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December 18, 2013  byPope Francis

 

 

 

Birth of Jesus Matthew 2:1

Birth of Jesus Matthew 2:1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning,

Our meeting is taking place in the spiritual climate of Advent, made even more
intense by the Holy Christmas Novena, which we are living in these days
and which leads us to the Christmas celebrations. Because of this I
would like to reflect with you today on the day of the birth of Jesus,
feast of trust and hope, which overcomes uncertainty and pessimism. And
the reason for our hope is this: God is with us and God has confidence
in us again! But think well on this: God is with us and God has
confidence in us again. This God Father is generous! He comes to dwell
with men, chooses the earth as his dwelling to be together with man and
have himself found where man spends his days in joy and sorrow.
Therefore, the earth is no longer only a “vale of tears,” but a place
where God himself has pitched his tent; it is the place of God’s
encounter with man, of God’s solidarity with men.

 

 

 

God willed to share our human condition to the point of becoming one with us in the
person of Jesus, who is true man and true God. However, there is something that is even more surprising. The presence of God in the midst of humanity was not acted in an ideal, idyllic world, but in this real world, marked by so many good and evil things, marked by divisions, wickedness, poverty, arrogance and wars. He has chosen to inhabit our history as it is, with all the weight of its limitations and dramas. By doing so, He has demonstrated in an unsurpassable way his merciful inclination filled with love for human creatures. He is the God-with-us; Jesus is God-with-us. Do you believe this? Let us make this professiontogether: Jesus is God-with-us! Jesus is God-with-us always and forever in the sufferings and griefs of history. Jesus’ Birth is the manifestation that God has “aligned” himself once and for all on the side of man, to save us, to raise us from the dust of our miseries, of our difficulties, of our sins.

 

 

 

From whence comes the great “gift” of the Babe of Bethlehem: He brings us spiritual energy, an energy thathelps us not to sink in our toils, in our despairs, in our sadnesses
because it is an energy that warms and transforms the heart. Jesus’ birth, in fact, brings us the good news that we are loved immensely and individually by God, and not only does He make this love known to us,but he gives it to us and communicates it to us!

 

 

 

From the joyful contemplation of the mystery of the Son of God born for us, we can draw two considerations.

 

 

 

The first is that if at Christmas God revels himself not as one who is on
High and who controls the universe, but as one who abases himself, who
descends on earth small and poor, it means that to be like him we must
not put ourselves above others, but rather lower ourselves, putting
ourselves at the service making ourselves little with the little and
poor with the poor. But it is not nice to see a Christian who does not
want to lower himself, who does not want to serve. A Christian who shows
off everywhere is nasty: he is not a Christian, he is a pagan. A
Christian serves, lowers himself. Let us work so that these brothers and
sisters of ours will not feel alone!

 

 

 

The second consequence: if God, through Jesus, involved himself with man to the point of becomingnlike one of us, it means that whatever we have done to a brother or a sister we have done it to Him. Jesus himself reminded us of this: he who fed, welcomed, visited, loved one of the littlest and poorest among men, did it to the Son of God.

 

 

 

Let us entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, so that she will help us this Holy Christmas, now near, to recognize in the face
of our neighbor, especially of the weakest and most marginalized persons, the image of the Son of God made man.

 

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December 11, 2013

 

Reflection for the Second Week of Advent, by Fr Martin Connor

 

To establish the Kingdom is to teach Christ by giving Christ.

 

To give Christ is to teach that love is a choice, the choice of making yourself a gift to the other rather than use another as a means for some pleasure or end, which is so very common in our world.

 

Ultimately, love is a choice for Good over evil.

 

Fr Martin Connor

Fr Martin Connor

 

To establish the Kingdom of Christ is to establish a consistency of choice in one’s life, the choice to reject sin and to do the good out of love, to imitate Jesus Christ who “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38) To do this, we begin by repenting of anything that separates us from God. This is why perhaps Christ begins his mission with “the Kingdom of God is at hand” and then went on to say “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15).

 

Incarnate Love sees sin as the greatest evil in the world and the greatest obstacle to love.  “To the eyes of faith no evil is graver than sin and nothing has worse consequences for sinners themselves, for the Church, and for the whole world” (CCC 1488) Truthfully, however, much of the time we are reluctant to even try change our ways because we feel so helpless, so weak.  We shrink back because of shame and regret of past choices. We lose hope. Yet, with these words of Christ “repent and believe,” it was like he was saying:

 

“there is something new happening here, listen up, you don’t have to take the path that you are currently on, don’t be content with where you are if you are unhappy, there exists another way, a way that will lead to true fulfillment but you need to change your ways.”

 

In other words, you need to change your heart.

 

Later in the Gospel, Christ says the “Kingdom of God is upon you” (Matthew 12:28). Words uttered precisely in relation to evil, to the turning away from evil, in rejecting the power of Satan.  To receive true love we need to turn away from the enemy of love and receive forgiveness.

 

Christ links the Kingdom intimately to the forgiveness of sins: “repent and believe.” St. Paul iterates the same to the community of the Colossians: “Because what Christ has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves, and in him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins” (Col 1:13-14).   With sin, we were cut off from God and cast into a spiritual darkness.  Through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, everyone is undeservedly offered the gift of redemption by God.  The paschal mystery, Christ’s dying and rising, is the definitive victory of the Kingdom of God over the kingdom of sin and death.

 

In a sense, when we speak of establishing the Kingdom, we refer to the announcing of God’s love and mercy, to the announcing of the true freedom that Jesus Christ desires for us, to allowing Him to break the bonds of sin in our lives and to cast out the darkness in our spirit.

 

In order for a person to be free to love, he or she must be free from internal constraint. This internal constraint involves the tendency we have to use another for our selfish desires. Only if a person is freed from this tendency is he or she really able to love another.  Just as the desire to love can be disordered and manifested as lust, the desire for freedom can be disordered and manifested in slavery.

 

St. Paul spoke of the danger of this slavery to the early Christians:

 

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

 

If you are not free to control your own desires, how can you be free to love?

 

Being free to love is only possible through the grace of God who gives us pure hearts.  Once we choose God and allow His grace to transform our desires, then the moral life becomes a life not about rules, but about love.

 

This is what the spirit of Christ’s love and mercy gives to each of us:

 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

 

If establishing Christ’s Kingdom is exposing people to this freedom, then we should rightfully exclaim “Thy Kingdom Come!”

