Message from Pope Francis on Family Life, Marriage and Raising Children

Message from Pope Francis on Family Life, Marriage and Raising Children
Posted on 08/18/2016
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Here are excerpts from Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation:  Amoris Laetitia or The Joy of Love:

The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church….

For all the many signs of crisis in the institution of marriage,

“the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant,

especially among young people, and this is an inspiration to the Church”.

As a response to that desire,

“the Christian proclamation on the family is good news indeed”.


The ability of human couples to beget life is the path

along which the history of salvation progresses.

Seen this way, the couple’s fruitful relationship becomes an image

for understanding and describing the mystery of God himself,

for in the Christian vision of the Trinity, God is contemplated

as Father, Son and Spirit of love. The triune God is a communion of love,

and the family is its living reflection. St. John Paul II shed light on this

when he said, “Our God in his deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family,

for he has within himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family,

which is love. That love, in the divine family, is the Holy Spirit”.

The family is thus not unrelated to God’s very being.

This Trinitarian dimension finds expression in the theology of Saint Paul,

who relates the couple to the “mystery” of the union of Christ and the Church.

(cf. Ephesians 5:21-33)

                                                                                                                                                                        (Chapter 1, par. 11)


Point for reflection: When have you most recently experienced the “Joy of Love”

                                   in your marriage, in your family life, in your spiritual life?



Continuing excerpts from Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation:  Amoris Laetitia

or The Joy of Love: Chapter Two: The Experiences and Challenges of Families

The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church.

Countless studies have been made of marriage and the family,

their current problems and challenges. It is true that there is no sense

in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things.

Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority.

What we need is a more responsible and generous effort

 to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family,

and in this way to help men and women better to respond

to the grace that God offers them.

We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times

 the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people

has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation.

We need a healthy dose of self-criticism…. We often present marriage

 in such a way that its unitive meaning, its call to grow in love

and its ideal of mutual assistance are overshadowed

by an almost exclusive insistence on the duty of procreation.

Nor have we always provided solid guidance to young married couples,

 understanding their timetables, their way of thinking and their concrete concerns.

At times we have also proposed a far too abstract and almost artificial

theological ideal of marriage, far removed from the concrete situations

and practical possibilities of real families.

This excessive idealization, especially when we have failed

to inspire trust in God’s grace,

has not helped to make marriage more desirable and attractive,

but quite the opposite.

We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal,

bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace,

we were providing sufficient support to families,

 strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life.

We find it difficult to present marriage more as a dynamic path

 to personal development and fulfilment than as a lifelong burden.

We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful,

who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations,

and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations.

We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them.

                                                                                                                                                                                    (Chapter 2, par. 31, 36-37)


Point for reflection: How do you understand Pope Francis’ reiteration of the “primacy of the individual conscience”?

                                          How has that Catholic principal played a role in your own faith and family life, especially in complex situations?



Continuing excerpts from Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation:  Amoris Laetitia

or The Joy of Love: Chapter Three - Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family

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.

Neither of the spouses will be alone in facing whatever challenges may come their way.

Both are called to respond to God’s gift

with commitment, creativity, perseverance and daily effort.

They can always invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit who consecrated their union,

so that his grace may be felt in every new situation that they encounter….


Seeing things with the eyes of Christ inspires the Church’s pastoral care

for the faithful who are living together, or are only married civilly,

or are divorced and remarried.

Following this divine pedagogy, the Church turns with love to those

who participate in her life in an imperfect manner:

she seeks the grace of conversion for them;

she encourages them to do good, to take loving care of each other

and to serve the community in which they live and work....


Therefore, while clearly stating the Church’s teaching,

pastors are to avoid judgments that do not take into account

the complexity of various situations, and they are to be attentive, by necessity,

to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition.”

 (Chapter 3, par. 74, 78, 79)


Point for reflection: Many people were raised with a “cautious” approach to sexuality – tinged with embarrassment, shame or guilt.  How does Pope Francis’ statement that sexual union… is a path of growth in the life of grace for the couple” reverse a negative approach to God’s gift of human sexuality? 



