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A Mother's Heart: When things go awry

Sorrows by Titian, ca 1554

My latest article is up at Catholic Stand. Perhaps because I am working on a presentation that deals with how a mother relates to adult children, Pope Francis' general audience last week struck a chord with me. He used the imagery of a mother's heart to describe how the Church deals with the civilly divorced and remarried. Here is a snippet of my response:

Those of us who have children have felt the pain of a child’s misbehavior. It may be something minor such as the disobedience of a young child. It may be something more significant during the rebellious teenage years. It may be something heartbreaking as our adult children make poor life choices and face devastating consequences. No matter how old our children are or how badly their actions hurt themselves or us, they never stop being our children and we never stop loving them. 
I believe that is what Pope Francis was trying to convey about the relationship of the Church with those who have divorced and remarried. They are no different than the rest of us, in the sense that they are sinners as we all are. The Church does not condone the sins but does love the sinners. Perfection is not required to sit in the pews or participate in the life of the parish.

The article has only been up a few hours and already there are comments that prove Pope Francis was right to address the issue. The tone of these comments reflects a hostility towards these families that certainly would not make them welcome in any parish. I am even being accused of trying to negate explicit Church teaching because I endorse the Pope's view that those in irregular marital situations need to be welcomed into the fold of the parish to the full extent that Church doctrine allows.

To digress to another issue, perhaps the problem is that we think going to Communion is automatic if one attends Mass. Actually, every time  attend Mass one must discern the state of our soul. Are we in a state of grace to receive Communion? Have we observed the Eucharistic fast? Should we go to confession before we receive?

The usher driven pew-by-pew style of going up to Communion puts a spotlight on anyone who does not receive. There was a time when people prayed silently first then approached Communion when they were properly disposed. Since everyone is coming forward in a somewhat random order it is not so obvious when someone stays in his pew. I have to wonder if our drive for efficiency has taken away from the solemnity and gravity of receiving the Eucharist as well as kept some from attending Mass for fear their avoidance of Communion will stigmatize them.

There are so many children whose parents are in irregular marital situations and who are being deprived of Sunday Mass. For the sake of these children as well as their parents we should do what we can to make these families part of our parish families. Holy Mother Church loves all of her children.


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