 

In a world so often consumed with false notions of freedom, this is truly the Gospel, the good news!

 

Freedom from the shackles and lies of sin is the unique life changing experience the Gospel offers.  It is truly the Good news!  When we cut ourselves off from God –the source of all human dignity—we deprive ourselves of any real possibility of the true freedom to love.

 

Man was created for love in order to love.  Yet, the principal results of sin are pride, fear of not being loved, and low self-worth, all of which are deeply rooted in us.  Accepting our broken selves is much more difficult than it seems. Only the experience of one who loves us in a different way, unconditionally — one who is capable of loving us without judging us and accepting us for who we are — only this love has the power of moving us and changing our hearts.

 

This is the particular grace of true reconciliation with God because we are reconciled also with ourselves.  It is an experience of mercyGod the Father looks upon us and says, “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4)

 

We can hear too the echo of the words of the Father in the parable of the prodigal son: “You are with me always and all I have is yours” (Luke 15, 31).  When we feel ourselves loved, despite our failings and our ugliness, then true freedom is experienced because love is the precondition to happiness and because freedom gives value to love.

 

Truly, the law of Christianity is the law of freedom. It is the new law that Christ gives us:  “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom” (James 2, 12).

 

Is not this the message the world so desperately needs to hear?  You were created to love, to freely love. But you cannot try to win it for yourself as it is a gift from above.  The way to win it is through Christ’s love. Christ’s love and mercy is the key to the lock which opens us up to this free gift.

 

[Fr Martin Connor is a priest of the Legionaries of Christ in Atlanta, Georgia. Since his ordination in 2001, he has dedicated his priesthood to the spiritual formation of Catholic men. The reflections on the Kingdom that we will be sharing this week are from a book he plans to publish, 10 Reflections on the Kingdom, which will be available as an ebook in early 2014, pending publication.]

 

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Reblog : NCR


If ever there was a more eloquent description of the Messiah and
the reign of peace and justice he would establish for all the peoples of
the earth, I have not known it. With rich images and even richer prose,
Isaiah of Jerusalem (first reading) shares with us the same vision that
has filled hearts with hope and joy for almost three millennia (circa
2,800 years). All that anyone might wish for is there — a leader who is
endowed with God‘s own Spirit and with God-given gifts that will assure
good and wise and just leadership, a leader who champions the afflicted
and the poor, a leader whom all the nations of the earth will
acknowledge and accept, a leader during whose reign there shall be no
animosity, harm or ruin. Knowledge of the Lord, will prevail; everyone
will know God and be known by God in a relationship that knows no end.

CEL_Dec_08_2013.jpg

 

But before this leader and this reign would be
established, preparations had to be made. To that end, God sent
prophets. Nearer to the time of Jesus, John the Baptizer was sent as
herald, crying, “Repent!” (Gospel). There in the desert of Judea, John
called for a change of heart and mind and lifestyle that people would
need to undergo in order to welcome the One who baptized with the Holy
Spirit
and fire.

It is significant that John retreated to the desert. So much of
Israel’s relationship with God was set against a desert matrix. Called
out of Egypt, Israel was led by God through a desert where their
relationship was formed, broken and renewed. There in the desert, Israel
knew an intimacy with God they would remember and long for during later
periods of her history. Although the desert could be fraught with
untold dangers, for the Israelites it conjured up the joys of a
honeymoon. Each Advent, we follow Israel’s lead and John’s example and
withdraw to the desert, where we will find God and ourselves anew.

In her book The Forgotten Desert Mothers, Laura Swan describes
the desert as a place to explore God, and ourselves standing in truth
before God (Paulist Press, 2001). In the desert, we can work through the
lifelong process of integrating the faith we profess with our lips with
the faith we proclaim with our lives. In the desert, we find that the
images of God we had as a child no longer work, and we learn to relate
to and reflect ever-new images. The annual desert experience we call
Advent invites us to empty ourselves of every obstacle to God, and, in
that emptiness, examine and refine our values, beliefs and passions.

The desert is the place where we are forced to live with our questions
as well as the ambiguities and paradoxes of our life. In the emptiness
of the desert, the enormity of God becomes almost overwhelmingly clear,
and yet we need not be afraid. With each trip to the desert, it becomes
less a strange and alien place and more of a home where the hard work of
repentance and conversion can take place. Is it any wonder that John
the Baptizer chose the desert to begin his ministry of preparing the way
of the Lord?

As we look beyond the desert to the coming of the Promised One, the
late Henri Nouwen invites us to consider where we might find him. “Where
is God?” Nouwen wrote. “God is where we are weak, vulnerable, small and
dependent. God is where the poor are, the hungry, the handicapped, the
mentally ill, the elderly, the powerless. How can we come to know God
when our focus is elsewhere, on success, influence, and power? I
increasingly believe that our faithfulness will depend on our
willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need.
If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever
form” (Sabbatical Journey, Crossroad Pub. Co., 1998).

If we look at Jesus’ beginnings in this world, we will not find him in a
royal palace or even in the home of a revered rabbi or Levite or
priest. From the moment of his incarnation, Jesus was surrounded by
poor, humble, simple people. During his ministry, he similarly welcomed
the poor. He recommended poverty of spirit and simplicity of life to
those who answered his call to follow him. The Gospels continue to
challenge those who await Jesus’ second appearance to seek him out in
those poor with whom he chose to identify and whose needs he made his
own agenda.

Advent Prayers

Advent Prayers (Photo credit: professor megan)

If our Advent desert experience results in nothing else, let it be a renewal of our own and of the church’s preferential option for the poor. Blessed are the poor; theirs is the kingdom.

[Patricia Sánchez holds a master’s degree in literature and religion of the Bible from a joint degree program at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York.]

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Toppling of the Pagan Idols (Flight into Egypt...

Toppling of the Pagan Idols (Flight into Egypt); Isaiah 19:1, Pseudo-Matthew 22-23 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 


Spiritual Reflections

Through the centuries, Christians have regarded Advent as theseason of the liturgical year when the praying assembly remembers and celebrates the first coming of Jesus while preparing to welcome his second appearance in glory. Advent has its own vocabulary. Words like waiting, anticipation and hope punctuate both prayers and preaching. Light and darkness are juxtaposed as the symbols of Advent. Believers celebrate the light of the worldwhose presence dispels every darkness.

