“The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” That is the beginning and the heart of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the joy of love.
Amoris Laetitia reflects the results of recent synods on the family as well as other writings of Pope Francis and his predecessors. It speaks of the gifts and joys of families but, also, acknowledges the contemporary challenges which they face.
The pope emphasizes the importance of marriage and family life, writing, “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and the Church.” The family, thus, is a source of strength for the Church, just as the Church is a source of strength for families.
To celebrate, promote, protect and strengthen marriage and families in our world, the Diocese of Portland has launched the Joy of the Family initiative. A specific theme featured in Amoris Laetitia will be highlighted each month and will include opening and closing prayers, a reading, a passage from Amoris Laetitia, a "contemplate and share" section, intercessions, weekly suggestions for practical activities, and a reflection from an individual or individuals who possess a special personal connection to the monthly theme. You will find this month's reflection below.
It is hoped developing these themes will help the faithful understand the teachings in Amoris Laetitia and inspire us all to integrate these teachings in our daily lives.
MARCH 2018 - THE JOY OF THE CORSS
Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine,
in the passion of the cross, you showed what it looks like
to endure suffering while maintaining trust and
to overcome hardship through loving sacrifice.
Teach us how to draw on the virtues of patience, kindness, and humility
that we might never lose faith,
and sing praise to God, even in times of struggle.
We ask this in the name of the Father,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.
Praise the Lord, O my soul;
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I sing praise to my God while I live.
Put not your trust in princes,
In man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his spirit departs, he returns to his earth;
On that day, his plans perish.
Happy he whose help is the God of Jacob
Whose hope is in the Lord, his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them;
Who keeps faith forever
Secures justice for the oppressed,
Gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets captives free;
The Lord gives sight to the blind.
The Lord raises up those that were bowed down;
The Lord loves the just.
The Lord protects strangers;
The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
But the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The Lord shall reign forever;
Your God, O Zion, through all generations.
"Faith assures us that the risen Lord will never abandon us." N.256
On the other hand, joy also grows through pain and sorrow. In the words of Saint Augustine, ‘the greater the danger in battle, the greater is the joy of victory.’ After suffering and struggling together, spouses are able to experience that it was worth it, because they achieved some good, learned something as a couple, or came to appreciate what they have. Few human joys are as deep and thrilling as those experienced by two people who love one another and have achieved something as the result of a great shared effort. (n. 130)
CONTEMPLATE & SHARE
• Who helps me (our family) deal with struggles or sorrow? Consider calling on the help of the Holy Family with a simple prayer like “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us.”
• How does our family help lessen the pain or suffering of others? How does showing care like this draw us closer to Christ?
• When has our family supported someone dealing with pain, sorrow, or suffering? What did we discover about joy or another good that God made visible when we struggled together?
• What is our family (am I) struggling with right now? Write down the answer(s) and tuck the paper behind or underneath a crucifix as a reminder that God will never abandon us. Choose a prayer to say each time you see the paper in the coming week, for example, “Holy Spirit, come,” or the Our Father or Hail Mary.
Third Sunday in Lent, March 3/4 - May married couples who struggle (with difficult times) find strength and wisdom in the humble and selfless example of Christ crucified, we pray to the Lord:
Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 10/11 - May Christian families be “lifted up” through acts of mercy and forgiveness, imitating Christ who came not to condemn but to save, we pray to the Lord:
Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 17/18 - May families offer prayers and learn obedience to God and so be made perfect through their sufferings, we pray to the Lord:
St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, March 19 - May St. Joseph serve as a model of joyful love and fidelity for all husbands and fathers, we pray to the Lord:
Passion / Palm Sunday, March 24/25 - May husbands and wives discover the fulfillment of their marriage covenant through the passion of the cross, we pray to the Lord:
Holy Thursday, March 29 - May we obey Christ’s command to wash one another’s feet and to share in the Bread of Life, we pray to the Lord:
Meet me in the Desert
Lord of Lent, Lord of Easter,
As you went into the desert,
so do I follow,
putting aside that which distracts me,
grabs at me,
falsely claims me,
to search inside,
to confront myself,
my best, my worst
my good works and my sins.
And each time, I find you there
to call to me again
with words of challenge and words of mercy.
And as I fall to my knees, in prayer, in fasting,
in sacrifice and penitence,
somehow, you have it in yourself to reach out
and gently lift me,
to renew me,
to claim me as nothing of this world can claim me.
