The Joy of Love (in Latin, Amoris Laetitia) is the name of Pope Francis’ recently released Apostolic Exhortation on Family Life and Marriage, in which the Holy Father encourages families to experience the joy of love. It is a wonderful message for all of us today.
I would recommend that each person read the actual apostolic exhortation, not settling with the comments or the news about this document that are readily found online, in the newspaper, or in this article; these cannot reflect the whole message of the exhortation.
After a beautiful reflection on the gift of family, the Pope addresses the concerns of the two recent Synods on the Family, which centered on the challenges that families face in our time. While the value of the family is emphasized in the document, there are a number of realities presented in the exhortation for our consideration. I will mention just a few of them:
- The Church needs to meet people where they are. Understand the complexity of the world in which we live and the challenges that all the members of families face, and as a consequence “avoid judgment which does not take into account the complexity of various situations” (296).
- The Situation of second marriage and divorce should be considered with “an approach which carefully discerns the situation (with understanding and compassion)” … knowing that there are no easy recipes (298). At the same time, it is clear that divorce and remarriage is not the ideal that the Gospel proposes for marriage and family.
- One of the most important recurring themes in the Document is the primacy of the role of the conscience. The Church has been “called to form consciences, not to replace them” (37). While The Pope insists that our consciences need to be formed by the teachings of the Church, conscience give us a “a certain moral security” about what God is asking (303). Pastors, therefore, need to help people not simply follow rules, but to practice “discernment,” a word that implies prayerful decision making (304).
These are just a few themes of the apostolic exhortation; there are many more that will help families to grow in the Joy of Love, knowing that, “no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love. This is a never-ending vocation born of the full communion of the Trinity, the profound unity between Christ and his Church, the loving community which is the Holy Family of Nazareth, and the pure fraternity existing among the saints of heaven” (325).