We light candles to remember that he who is light has charged us with the responsibility of being lightbfor others. Advent has its own special songs that implore the Messiah to come and encourage those who await him to wake from sleep and remain alert, ready to welcome him at a moment’s notice.

CEL_Dec_01_2013.jpg

 

 

 

First Sunday of Advent (A)
Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalm 122

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:37-44

 

Although we continue to celebrate Advent as a

season, it is considerably more than that. Advent is a way of life,

lived in watchfulness for the God who comes — not just at Christmas,

but every day, in myriad ways and in many wonderful and sometimes

distressing disguises. Therefore we wait — not passively, twiddling our

thumbs, but actively.

Since we await the Prince of Peace, we are advised by Isaiah (first reading) to work toward peace by turning implements of war into tools with which to till the soil. If we were to take Isaiah at his word, how might the lot of humankind be improved! Many think that wars will cease when the Messiah appears, but Isaiah tells us that the cessation of all wars and violence is the means by which we prepare for his Advent.

Paul, in today’s second reading from his letter to the Romans, also invites us to wait and prepare actively to welcome the Lord. Throw off the darkness of lust, rivalry and jealousy, urges Paul. His words and his witness encourage all who will hear him to leave behind selfishness, greed and indifference toward the needs of others and work toward bringing light into lives so much in need of our caring and service.

In the Gospel, Matthew sharpens our awareness that if we live our daily lives actively waiting for the Lord, we will not be caught off-guard when Jesus does make an appearance. Matthew also affirms that the final judgment that will take place when the Son of Man appears will be decisive and will bring to light distinctions among people that had been hidden until then. Two men in the field, one will be taken, one will be left. Two women grinding, one will be taken, one will be left. Such a stark image is not meant to frighten us, but to remind us yet again that we need to be prepared for the Lord.

Henri Nouwen has suggested that the secret of actively waiting is believing that what we await is already on its way (“The Spirituality of Waiting,” The Weavings Reader, edited by John S. Mogabgab,
Upper Room Books, 1993). Those who wait actively have faith that the seed of the future has been planted and that growth is already begun.  Active waiting means to be fully present to the moment, fully convinced that the present moment is the moment.

Nouwen also suggested that in our waiting for God’s myriad comings into our lives, we should let go of our wishes: “I wish I had a better job”; “I wish the pain would go away”; “I wish the weather was better.” Because we are full of wishes, our waiting may become entangled in those wishes. Perhaps it is better to let go of our wishes and start hoping. It was only when I was willing to let go of my wishes, said Nouwen, that something really new, something beyond my own expectations could happen to me.

While wishes are limited to specific moments, hope is trust that is open-minded. Hope is willing to give up control over our future so that God is free to define our life. Mary had such hope, as did Jesus. Both were willing to wait actively and hope that what God had begun in them would be fully realized. This Advent, Mary, Jesus and so many who have gone before us encourage our active hope in the God who constantly
arrives.

[Patricia Sánchez holds a master’s degree in literature and religion of
the Bible from a joint degree program at Columbia University and Union
Theological Seminary
in New York.]

Courtesy:  National Catholic Reporter

 

 

 

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Reblogged Junjun FAITHBOOK

 

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King 2013 Year C

 

junix28 | November 24, 2013 at 3:40 pm

 

World-Youth-Day-2013-is-hosted-in-Rio-de-Janeiro-in-BrazilWhen
I was a kid, specifically in my grade school years, the idea of a king
always fascinates me. The type of a king I read in the book or heard
from fairy tale stories always captured my imagination and even made me
aspire to be like one. I pictured a king who has many subjects, who has
many servants, who is living in a Palace, who is sitting in golden
throne holding a golden sceptre, eating the best of food, has plenty of
gold and money, and has everything that he wants including having the
most beautiful woman in his kingdom. I was really fascinated by this.
And to be honest with you, this aspiration had been part of my
motivation to become a priest. Not that I wanted to have the most
beautiful woman there is in the world, but because when I was growing
up, I could see some priests where I come from live like
‘pseudo-kings’ in their own right.  They’ve got their own driver,
full-time secretary, cook all year round, full-time sacristans, even
bell-ringers in some parishes. The priest would only have to say Mass,
or celebrate the sacraments, or visit people or stay in his presbytery
most of the time. It really was an appealing lifestyle for me then. But
for some reasons, or by God’s sense of humour, He called me to be a priest and start living it out in Australia, not in the Philippines.
I don’t have any complains, in fact I love it because no matter where I
am, I’m still a priest. I noticed too that the priest in Australia is
his own presbytery, because he is the only one there all the time
anyway. But what I love being a priest here to start with my priestly
ministry is that it keeps me grounded, it keeps my feet on the ground,
it keeps me on the same level with the people, people generally look at
me as a friend or a potential friend rather than a ‘priest’ up in the
pedestal, it keeps me in touch with my humanity all the time. I had to
do my own laundry at times, iron my clothes, cook my own food, drive my
own car, or sometimes walk, as I go about with my priestly duties  and
visit people. But by doing all these, I come to realize that I can never
become a king, because by being a Christian and priest at that, I am
committing myself to only have one King in my life- not myself, but Christ– the King of the Universe.

 

This is one
reason why we celebrate today this Solemnity of Christ the King. We
celebrate this because we renew our commitment to Christ as the centre
of our life, as occupying the prominent place in our hearts. Though this
feast is instituted by Pope Pius XI
in 1925 to counteract the growing secularism and atheism, it is still
very relevant in our day and age, in fact, we need this more than ever.
This serves as reminder for us, that in our Christian life,
our hearts must not be solely-focused on ourselves or on our selfish
interests but on Christ, who has come to save us from eternal death. But
the good thing about having Christ as the centre of our lives is that
we get a share of his kingship- the kingship that is characterized by
love, by service and by sacrifice.  In Christ, we all have the potential
to be kings if we do follow him serve the poor and needy, listen to the
cry of the poor, tend the wounds of the vulnerable,  to serve and not
to be served.

 

So how is Christ as our King?