Continuing excerpts from Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation:  Amoris Laetitia

or The Joy of Love: Chapter Four – Love in Marriage

Married couples joined by love speak well of each other;

they try to show their spouse’s good side, not their weakness and faults.

In any event, they keep silent rather than speak ill of them.

This is not merely a way of acting in front of others;

it springs from an interior attitude.

Far from ingenuously claiming not to seethe problems and weaknesses of others,

it sees those weaknesses and faults in a wider context.

It recognizes that these failings are a part of a bigger picture.

We have to realize that all of us are a complex mixture of light and shadows.

The other person is much more than the sum of the little things that annoy me.

Love does not have to be perfect for us to value it.

The other person loves me as best they can, with all their limits,

But the fact that love is imperfect does not mean that it is untrue or unreal.

It is real, albeit limited and earthly. If I expect too much,

the other person will let me know, for he or she can neither play God

nor serve all my needs. Love coexists with imperfection.

It “bears all things” and can hold its peace before the limitations of the loved one.


The love of friendship unifies all aspects of marital life

and helps family members to grow constantly.

This love must be freely and generously expressed in words and acts.

In the family, “three words need to be used. I want to repeat this!

Three words: ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Sorry’. Three essential words!”

“In our families when we are not overbearing and ask: ‘May I?’

in our families when we are not selfish and can say: ‘Thank you!’

and in our families when someone realizes that he or she did something wrong

and is able to say ‘Sorry!’, our family experiences peace and joy.

Let us not be stingy about using these words, but keep repeating them,

day after day. For “certain silences are oppressive,

even at times within families, between husbands and wives,

between parents and children, among siblings.”

The right words, spoken at the right time, daily protect and nurture love.


(Chapter 4, par. 113, 133)


Point for reflection: Chapter 4 of Pope Francis’ Exhortation is a most beautiful meditation on St. Paul’s famous hymn to Love – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. Find the passage in your Bible and prayerfully read it over by yourself. Consider reading it as a family before a leisurely dinner and talk about it together. Let it make a difference for you and your family.   



Continuing excerpts from Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation:  Amoris Laetitia

or The Joy of Love: Chapter Four – Love in Marriage

Dialogue is essential for experiencing, expressing and fostering love in marriage

and family life. Yet it can only be the fruit of a long and demanding apprenticeship.

Men and women, young people and adults, communicate differently.

They speak different languages and they act in different ways.

Our way of asking and responding to questions, the tone we use, our timing

and any number of other factors condition how well we communicate.

We need to develop certain attitudes

that express love and encourage authentic dialogue.

Take time, quality time. This means being ready to listen patiently and attentively

to everything the other person wants to say.

It requires the self-discipline of not speaking until the time is right.

Instead of offering an opinion or advice,

we need to be sure that we have heard everything the other person has to say.

This means cultivating an interior silence that makes it possible

to listen to the other person without mental or emotional distractions.

Do not be rushed, put aside all of your own needs and worries,

and make space. Often the other spouse does not need a solution

to his or her problems, but simply to be heard, to feel that someone

has acknowledged their pain, their disappointment, their fear,

their anger, their hopes and their dreams.

How often we hear complaints like: “He does not listen to me.”

“Even when you seem to, you are really doing something else.”

“I talk to her and I feel like she can’t wait for me to finish.”

“When I speak to her, she tries to change the subject,

or she gives me curt responses to end the conversation”.

Develop the habit of giving real importance to the other person.

This means appreciating them and recognizing their right to exist,

to think as they do and to be happy.

Never downplay what they say or think,

even if you need to express your own point of view.

Everyone has something to contribute, because they have their life experiences,

they look at things from a different standpoint and they have their own concerns, abilities and insights.

We ought to be able to acknowledge the other person’s truth, the value of his or her deepest concerns,

and what it is that they are trying to communicate, however aggressively.

We have to put ourselves in their shoes and try to peer into their hearts,

to perceive their deepest concerns

and to take them as a point of departure for further dialogue.

(Chapter 4, par. 136-138)

Point for reflection: In light of Pope Francis’ advice, how do your family communication skills stack up? Room for improvement?


