Reflection on Love in Marriage, Amoris Laetitia.15 February, 2022
This month, Josh and Anna Ariens, continue the reflections on Pope Francis’ Letter on Love in Marriage.
Chapter Four: Love in Marriage
In this chapter, titled Love in Marriage, Pope Francis illuminates God’s plan for leading a life of love as married couples and families, touching too on the single or consecrated life.
Francis starts with defining the features of true love, taking the well-known passage from St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 13:4-7) and offering us very useful and encouraging insights. Perhaps one of the deepest truths he shares centres on love for our spouse and family, those with a key part in our life: a Christian is called to respect the other’s freedom. This requires us to be sensitive, willing to wait, even with disinterestedness, as part of forming and establishing a ‘school of courtesy’ and the loving environment necessary and proper to the growth of what St John Paul II called the ‘domestic church’, our homes.
We have found the journey of our marriage to be one of ongoing ‘seasoning’; beyond the ‘golden glow’ of newlywed joy and the excitement and newness of a life together, the very real trials and pain of growth as a couple have served to test, strengthen and cement all of what we had promised at the altar. It’s clear we have doubted at times the joy God seeks to give us in the sacrament we are meant to ‘keep ministering’ to each other. In this document Francis offers gentle but strong guidance in areas which may be somewhat “grey” at times in the adventure of marriage.
Chapter 4 fulfills its title, opening our understanding to better hear the call to live and share the ‘joy of love’. Its four parts: Our Daily Love, Growing in Conjugal Love, Passionate Love and The Transformation of Love, are underpinned by the call to love more fully, maturely and unreservedly as Christians – and especially as married couples. Francis recognises this is far from easy at times and so his five ‘tips’ for more effective dialogue in experiencing, expressing and fostering love in marriage and family life strike home simply and clearly. He is encouraging us as married couples to ‘dialogue’, to communicate in ways that are more open, honest and intentional.
To be honest, as a couple, the reflections stimulated by reading St Paul’s text brought up feelings of inadequacy in many respects – for example, “love is not irritable” – which many of us may experience as a struggle to live out consistently. Yet Francis encourages us not to allow our shortcomings to dominate or define the direction of our marriage, for ‘God’s compassions fail not and ‘His mercies are new every morning’ (Lam. 3:22-23) because God is always ‘doing a new thing!” (Is. 43:19). Significantly, Pope Francis confirms the importance of forgiveness in marriage.
Like all good Church teaching there is a wealth of wisdom, both ancient and new, that is woven into this chapter and which the Pope draws upon – from two of the great doctors of the Church, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, to the Catechism, Vatican II documents, recent popes and modern authors. But it is to Papa Francis’s own words that we are drawn to capture some of the beauty and wisdom found here:
The most intense joys in life arise when we are able to elicit joy in others, as a foretaste of heaven.
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.
As he writes in his opening sentence, “the Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church”. Deepening our own response to our baptismal call to share that joy with others, tenderly and compassionately, will make us the Church Jesus intended when he sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and transform us into his likeness.
– Josh and Anna Ariens