 

Christ Mormon

Christ Mormon (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

 

The Kingship of Christ is really strange in the eyes of the world. Francis Moloney, A Scripture Scholar, and a Salesian priest, has this to say about our solemnity today: “The Strangeness of Christianity is most obvious in the  liturgical celebration of its King. Instead of a celebration of some glorious enthronement, we read about a man on a cross.” Flor McCarthy another Salesian priest and preached would also add: “Here surely was the strangest of all. He (Jesus Christ) was not out to conquer but to convert. He was not out to rule but to serve. He was not out to hoard possessions but to give them away. He devoted all his love, all his time, all his energy to seeking out the sick, the poor, the lost and the lonely. At the end he even gave his life away for those he loved, and he loved everybody.”

 

We who call ourselves Christians, i.e. followers of Christ, how can we imitate the ways of our King?

 

Certainly, we can find many ways to follow Christ our King in the gospels. Yet, we need to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be given unto us.’
It means that we strive to develop in us the seed of the Kingdom that
God has given us- the seed that when grows become the kingdom of truth
and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love
and peace.’ [preface for Christ the King]

 

It’s quite a
challenge because it is a lifetime task. If we are serious in our
following of Jesus, let us imitate him even in his being a King- a shepherd king who searches out the lost (First Reading), a saviour king who is willing to take on death for his subjects to live (Second Reading), and  a servant king
who is willing to take on everything including mockery and jeers from
the people who are opposed to us, just to obey and do the will of the
Father (Gospel) not as a one-off task but a daily commitment and must permeate in all that we do and in all that we are.

 

The other
thing we can do is to make it our goal in life to live in the kingdom of
God, to make this our desire to be part of the ‘establishment committee’ of the kingdom of God, so to speak. This is a big call, and it is a quite difficult challenge to take because according to Pat O’Sullivan, the Spiritual director in Corpus Christi Seminary Melbourne, “most
people in our world do not want to live in the Kingdom. Most people
don’t want God to reign in their hearts and in their world…most people
don’t want a Kingdom where there is no distinction between rich and
poor, where status symbols are a non-event, where power and authority
are opportunities to serve.
[1]

 

One other
way is to learn from the faith of the ‘good thief’ in our gospel today.
He expressed his faith in Jesus in three ways: First, he humbled himself before Jesus; second, he acknowledges his sinfulness; third, he stood up for Jesus despite the mockery, of those near the cross including the other thief crucified with them [‘Have
you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did, but in
our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has
done nothing wrong.
’ And because of this amazing gesture and
expressions of faith even in the brink of death, the ‘good thief’
received the greatest vindication he could receive. Because of his faith
in Jesus, he has encountered him and this encounter is so real for him,
so intimate and so personal that he (and none other in the gospel had done or said before) could address Jesus by name: ‘Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.’ And we heard the most beautiful word of Jesus that we in the  end of our life should hear too: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’

 

So as we continue our celebration of the mass today, let us ask ourselves:

 

How are we as a people of faith?

 

Are we willing to stand up for it no matter what it takes, or what it cost us?

 

Are we willing to follow Christ our King, even if it leads us to the foot of the Cross?

 

Christus regnat, Christus Vincit, Christus Imperat!

 

May Christ the King reign in our hearts!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (All Souls)

 

Collect: Listen kindly to our prayers, O Lord,
and, as our faith in your Son, raised from the dead, is deepened, so may
our hope of resurrection for your departed servants also find new
strength. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns
with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

 

 Calendar: Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed

“On this day is observed the commemoration of the faithful departed,
in which our common and pious Mother the Church, immediately after
having endeavored to celebrate by worthy praise all her children who
already rejoice in heaven, strives to aid by her powerful intercession
with Christ, her Lord and Spouse, all those who still groan in
purgatory, so that they may join as soon as possible the inhabitants of
the heavenly city.” — Roman Martyrology

Every priest is
permitted to say three Masses on this day and it would be a good
practice for the laity to attend three Masses and offer them for the
Poor Souls.

A Roman Catholic indulgence from the year 1521

A Roman Catholic indulgence from the year 1521 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All Souls Indulgences
An
indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the
faithful, who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, even if only
mentally, for the departed. The indulgence is plenary each day from the
first to the eighth of November; on other days of the year it is
partial.

A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in
purgatory, is granted to the faithful, who on the day dedicated to the
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed [November 2 {as well as on
the Sunday preceding or following, and on All Saints’ Day}] piously
visit a church. In visiting the church it is required that one Our
Father and the Creed be recited.

To acquire a plenary indulgence
it is necessary also to fulfill the following three conditions:
sacramental Confession, Eucharistic communion, and prayer for the
intention of the Holy Father. The three conditions may be fulfilled
several days before or after the performance of the visit; it is,
however, fitting that communion be received and the prayer for the
intention of the Holy Father be said on the same day as the visit.

The
condition of praying for the intention of the Holy Father is fully
satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary. A plenary
indulgence can be acquired only once in the course of the day.


All Souls Day
The
Church, after rejoicing yesterday with those of her children who have
entered the glory of heaven, today prays for all those who, in the
purifying suffering of purgatory await the day when they will be joined
to the company of saints. At no place in the liturgy is stated in more
striking fashion the mysterious union between the Church triumphant, the
Church militant and the Church suffering; at no time is there
accomplished in clearer fashion the twofold duty of charity and justice
deriving for every Christian from the fact of his incorporation in the
mystical Body of Christ. By virtue of the consoling doctrine of the
communion of saints the merits and prayers of each one are able to help
all; and the Church is able to join her prayer with that of the saints
in heaven and supply what is wanting to the souls in purgatory by means
of the Mass, indulgences and the alms and sacrifices of her children.

The
celebration of Mass, the sacrifice of Calvary continued on our altars,
has ever been for the Church the principal means of fulfilling towards
the dead the great commandment of charity. Masses for the dead are found
in the fifth century. But it was St. Odilo, fourth abbot of Cluny, who
was responsible for the institution of the general commemoration of all
the faithful departed; he instituted it and fixed its celebration on
November 2, the day after All Saints. The practice spread to the rest of
Christendom.

Daily in a special Memento in the Canon of the Mass,
at which the priest remembers all those who have fallen asleep in the
Lord, the priest implores God to grant them a place of happiness, light
and peace. Thus there is no Mass in which the Church does not pray for
the faithful departed; but today her thoughts are directed towards them
in a particular fashion, with the maternal preoccupation of leaving no
soul in purgatory without spiritual aid and of grouping them all
together in her intercession. By a privilege that Benedict XV’s decree
has extended to the whole world every priest can today celebrate three
Masses; for the liberation of the souls in purgatory the Church
multiplies the offering of the sacrifice of Christ, from which she draws
forever on behalf of all her children, infinite fruits of redemption.