Continuing excerpts from Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation:  Amoris Laetitia

or The Joy of Love: Chapter Four – Love in Marriage

God himself created sexuality, which is a marvelous gift to his creatures.

If this gift needs to be cultivated and directed,

it is to prevent the “impoverishment of an authentic value”.

St. John Paul II rejected the claim that the Church’s teaching

is “a negation of the value of human sexuality”, or that the Church

simply tolerates sexuality “because it is necessary for procreation”.

Sexual desire is not something to be looked down upon,

and “and there can be no attempt whatsoever to call into question its necessity”.

In no way, then, can we consider the erotic dimension of love simply

as a permissible evil or a burden to be tolerated for the good of the family.

Rather, it must be seen as gift from God that enriches the relationship of the spouses.

As a passion sublimated by a love respectful of the dignity of the other,

it becomes a “pure, unadulterated affirmation” revealing the marvels

of which the human heart is capable. In this way, even momentarily,

we can feel that “life has turned out good and happy”


Longer life spans now mean that close and exclusive relationships must last for four,

five or even six decades; consequently, the initial decision has to be frequently renewed.

While one of the spouses may no longer experience an intense sexual desire

for the other, he or she may still experience the pleasure of mutual belonging

and the knowledge that neither of them is alone but has a “partner”

 with whom everything in life is shared.

He or she is a companion on life’s journey,

one with whom to face life’s difficulties and enjoy its pleasures.

This satisfaction is part of the affection proper to conjugal love.

There is no guarantee that we will feel the same way all through life.

Yet if a couple can come up with a shared and lasting life project,

they can love one another and live as one until death do them part,

enjoying an enriching intimacy. 
The love they pledge is greater than any emotion, feeling or state of mind,
although it may include all of these.

It is a deeper love, a lifelong decision of the heart.

Even amid unresolved conflicts and confused emotional situations,

they daily reaffirm their decision to love, to belong to one another,

to share their lives and to continue loving and forgiving.

Each progresses along the path of personal growth and development.

On this journey, love rejoices at every step and in every new stage.

 (Chapter 4, par. 150, 152, 163)

Point for reflection: Some Catholics were raised with an inadequate or even faulty understanding of human sexuality.

In some Catholic homes sex was a “taboo” topic and never discussed. How does Pope Francis’ reflection on sexuality
as a “marvelous gift” of God inform or even transform your understanding of the beauty of sexuality and sexual activity?


Continuing excerpts from Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation:  Amoris Laetitia

or The Joy of Love: Chapter Five – Love Made Fruitful

Pope John Paul II asked us to be attentive to the role of the elderly in our families,

because there are cultures which, “especially in the wake of disordered industrial

and urban development, have both in the past and in the present

set the elderly aside in unacceptable ways”.

The elderly help us to appreciate “the continuity of the generations”,

by their “charism of bridging the gap.”

Very often it is grandparents who ensure that the most important values

are passed down to their grandchildren, and “many people can testify

that they owe their initiation into the Christian life to their grandparents”.

Their words, their affection or simply their presence

help children to realize that history did not begin with them,

that they are now part of an age-old pilgrimage

and that they need to respect all that came before them.

Those who would break all ties with the past will surely find it difficult

to build stable relationships and to realize that reality is bigger than they are.

“Attention to the elderly makes the difference in a society.

Does a society show concern for the elderly? Does it make room for the elderly?

Such a society will move forward

if it respects the wisdom of the elderly”.

The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society.

A mentality that can only say, “Then was then, now is now,”

is ultimately immature. Knowing and judging past events is the only way

to build a meaningful future. Memory is necessary for growth:

Listening to the elderly tell their stories is good for children

and young people; it makes them feel connected

to the living history of their families, their neighborhoods and their country.

A family that fails to respect and cherish its grandparents,

who are its living memory, is already in decline,

whereas a family that remembers has a future.

“A society that has no room for the elderly or discards them

because they create problems, has a deadly virus”;” “it is torn from its roots.”

