Pope Francis recently released an Apostolic Exhortation entitled The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia). Such a document, by its nature, is not as formal and authoritative as an Encyclical. It does not attempt to define or redefine church doctrine. It is meant to express the mindset of the pope on a particular topic. In this instance, the theme is love within the family and is written as a result of the two Synods of Bishops held in 2014 and 2015 concerning marriage and the family.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the following statement:
The pope has given us a love letter to families—a love letter inviting all of us, and especially married couples and families, to never stop growing in love. It is also a love letter calling the Church, the family of God, to realize more and more her mission to live and love as a family.
Pope Francis is calling us to enter more deeply into the beauty of marriage and Christ's teaching. From the opening lines of Genesis to the closing chapter of Revelation, and throughout the Gospels, God speaks eloquently to us about the joys and challenges of marriage and family life.
The Holy Father is giving us an active opportunity to reflect upon how each of us can belong more deeply to Christ. The Joy of Love is inviting us to share the treasure and medicine of Jesus. The teaching of Jesus inspires us to live out God's hope for us, and the mercy of Jesus heals and sustains us when we fall short. Let us remember that no obstacle is too big for Christ to overcome.
I encourage all to read and reflect on how the words of Pope Francis can be applied in our lives, in our families, and in our society. I am grateful once again to our Holy Father for encouraging and leading us in our call to encounter Jesus ever more deeply, especially in the great gift of family life, and to be His missionary disciples in the world.
On our parish website www.stjosephsomerspoint.com I have provided a link to The Joy of Love as well as other writings by the pope. You can prayerfully read for yourselves and ponder the thoughts and reflections of our Holy Father. Too often the media may sensationalize various statements by the pope, take them out of context or truly misunderstand that everything that the pope says or does needs to be seen in the light of the magisterium’s (the pope united with his bishops) ongoing, consistent teaching.
Additionally, on our Camden Diocesan website www.camdendiocese.org there is an article by Fr. Phillip Johnson, the pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Cherry Hill, explaining the key points of The Joy of Love. You may find it helpful in your reading.
As with anyone serious about his or her Catholic faith, it is necessary for us to want to learn more and develop a better understanding of what our Catholic Church teaches. The pope seems to encourage an intelligent and prayerful discussion of contemporary topics in light of the Gospel.
Fr. Ed Namiotka