Things to Do:

  • Do
    pious practices to help the Poor Souls: attend three Masses for the
    Poor Souls on this day; remember your family and friends who are
    deceased and make an extra sacrifice for them; pray the rosary for the
    most forgotten soul in purgatory.
  • The faithful who visit a
    cemetery to pray for the faithful departed, saying the Lord’s Prayer
    and the Creed (even if only mentally), may gain a plenary indulgence
    once only under the usual conditions: sacramental confession (eight days
    before or after the act), Eucharistic Communion on that day, and prayer
    for the Pope’s intentions (usually one Our Father and Hail Mary as
    minimum). Each day between November 1 and November 8, this gains a
    plenary indulgence that can only be applied to the poor souls in
    purgatory. Any other time of year this gains a partial indulgence. See Praying for the Dead and Gaining Indulgences During November for more information about indulgences for the Poor Souls.
  • There is also solemn commemoration to be used on All Souls. See Visiting a Cemetery on All Souls Day, Memorial Day, or on the Anniversary of Death or Burial.
  • Make
    a nice poster listing all the family and friends departed. Put this on
    display where the members of the family can be reminded to pray for the
    loved ones throughout November. Remind family members to offer extra
    prayers and sacrifices for the poor souls in purgatory. Of course this
    shouldn’t be the only motivation, but do include the fact that after
    these souls reach heaven, they will intercede on your behalf.
  • Read the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy and the section entitled “The Memorial of the Dead in Popular Piety.” Of particular note:

    The
    Christian, who must be conscious of and familiar with the idea of
    death, cannot interiorly accept the phenomenon of the “intolerance of
    the dead,” which deprives the dead of all acceptance in the city of the
    living. Neither can he refuse to acknowledge the signs of death,
    especially when intolerance and rejection encourage a flight from
    reality, or a materialist cosmology, devoid of hope and alien to belief
    in the death and resurrection of Christ. 

    Some suggested devotions from the Directory (in accordance with time, place and tradition, popular devotions to the dead take on a multitude of forms):

    • the
      novena for the dead in preparation for 2 November, and the octave
      prolonging it, should be celebrated in accordance with liturgical norms;
    • visits
      to the cemetery; in some places this is done in a community manner on 2
      November, at the end of the parochial mission, when the parish priest
      takes possession of the parish; visiting the cemetery can also be done
      privately, when the faithful go to the graves of their own families to
      maintain them or decorate them with flowers and lamps. Such visits
      should be seen as deriving from the bonds existing between the living
      and the dead and not from any form of obligation, non-fulfilment of
      which involves a superstitious fear;
    • membership in a
      confraternity or other pious association whose objects include “burial
      of the dead” in the light of the Christian vision of death, praying for
      the dead, and providing support for the relatives of the dead;
    • suffrage for the dead through alms deeds, works of mercy, fasting, applying indulgences, and especially prayers, such as the De profundis, and the formula Requiem aeternam [Eternal Rest], which often accompanies the recitation of the Angelus, the rosary, and at prayers before and after meals.
    • Have
      family discussions about death, preparing for death, funerals, and the
      Sacrament of the Sick. Visit the cemetery with children. Visits to the
      cemetery should be uplifting, calm and peaceful, not a scary event.
  • From the Catholic Culture library:

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Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller

Vatican, October 23, 2013

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter ...

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) Fresco, 335 x 550 cm Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Ελληνικά: Λεπτομέρεια από την νωπογραφία του Πιέτρο Περουτζίνο, Ο Χριστός Παραδίδει τα Κλειδιά στον Πέτρο, 335 x 600 cm, Καπέλα Σιξτίνα, Πόλη του Βατικανού. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The problem concerning members of the faithful who have

entered into a new civil union after a divorce is not new. The Church

has always taken this question very seriously and with a view to helping

the people who find themselves in this situation. Marriage is a

sacrament that affects people particularly deeply in their personal,

social and historical circumstances. Given the increasing number of

persons affected in countries of ancient Christian tradition, this

pastoral problem has taken on significant dimensions. Today even firm

believers are seriously wondering: can the Church not admit the divorced

and remarried to the sacraments under certain conditions? Are her hands

permanently tied on this matter? Have theologians really explored all

the implications and consequences?

These questions must be

explored in a manner that is consistent with Catholic doctrine on

marriage. A responsible pastoral approach presupposes a theology that

offers “the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,

freely assenting to the truth revealed by him” (Dei Verbum 5).

In order to make the Church’s authentic doctrine intelligible, we must

begin with the word of God that is found in sacred Scripture, expounded

in the Church’s Tradition and interpreted by the Magisterium in a

binding way.

The Testimony of Sacred Scripture

Looking

directly to the Old Testament for answers to our question is not

without its difficulties, because at that time marriage was not yet

regarded as a sacrament. Yet the word of God in the Old Covenant is

significant for us to the extent that Jesus belongs within this

tradition and argues on the basis of it. In the Decalogue, we find the

commandment “thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex 20:14), but elsewhere divorce is presented as a possibility. According to Dt

24:1-4, Moses lays down that a man may present his wife with a

certificate of dismissal and send her away from his house, if she no

longer finds favour with him. Thereafter, both husband and wife may

embark upon a new marriage. In addition to this acceptance of divorce,

the Old Testament also expresses certain reservations in its regard. The

comparison drawn by the prophets between God’s covenant with Israel and

the marriage bond includes not only the ideal of monogamy, but also

that of indissolubility. The prophet Malachi expresses this clearly: “Do

not be faithless to the wife of your youth … with whom you have made a

covenant” (Mal 2:14-15).

Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Above all, it was his

controversies with the Pharisees that gave Jesus occasion to address

this theme. He distanced himself explicitly from the Old Testament

practice of divorce, which Moses had permitted because men were “so hard

of heart”, and he pointed to God’s original will: “from the beginning

of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall

leave his father and mother and … the two shall become one flesh. What

therefore God has joined together let not man put asunder” (Mk 10:5-9; cf. Mt 19:4-9; Lk

16:18). The Catholic Church has always based its doctrine and practice

upon these sayings of Jesus concerning the indissolubility of marriage.

