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Online Learning

Course Number: PAS 621
Course Title: Pastoral Care of Marriage and the Family
Term: Fall  2014

Professor

Rev. Fr. Dominic Anaeto

Email:danaeto@holyapostles.edu or ugodom2000@yahoo.com

1. COURSE DESCRIPTION

This course is aimed at recapturing the original notion of marriage as a covenant as against the prevalent notion as a contract.  Marriage as a spousal covenant should be explored both from the biblical and traditional perspectives.   Some topics to be covered include:  Marriage as a saving mystery, factors that jeopardize authentic married life, responsible parenthood, courtship, remote and proximate preparation for marriage, matrimonial consent as base rock of marriage, marriage as a community of love, obstacles to community of life, properties of marriage, marital chastity and Christian marriage as a vocation in the Church and pastoral care of families with physical or mental challenges.

2. LEARNING OUTCOMES:

Students at the completion of this course will be able to:

  • Explain the nature of Christian marriage
  • Demonstrate that marriage is a sacred reality and a divine  institution
  • Show that Christian marriage is an image of the love between Christ and the Church.
  •  Show  profound knowledge for both remote and proximate preparation for Christian marriage.
  • Demonstrate that matrimonial consent is the basic rock for Christian marriage.
  • Basic knowledge of the properties of Christian marriage.
  • Demonstrate the fact that Christian marriage is a community of love and the obstacles against  such community
  • Explain the real meaning of marital chastity.
  • Demonstrate the real meaning of courtship and responsible parenthood
  • Show that marriage is a saving mystery
  • Demonstrate skills for caring for children with physical and mental challenges.

3. COURSE SCHEDULE

You will need to read the lecture summary for each week and the corresponding assigned texts when preparing for your discussion board posts and writing your papers. These are simple foundation and guide for your further research and readings

Week 1- Lesson 1: The Nature of Christian Marriage

Readings: Fulton J. Sheen, Three to get married, Scepter Publication, 1996, $9.29, ISBN-10: 0933932871.

Assignments:  Discuss in detail the profound theological statement that Christian marriage is a sign of the mystical union of Christ with his church

Week 2- Lesson 2:  Marriage as a Covenant

Required Readings: Richard Hogan& John Levoir, Covenant  of love: Pope John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage and the Family in the Modern World, Ignatius Press, 1992, $12.38 ISBN-13:978-0898703993

Suggested Readings: Derek Prince, Marriage Covenant, Whitaker house, 2006, $8.09, ISBN-13:978-0883687819; John Cardinal O’Connor, Liguori Publications, 1999, $15.15, ISBN-13:978-0764803383.

Assignments: Discuss the theological implications  of marriage as a covenant

Week 3- Lesson 3: Christian Marriage as a Vocation in the Church

Required Readings: Richard Hogan& John Levoir, Covenant  of love: Pope John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage and the Family in the Modern World, Ignatius Press, 1992, $12.38 ISBN-13:978-0898703993

Suggested Readings:  Gaudium et Spes 50; Lumen Gentium 11; Apostolicam Actuositatem 11; Eph. 5: 22-23, 32

Assignments: What is the specific mission of Christian marriage in the Church?

Week 4- Lesson 4: Marriage as a Sacred Reality and Divine institution

Required Readings: Edward Schillebeeckx, Marriage: Human Reality and Saving Mystery, Sheed and Ward, 1965, $18.95, ISBN- 13:978-0722076644.

Suggested Readings: Michael G. Lawler, Marriage and Sacrament: A Theology of Christian Marriage, Michael Glazier books, 1993, $14.36, ISBN-13:978-0814650516

Assignments: With the biblical prayer of Tobias (Tobit 8:6-9) in mind, demonstrate that Christian  marriage is a sacred reality and divine  institution.

Week 5- Lesson 5: The Sacramentality of Christian Marriage

Required Readings: Edward Schillebeeckx, Marriage: Human Reality and Saving Mystery, Sheed and Ward, 1965, $18.95, ISBN- 13:978-0722076644.

