The family and the Church

Chapter 4: Love in Marriage

  • Our daily love
  • Love is patient
  • Love is at the service of others
  • Love is not jealous
  • Love is not boastful
  • Love is not rude
  • Love is generous
  • Love is not irritable or resentful
  • Love forgives
  • Love rejoices with others
  • Love bears all things
  • Love believes all things
  • Love hopes all things
  • Love endures all things
  • Growing in conjugal love
  • Lifelong sharing
  • Joy and beauty
  • Marrying for love
  • A love that reveals itself and increases
  • Dialogue
  • Passionate love
  • The world of emotions
  • God loves the joy of his children
  • The erotic dimension of love
  • Violence and manipulation
  • Marriage and virginity
  • The transformation of love

Chapter 5: Love Made Fruitful

  • “Love always gives life.”
  • Welcoming a new life
  • Love and pregnancy
  • The love of a mother and a father
  • An expanding fruitfulness
  • Discerning the body
  • Life in the wider family
  • Being sons and daughters
  • The elderly
  • Being brothers and sisters
  • A big heart

Chapter 6: Some pastoral perspectives

  • Proclaiming the Gospel of the family today
  • Preparing engaged couples for marriage
  • The preparation of the celebration
  • Accompanying the first years of married life
  • Some resources
  • Casting light on crises, worries, and difficulties
  • The challenge of crises
  • Old wounds
  • Accompaniment after breakdown and divorce
  • Certain complex situations
  • When death makes us feel its sting

Chapter 7: Towards a Better Education of Children

  • Where are our children?
  • The ethical formation of children
  • The value of correction as incentive
  • Patient realism
  • Family life as an educational setting
  • The need for sex education
  • Passing on the faith

Chapter 8: Accompanying, Discerning, and Integrating Weakness

  • Gradualness in pastoral care
  • The discernment of “irregular” situations
  • Mitigating factors in pastoral discernment
  • Rules and discernment
  • The logic of pastoral mercy

Chapter 9: The Spirituality of Marriage and the Family

  • A spirituality of supernatural communion
  • Gathered in prayer in the light of Easter
  • A spirituality of exclusive and free love
  • A spirituality of care, consolation, and incentive

Prayer of the Day: Prayer to the Holy Family

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendour of true love;
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again experience
violence, rejection and division;
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Graciously hear our prayer.


Question of the Day: What is an apostolic exhortation?

One of 11 categories of documents — authority, motu proprio, apostoloic constitution, encyclical, apostolic letter, common declaration, homily, audience, discourse, message — issued by the Pope. (Note that “interview with media during flight home” is not listed.) An apostolic exhortation is the type of document published to communicate a conclusion reached after consideration of the recommendations of a Synod of Bishops.


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