The inner bond that joins the spouses to one another was forged by God

himself. It designates a reality that comes from God and is therefore no

longer at man’s disposal.

Today some exegetes take the viewthat even in the Apostolic era these dominical sayings were applied witha degree of flexibility: notably in the case of porneia/unchastity (cf. Mt 5:32; 19:9) and in the case of a separation between a Christian and a non-Christian partner (cf. 1 Cor7:12-15). The unchastity clauses have been the object of fierce debateamong exegetes from the beginning. Many take the view that they refernot to exceptions to the indissolubility of marriage, but to invalid marital unions. Clearly, however, the Church cannot build its doctrine and practice on controversial exegetical hypotheses. She must adhere to the clear teaching of Christ.

Saint Paul presents the

prohibition on divorce as the express will of Christ: “To the married I

give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from

her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be

reconciled to her husband) and that the husband should not divorce his

wife” (1 Cor 7:10-11). At the same time he permits, on his own

authority, that a non-Christian may separate from a partner who has

become Christian. In this case, the Christian is “not bound” to remain

unmarried (1 Cor 7:12-16). On the basis of this passage, the

Church has come to recognize that only a marriage between a baptized man

and a baptized woman is a sacrament in the true sense, and only in this

instance does unconditional indissolubility apply. The marriage of the

unbaptized is indeed ordered to indissolubility, but can under certain

circumstances – for the sake of a higher good – be dissolved (privilegium Paulinum).

Here, then, we are not dealing with an exception to our Lord’s

teaching. The indissolubility of sacramental marriage, that is to say,

marriage that takes place within the mystery of Christ, remains assured.

Of greater significance for the biblical basis of the

sacramental view of marriage is the Letter to the Ephesians, where we

read: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave

himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). And shortly afterwards, the

Apostle adds: “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother

and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. This

mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and

the Church” (Eph 5:31-32). Christian marriage is an effective

sign of the covenant between Christ and the Church. Because it

designates and communicates the grace of this covenant, marriage between

the baptized is a sacrament.

The Testimony of the Church’s Tradition

The

Church Fathers and Councils provide important testimony regarding the

way the Church’s position evolved. For the Fathers, the biblical

precepts on the subject are binding. They reject the State’s divorce

laws as incompatible with the teaching of Jesus. The Church of the

Fathers rejected divorce and remarriage, and did so out of obedience to

the Gospel. On this question, the Fathers’ testimony is unanimous.

In patristic times, divorced members of the faithful who had civilly

remarried could not even be readmitted to the sacraments after a period

of penance. Some patristic texts, however, seem to imply that abuses

were not always rigorously corrected and that from time to time pastoral

solutions were sought for very rare borderline cases.

In manyregions, greater compromises emerged later, particularly as a result of

the increasing interdependence of Church and State. In the East this

development continued to evolve, and especially after the separation

from the See of Peter, it moved towards an increasingly liberal praxis.

In the Orthodox Churches today, there are a great many grounds for

divorce, which are mostly justified in terms of oikonomia, or

pastoral leniency in difficult individual cases, and they open the path

to a second or third marriage marked by a penitential character. This

practice cannot be reconciled with God’s will, as expressed

unambiguously in Jesus’ sayings about the indissolubility of marriage.

But it represents an ecumenical problem that is not to be

underestimated.

In the West, the Gregorian reform countered

these liberalizing tendencies and gave fresh impetus to the original

understanding of Scripture and the Fathers. The Catholic Church defended

the absolute indissolubility of marriage even at the cost of great

sacrifice and suffering. The schism of a “Church of England” detached

from the Successor of Peter came about not because of doctrinal

differences, but because the Pope, out of obedience to the sayings of

Jesus, could not accommodate the demands of King Henry VIII for the

dissolution of his marriage.

The Council of Trent confirmed the

doctrine of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage and explained

that this corresponded to the teaching of the Gospel (cf. DH 1807).

Sometimes it is maintained that the Church de facto tolerated

the Eastern practice. But this is not correct. The canonists constantly

referred to it as an abuse. And there is evidence that groups of

Orthodox Christians on becoming Catholic had to subscribe to an express

acknowledgment of the impossibility of second or third marriages.

The Second Vatican Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes

on “The Church in the Modern World”, presents a theologically and

spiritually profound doctrine of marriage. It upholds the

indissolubility of marriage clearly and distinctly. Marriage is

understood as an all-embracing communion of life and love, body and

spirit, between a man and a woman who mutually give themselves and

receive one another as persons. Through the personally free act of their

reciprocal consent, an enduring, divinely ordered institution is

brought into being, which is directed to the good of the spouses and of

their offspring and is no longer dependent on human caprice: “As a

mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the

children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an

unbreakable oneness between them” (no. 48). Through the sacrament God

bestows a special grace upon the spouses: “For as God of old made

himself present to his people through a covenant of love and fidelity,

so now the Saviour of men and the Spouse of the Church comes into the

lives of married Christians through the sacrament of matrimony. He

abides with them thereafter so that just as he loved the Church and

handed himself over on her behalf, the spouses may love each other with

perpetual fidelity through mutual self-bestowal.” Through the sacrament

the indissolubility of marriage acquires a new and deeper sense: it

becomes the image of God’s enduring love for his people and of Christ’s

irrevocable fidelity to his Church.

Marriage can be understood

and lived as a sacrament only in the context of the mystery of Christ.

If marriage is secularized or regarded as a purely natural reality, its

sacramental character is obscured. Sacramental marriage belongs to the

order of grace, it is taken up into the definitive communion of love

between Christ and his Church. Christians are called to live their

marriage within the eschatological horizon of the coming of God’s

kingdom in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God.

The Testimony of the Magisterium in the Present Day

The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio

– issued by John Paul II on 22 November 1981 in the wake of the Synod

of Bishops on the Christian family in the modern world, and of

fundamental importance ever since – emphatically confirms the Church’s

dogmatic teaching on marriage. But it shows pastoral concern for the

civilly remarried faithful who are still bound by an ecclesially valid

marriage. The Pope shows a high degree of concern and understanding.