Meet me in the desert, Lord.
Claim me anew.
CRS Lenten Prayer
JOY IN ACTION
Weekly suggestions for the faithful to consider
March 4 -Fully participate in CRS Rice Bowl this Lent and read how Catholic Relief Services and your prayers and contributions are helping to bring joy to those in need around the world
March 11 - Set aside a few minutes each day this week to pray for someone you know who is going through a difficult time.
March 18 - Join with your parish community in praying and reflecting upon the Stations of the Cross.
March 25 - Reach out to someone who is lonely or has been away from the Church and invite them to accompany you to Holy Week Masses and services.
The Joy of the Cross
By: Judy Ouellette, Christ the Divine Mercy Parish, East Millinocket
Love. Walking down the aisle, a couple has no idea what life has in store for them. God has a plan for them, and hopefully, they will live up to that plan. For George and me, it was a time of excitement and hope, with a future that was in the making. We wanted a family and, of course, to live happily ever after. Six years later, our first daughter, Ann, was born. What a true representation of a couple's love and God's plan. A new baby just changes everything!
Family gatherings, busy with work and family, we are on this journey of life. Daily prayer and attending weekly Mass are essential on this journey. God is first, with family next, and then work. After much prayer and discussion, my husband decided to enlist in the National Guard -- more income for our growing family (welcome Pam) and to serve his country. Two years later, we moved to our first house with our two daughters, then 26 months and 5 months old. What joy and excitement! Five months later, his supervisor at his job tells him that the plant at which he is working will close. What to do? Our trust in God keeps us going. We truly believe that things will work out.
He applied for the same job at a Millinocket mill, and of course, he is hired—another blessing. However, this means traveling for George, who will be away from our Portage Lake home and family. But God is good. Our family continues to grow with the addition of our first son, Mark. Then, another blessing: a wonderful couple that used to live in our town and were like family to us offered George a home with them in East Millinocket. So begins seven years of traveling back-and-forth, being away from home, weekends with the Guard, and a completely new responsibility for me. I must take care of the home front, most importantly, the children, by myself.
Baby number four, Michelle, is yet another blessing, but it is also during this time that we find out that our newest daughter is ill. We are not sure what the problem is. In the meantime, I become pregnant again with our fifth child. Thank you, God, for Christopher. When he comes into the picture, it is then that my fears are confirmed - Michelle has special needs. After much testing and evaluation, we discover she is mentally challenged. This means three trips per week from Portage Lake to Presque Isle for occupational therapy, speech therapy, and some physical therapy—but we have God as our pilot. With five wonderful children at home, life is hectic but good.
In hopes of being together, our home in Portage Lake has been for sale, but it is not selling. When you feel you just can't do it anymore, you offer it up to our heavenly Father. Through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, George comes home to let me know that our wonderful friends and adoptive family have offered us their East Millinocket house until ours sells. We are overjoyed!
It is quite an adjustment. Through the next year, we learn to become a family once again. The following year, the sale of our former house allows us to purchase a home in East Millinocket.
We would soon be faced with another trial. While attending his yearly Guard training in Gagetown, New Brunswick, George is injured in an accident. Due to his injuries, he must go on disability. We are on a roller coaster ride to get him his benefits and medical care. Through it all, our saving grace is our faith in God, the support of family, near and far, close friends and people whom God has placed in our lives to help us weather the storms.
After many years as a full-time homemaker, I am blessed to begin a job outside the home that provides medical insurance for our family. Although he is in constant pain, my wonderful husband tries to be brave; he puts up a good front.
Our extended family is always there to help us and love us. Whenever circumstances seemed hopeless, mom and dad were there with reassuring words. Family and friends supported, encouraged, and prayed for us. We have never lost faith! We never went without food and shelter. Just as we needed money or were faced with some other urgent need, God made sure it came to us. One example: I needed $200 for a bill and had nothing to spare. Out of nowhere, I received a card in the mail with a check for – you guessed it – $200. Over and over again, God has guided this family and showed us time and again that true faith and love triumph. Without that faith in God, I am sure that we, as a couple and as a family, would not be here 43 years later and counting.
Through suffering and so many challenges, we are sure that Jesus has been with us. What Christ did for us on Good Friday is so much more than what we as a couple have gone through. Faith, hope, and unconditional love -- isn't that what the sacrament of marriage is all about? May he be with you this season of hope and may he guide you to Easter morning.