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Joyful PapaThis past Friday, April 8, 2016, the Vatican released Pope Francis’ post-synod Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). This document is a beautiful and thought-provoking meditation on the state of the family and marriage in the modern world. It treats marriage as a joyful and beautiful gift.

The document is 256 pages long, the longest Apostolic Exhortation in the history of the Church. It provides much needed encouragement at a time when marriage is in crisis. As St. John Paul II prophetically said, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”[1]

Amoris Laetitia upholds the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage and the family. Pope Francis is unequivocal on God’s design for man and woman in marriage.

If you cannot read the entire document, consider reading Chapter 3 on “Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family,” an examination of God’s vision for marriage and family and Chapter 4, “Love in Marriage,” an explanation of St Paul’s teaching on marital love in 1 Corinthians 13.

Pope Francis begins Chapter 3 by showing that Jesus is the transformer of individual hearts and families.

In and among families, the Gospel message should always resound…It is the first and most important proclamation…Indeed, “nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wise than that message” (58).

The mystery of the Christian family can be fully understood only in the light of the Father’s infinite love revealed in Christ, who gave himself up for our sake and who continues to dwell in our midst (59).

Continuing, Pope Francis praises “families who remain faithful to the teachings of the Gospel, encouraging them and thanking them for the testimony they offer” (86). “Within the family ‘which could be called a domestic church’ (Lumen Gentium, 11), individuals enter upon an ecclesial experience of communion among persons, which reflects, through grace, the mystery of the Holy Trinity” (86).

Have you ever thought of your marriage and family as a reflection of the divine love shared by the three persons of the Holy Trinity? Holy and healthy families give witness to a heavenly reality. When families are broken, society loses a sign of a heavenly reality. No wonder people have trouble understanding a loving and forgiving God.

Pope Francis begins Chapter 4, “Love in Marriage” with this exhortation:

All that has been said so far would be in-sufficient to express the Gospel of marriage and the family, were we not also to speak of love. For we cannot encourage a path of fidelity and mutual self-giving without encouraging the growth, strengthening and deepening of conjugal and family love (89).

Pope Francis then proceeds to give an excellent line-by-line exegesis of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7…

Love is patient,
love is kind;
love is not jealous or boastful;
it is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way,
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong,
but rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things”

We highly recommend that engaged, newly married and long-time married couples read this exegesis…TOGETHER! Pope Francis has woven a beautiful tapestry of married love into his Apostolic Exhortation. It will transform your marriage!

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis concludes his exhortation by saying “All family life is a ‘shepherding’ in mercy. Each of us, by our love and care, leaves a mark on the life of others” (322).

Our society bears the mark of the culture of death: broken families, wives, husbands and children. We pray that by reading Pope Francis’ exhortation, you will be inspired to help families become healthy and whole so that our society will again be a harbinger of the life-giving love of God for His creation.

[1] John Paul II, homily given in Perth, Australia, 30 November 1986, https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/homilies/1986/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19861130_perth-australia.html (accessed April 10, 2016).