Paragraph 84 on “divorced persons who have remarried” contains the

following key statements: 1. Pastors are obliged, by love for the truth,

“to exercise careful discernment of situations”. Not everything and

everyone are to be assessed in an identical way. 2. Pastors and parish

communities are bound to stand by the faithful who find themselves in

this situation, with “attentive love”. They too belong to the Church,

they are entitled to pastoral care and they should take part in the

Church’s life. 3. And yet they cannot be admitted to the Eucharist. Two

reasons are given for this: a) “their state and condition of life

objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church

which is signified and effected by the Eucharist” b) “if these people

were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and

confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of

marriage”. Reconciliation through sacramental confession, which opens

the way to reception of the Eucharist, can only be granted in the case

of repentance over what has happened and a “readiness to undertake a way

of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of

marriage.” Concretely this means that if for serious reasons, such as

the children’s upbringing, the new union cannot be dissolved, then the

two partners must “bind themselves to live in complete continence”. 4.

Clergy are expressly forbidden, for intrinsically sacramental and

theological reasons and not through legalistic pressures, to “perform

ceremonies of any kind” for divorced people who remarry civilly, as long

as the first sacramentally valid marriage still exists.

The

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s statement of 14 September

1994 on reception of holy communion by divorced and remarried members of

the faithful emphasizes that the Church’s practice in this question

“cannot be modified because of different situations” (no. 5). It also

makes clear that the faithful concerned may not present themselves for

holy communion on the basis of their own conscience: “Should they judge

it possible to do so, pastors and confessors … have the serious duty

to admonish them that such a judgment of conscience openly contradicts

the Church’s teaching” (no. 6). If doubts remain over the validity of a

failed marriage, these must be examined by the competent marriage

tribunals (cf. no. 9). It remains of the utmost importance, “with

solicitous charity to do everything that can be done to strengthen in

the love of Christ and the Church those faithful in irregular marriage

situations. Only thus will it be possible for them fully to receive the

message of Christian marriage and endure in faith the distress of their

situation. In pastoral action one must do everything possible to ensure

that this is understood not to be a matter of discrimination but only of

absolute fidelity to the will of Christ who has restored and entrusted

to us anew the indissolubility of marriage as a gift of the Creator”

(no. 10).

In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis

of 22 February 2007, Benedict XVI summarizes the work of the Synod of

Bishops on the theme of the Eucharist and he develops it further. In No.

29 he addresses the situation of divorced and remarried faithful. For

Benedict XVI too, this is a “complex and troubling pastoral problem”. He

confirms “the Church’s practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk

10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the

sacraments”, but he urges pastors at the same time, to devote “special

concern” to those affected: in the wish that they “live as fully as

possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass,

albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God,

eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the

community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director,

dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to

the education of their children”. If there are doubts concerning the

validity of the failed marriage, these are to be carefully examined by

the competent marriage tribunals. Today’s mentality is largely opposed

to the Christian understanding of marriage, with regard to its

indissolubility and its openness to children. Because many Christians

are influenced by this, marriages nowadays are probably invalid more

often than they were previously, because there is a lack of desire for

marriage in accordance with Catholic teaching, and there is too little

socialization within an environment of faith. Therefore assessment of

the validity of marriage is important and can help to solve problems.

Where nullity of marriage cannot be demonstrated, the requirement for

absolution and reception of communion, according to the Church’s

established and approved practice, is that the couple live “as friends,

as brother and sister”. Blessings of irregular unions are to be avoided,

“lest confusion arise among the faithful concerning the value of

marriage”. A blessing (bene-dictio: divine sanctioning) of a relationship that contradicts the will of God is a contradiction in terms.

During

his homily at the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan on 3 June

2012, Benedict XVI once again had occasion to speak of this painful

problem: “I should also like to address a word to the faithful who, even

though they agree with the Church’s teachings on the family, have had

painful experiences of breakdown and separation. I want you to know that

the Pope and the Church support you in your struggle. I encourage you

to remain united to your communities, and I earnestly hope that your

dioceses are developing suitable initiatives to welcome and accompany

you.”

The most recent Synod of Bishops on the theme “New

evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith” (7-28

October 2012) addressed once again the situation of the faithful who

after the failure of a marital relationship (not the failure of a

marriage, which being a sacrament still remains) have entered a new

union and live together without a sacramental marriage bond. In the

concluding Message, the Synod Fathers addressed those concerned as

follows: “To all of them we want to say that God’s love does not abandon

anyone, that the Church loves them, too, that the Church is a house

that welcomes all, that they remain members of the Church even if they

cannot receive sacramental absolution and the Eucharist. May our

Catholic communities welcome all who live in such situations and support

those who are in the path of conversion and reconciliation.”

Observations based on Anthropology and Sacramental Theology

The

doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage is often met with

incomprehension in a secularized environment. Where the fundamental

insights of Christian faith have been lost, church affiliation of a

purely conventional kind can no longer sustain major life decisions or

provide a firm foothold in the midst of marital crises – as well as

crises in priestly and religious life. Many people ask: how can I bind

myself to one woman or one man for an entire lifetime? Who can tell me

what my marriage will be like in ten, twenty, thirty, forty years? Is a

definitive bond to one person possible at all? The many marital

relationships that founder today reinforce the scepticism of young

people regarding definitive life choices.

On the other hand, the

ideal – built into the order of creation – of faithfulness between one

man and one woman has lost none of its fascination, as is apparent from

recent opinion surveys among young people. Most of them long for a

stable, lasting relationship, in keeping with the spiritual and moral

nature of the human person. Moreover, one must not forget the

anthropological value of indissoluble marriage: it withdraws the

partners from caprice and from the tyranny of feelings and moods. It

helps them to survive personal difficulties and to overcome painful

experiences. Above all it protects the children, who have most to suffer

from marital breakdown.

Love is more than a feeling or an

instinct. Of its nature it is self-giving. In marital love, two people

say consciously and intentionally to one another: only you – and you for

ever. The word of the Lord: “What God has joined together” corresponds

to the promise of the spouses: “I take you as my husband … I take you

as my wife … I will love, esteem and honour you, as long as I live,

till death us do part.” The priest blesses the covenant that the spouses

have sealed with one another before God. If anyone should doubt whether

the marriage bond is ontological, let him learn from the word of God:

“He who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and

said: for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be

joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no

longer two but one flesh” (Mt 19:4-6).