Our contemporary experience of being orphans as a result of cultural

discontinuity, uprootedness and the collapse of the certainties that shape our lives,

challenges us to make our families places

where children can sink roots in the rich soil of a collective history.

 (Chapter 4, par. 192, 193)

Point for reflection: Pope Francis himself is a ‘grandfatherly figure’ – recognized, “tweeted” and loved by millions throughout the world. His own life is a witness to the wisdom and inspiration that grandparents and the elderly bring to the Church and to the world? How does your family incorporate your grandparents and the older generation into your activities? Who do you name as the elder “wisdom figures” in your life?


Continuing excerpts from Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation:  Amoris Laetitia

or The Joy of Love: Chapter Six – Some Pastoral Perspectives

The life of every family is marked by all kinds of crises,

yet these are also part of its dramatic beauty.

Couples should be helped to realize that

surmounting a crisis need not weaken their relationship;

instead, it can improve, settle and mature the wine of their union.

Life together should not diminish but increase their contentment;

every new step along the way can help couples find new ways to happiness.

Each crisis becomes an apprenticeship in growing closer together

or learning a little more about what it means to be married.

There is no need for couples to resign themselves

to an inevitable downward spiral or a tolerable mediocrity.

On the contrary, when marriage is seen as a challenge

that involves overcoming obstacles,

each crisis becomes an opportunity

to let the wine of their relationship age and improve.

Couples will gain from receiving help in facing crises,

meeting challenges and acknowledging them as part of family life.

Experienced and trained couples should be open to offering guidance,

so the couples will not be unnerved by these crises

or tempted to hasty decisions.

 Each crisis has a lesson to teach us;

we need to learn how to listen for it with the ear of the heart.

                                                                                                                                                                                  (Chapter 6, par. 232)           

Point for reflection: The crises faced by married couples can cause apprehension, feelings of guilt, depression and fatigue. The deliberations of the Synod on the Family stated: “The arduous art of reconciliation, which requires the support of grace, needs the generous cooperation of relatives and friends, and sometimes even outside help and professional assistance”. How have you faced some of the inevitable struggles of married life? How can you be a support to other married couples, especially the young?


Continuing excerpts from Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation:  Amoris Laetitia

or The Joy of Love: Chapter Six – Some Pastoral Perspectives

Understandably, families often experience problems

when one of their members is emotionally immature

because he or she still bears the scars of earlier experiences.

An unhappy childhood or adolescence can breed personal crises

that affect one’s marriage. Were everyone mature and normal,

crises would be less frequent or less painful.

Yet the fact is that only in their forties do some people achieve a maturity

that should have come at the end of adolescence.

Some love with the selfish, capricious and self-centered love of a child:

an insatiable love that screams or cries when it fails to get what it wants.

Others love with an adolescent love

marked by hostility, bitter criticism and the need to blame others;

caught up in their own emotions and fantasies,

such persons expect others to fill their emptiness

and to satisfy their every desire.


Many people leave childhood without ever having felt unconditional love.

This affects their ability to be trusting and open with others.

A poor relationship with one’s parents and siblings,

if left unhealed, can re-emerge and hurt a marriage.

Unresolved issues need to be dealt with and a process of liberation must take place.

When problems emerge in a marriage,

before important decisions are made it is important to ensure that each spouse

has come to grips with his or her own history.

This involves recognizing a need for healing,

insistent prayer for the grace to forgive and be forgiven, a willingness to accept help,

and the determination not to give up but to keep trying.

A sincere self-examination will make it possible to see

how one’s own shortcomings and immaturity affect the relationship.

Even if it seems clear that the other person is at fault,

a crisis will never be overcome simply by expecting him or her to change.

We also have to ask what in our own life needs to grow or heal

if the conflict is to be resolved.

 (Chapter 6, par. 239-240)

Point for reflection: An important aspect of pre-marriage preparation for the Sacrament of Matrimony is for an engaged couple to understand and to share their personal backgrounds and the dynamics of their family of origin. How have you found this type of self-understanding helpful in resolving crises in your own marriage? What advice would you give to young couples who are facing struggles in their marriage relationship?