I am grateful for the many contributions that helped me to appreciate more fully the problems faced by families throughout the world.
Following on from his first Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis has recently released his second entitled The Joy of Love (only available as PDF in English). It is interesting that both documents begin with the words: The joy of... ( in Spanish: La alegría del... and in Italian: La gioia del…), and yet each document has an official title in Latin, purported to be from the Latin text of the “original”. The Joy of the Gospel is known as Evangelii Gaudium while the more recent exhortation, The Joy of Love, is also known as Amoris Laetitia.
We know these two words for joy from the two Sundays at the mid-points of Advent and Lent, otherwise known as respectively, Gaudete Sunday and Laetare Sunday, when rose-coloured vestments are used. It could be seen as something of an affectation to give these documents Latin titles given that there are NOT, in fact, any Latin translations of the documents from which their titles could be drawn. Nevertheless, it is interesting that these two Latin words for joy are used. What is the difference between Gaudium and Laetitia? A quick Google will take us to the website of Fr John A. Hardon SJ, where we learn that gaudere in Latin means to rejoice, but especially to rejoice internally; whereas laetare, or laetitia for the noun, means joy, but joy that is somehow manifest and shown. Anyway, there is no avoiding the fact that Joy is part of the job description for the disciples of Jesus, as we heard recently in the Gospel for Thursday of the 5th week of Eastertide: “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.’ (Jn 15:11)
The Joy of Love is Pope Francis’ response in the form of an Apostolic Exhortation to the two assemblies of the Synod of Bishops on the Family:
the Extraordinary General Assembly of 2014 examining The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization
and the Ordinary General Assembly in 2015 focussing on The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World
Francis acknowledges all their contributions:
I am grateful for the many contributions that helped me to appreciate more fully the problems faced by families throughout the world. (4)
Given the rich fruits of the two-year Synod process, this Exhortation will treat, in different ways, a wide variety of questions. This explains its inevitable length. Consequently, I do not recommend a rushed reading of the text. The greatest benefit, for families themselves and for those engaged in the family apostolate, will come if each part is read patiently and carefully, or if attention is paid to the parts dealing with their specific needs. It is likely, for example, that married couples will be more concerned with Chapters Four and Five, and pastoral ministers with Chapter Six, while everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight. It is my hope that, in reading this text, all will feel called to love and cherish family life, for “families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity”. (7)
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