For Christians,

the marriage of baptized persons incorporated into the Body of Christ

has sacramental character and therefore represents a supernatural

reality. A serious pastoral problem arises from the fact that many

people today judge Christian marriage exclusively by worldly and

pragmatic criteria. Those who think according to the “spirit of the

world” (1 Cor 2:12) cannot understand the sacramentality of

marriage. The Church cannot respond to the growing incomprehension of

the sanctity of marriage by pragmatically accommodating the supposedly

inevitable, but only by trusting in “the Spirit which is from God, that

we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God” (1 Cor

2:12). Sacramental marriage is a testimony to the power of grace, which

changes man and prepares the whole Church for the holy city, the new

Jerusalem, the Church, which is prepared “as a bride adorned for her

husband” (Rev 21:2). The Gospel of the sanctity of marriage is

to be proclaimed with prophetic candour. By adapting to the spirit of

the age, a weary prophet seeks his own salvation but not the salvation

of the world in Jesus Christ. Faithfulness to marital consent is a

prophetic sign of the salvation that God bestows upon the world. “He who

is able to receive this, let him receive it” (Mt 19:12).

Through sacramental grace, married love is purified, strengthened and

ennobled. “Sealed by mutual faithfulness and hallowed above all by

Christ’s sacrament, this love remains steadfastly true in body and in

mind, in bright days or dark. It will never be profaned by adultery or

divorce” (Gaudium et Spes, 49). In the strength of the

sacrament of marriage, the spouses participate in God’s definitive,

irrevocable love. They can therefore be witnesses of God’s faithful

love, but they must nourish their love constantly through living by

faith and love.

Admittedly there are situations – as every

pastor knows – in which marital cohabitation becomes for all intents and

purposes impossible for compelling reasons, such as physical or

psychological violence. In such hard cases, the Church has always

permitted the spouses to separate and no longer live together. It must

be remembered, though, that the marriage bond of a valid union remains

intact in the sight of God, and the individual parties are not free to

contract a new marriage, as long as the spouse is alive. Pastors and

Christian communities must therefore take pains to promote paths of

reconciliation in these cases too, or, should that not be possible, to

help the people concerned to confront their difficult situation in

faith.

Observations based on Moral Theology

It

is frequently suggested that remarried divorcees should be allowed to

decide for themselves, according to their conscience, whether or not to

present themselves for holy communion. This argument, based on a

problematical concept of “conscience”, was rejected by a document of the

CDF in 1994. Naturally, the faithful must consider every time they

attend Mass whether it is possible to receive communion, and a grave

unconfessed sin would always be an impediment. At the same time they

have the duty to form their conscience and to align it with the truth.

In so doing they listen also to the Church’s Magisterium, which helps

them “not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather,

especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with

certainty and to abide in it” (Veritatis Splendor, 64). If

remarried divorcees are subjectively convinced in their conscience that a

previous marriage was invalid, this must be proven objectively by the

competent marriage tribunals. Marriage is not simply about the

relationship of two people to God, it is also a reality of the Church, a

sacrament, and it is not for the individuals concerned to decide on its

validity, but rather for the Church, into which the individuals are

incorporated by faith and baptism. “If the prior marriage of two

divorced and remarried members of the faithful was valid, under no

circumstances can their new union be considered lawful, and therefore

reception of the sacraments is intrinsically impossible. The conscience

of the individual is bound to this norm without exception” (Cardinal

Joseph Ratzinger, “The Pastoral approach to marriage must be founded on

truth” L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 7 December 2011, p. 4)

The teaching on epikeia,

too – according to which a law may be generally valid, but does not

always apply to concrete human situations – may not be invoked here,

because in the case of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage we

are dealing with a divine norm that is not at the disposal of the

Church. Nevertheless – as we see from the privilegium Paulinum

the Church does have the authority to clarify the conditions that must

be fulfilled for an indissoluble marriage, as taught by Jesus, to come

about. On this basis, the Church has established impediments to

marriage, she has recognized grounds for annulment, and she has

developed a detailed process for examining these.

A further case

for the admission of remarried divorcees to the sacraments is argued in

terms of mercy. Given that Jesus himself showed solidarity with the

suffering and poured out his merciful love upon them, mercy is said to

be a distinctive quality of true discipleship. This is correct, but it

misses the mark when adopted as an argument in the field of sacramental

theology. The entire sacramental economy is a work of divine mercy and

it cannot simply be swept aside by an appeal to the same. An objectively

false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of

God, by implying that God cannot do other than forgive. The mystery of

God includes not only his mercy but also his holiness and his justice.

If one were to suppress these characteristics of God and refuse to take

sin seriously, ultimately it would not even be possible to bring God’s

mercy to man. Jesus encountered the adulteress with great compassion,

but he said to her “Go and do not sin again” (Jn 8:11). God’s

mercy does not dispense us from following his commandments or the rules

of the Church. Rather it supplies us with the grace and strength needed

to fulfil them, to pick ourselves up after a fall, and to live life in

its fullness according to the image of our heavenly Father.

Pastoral care

Even

if there is no possibility of admitting remarried divorcees to the

sacraments, in view of their intrinsic nature, it is all the more

imperative to show pastoral concern for these members of the faithful,

so as to point them clearly towards what the theology of revelation and

the Magisterium have to say. The path indicated by the Church is not

easy for those concerned. Yet they should know and sense that the Church

as a community of salvation accompanies them on their journey. Insofar

as the parties make an effort to understand the Church’s practice and to

abstain from communion, they provide their own testimony to the

indissolubility of marriage.

Clearly, the care of remarried

divorcees must not be reduced to the question of receiving the

Eucharist. It involves a much more wide-ranging pastoral approach, which

seeks to do justice to to the different situations. It is important to

realize that there are other ways, apart from sacramental communion, of

being in fellowship with God. One can draw close to God by turning to

him in faith, hope and charity, in repentance and prayer. God can grant

his closeness and his salvation to people on different paths, even if

they find themselves in a contradictory life situation. As recent

documents of the Magisterium have emphasized, pastors and Christian

communities are called to welcome people in irregular situations openly

and sincerely, to stand by them sympathetically and helpfully, and to

make them aware of the love of the Good Shepherd. If pastoral care is

rooted in truth and love, it will discover the right paths and

approaches in constantly new ways.

Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller

© L’Osservatore Romano 2013

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