Suggested Readings:  Michael G. Lawler, Marriage and Sacrament: A Theology of Christian Marriage, Michael Glazier books, 1993, $14.36, ISBN-13:978-0814650516

Assignments:  What additional value does the sacrament give to the natural contract between a man and a woman?

Week 6- Lesson 6: Christian Marriage as an Image of the love between Christ and the Church

Readings:  Edward Schillebeeckx, Marriage: Human Reality and Saving Mystery, Sheed and Ward, 1965, $18.95, ISBN- 13:978-0722076644.

Assignments:  The first paper is due at the end of week 6. Topic: To grasp the beauty and splendor of Christian marriage, the understanding of the deep mystery of the union of Christ with the church is necessary. Discuss

Week 7- Lesson 7:  Marital Chastity

Readings:  John Paul II, Love and Responsibility, Ignatius press, 1993, $16.95, ISBN-10: 0898704456.

Assignments: Discuss with practical examples the meaning of martial chastity

Week 8- Lesson 8: Matrimonial Consent: The basic Rock of Christian Marriage

Readings:  John Paul II, The theology of the body: Human love in the divine plan, Pauline books and Media, 1997, $24.23, ISBN-10: 0819873942.

Assignments: Matrimonial consent must be free, personal and mutually simultaneous. Discuss

Week 9- Lesson 9: Marriage as a Community of Love

Required Readings: Richard Hogan& John Levoir, Covenant  of love: Pope John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage and the Family in the Modern World, Ignatius Press, 1992, $12.38 ISBN-13:978-0898703993

Suggested Readings: Dietrich Von Hildebrand, Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love, Sophia Institute Press, 1991, $9.95, ISBN-13:978-0918477002

Assignments: Married love in its deepest significance is more than love between two , it is a love between three. Discuss 

Week 10-Lesson 10: Remote and Proximate preparation for Marriage

Readings: Richard Hogan& John Levoir, Covenant  of love: Pope John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage and the Family in the Modern World, Ignatius Press, 1992, $12.38 ISBN-13:978-0898703993

Assignments:  Discuss the fact that the stages in marriage preparation is not simply chronological but spiral in nature

Week 11-Lesson 11:  The Christian Understanding of Courtship

Readings: Douglas Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World, Canon Press, 1997, $10.80, ISBN-13:978-1885767269

Assignments:   The second paper is due at the end of this week 11.  Topic: How will you educate a young teenager on the importance of  Christian courtship between marriage

Week 12- Lesson 12: Responsible Parenthood

Readings:  Richard Hogan& John Levoir, Covenant  of love: Pope John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage and the Family in the Modern World, Ignatius Press, 1992, $12.38 ISBN-13:978-0898703993

Assignments: Discuss in detail the Christian understanding of Responsible Parenthood

Week 13- Lesson 13: Factors that jeopardize Authentic Married life

Required Readings:  Richard Hogan& John Levoir, Covenant  of love: Pope John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage and the Family in the Modern World, Ignatius Press, 1992, $12.38 ISBN-13:978-0898703993

Suggested Readings: Pope John Paul II,  The Role of Christian Family in Modern World, Daughters of St Paul, 1981, $6.09,   ISBN-13:978-0819864499

Assignments: With practical examples, discuss some of the factors that jeopardize authentic married life

Week 14- Lesson 14: Properties of Marriage: Unity and Indissolubility

Readings:  John Paul II, The theology of the body: Human love in the divine plan, Pauline books and Media, 1997, $24.23, ISBN-10: 0819873942.

Assignments: Discuss in detail the theological statement that Unity and indissolubility as essential properties of marriage is an explicit will of God in Genesis and confirmed in Mt 19:3ff

Week 15- Lesson 15:    Specific Pastoral Situations: Physically or mentally challenged

Required Readings: Robert G. Schroeder, John Paul and the Meaning of Suffering: Lessons from a Spiritual Master, Our Sunday visitor, 2008, $12.90, ISBN-13:978-15927763146

Suggested Readings: Devoted to the Handicapped (Vatican City: L’Osservatore Romano, Mar. 1980, pp.6-8). A document issued by the Holy See for the International Year of the Handicapped. Also printed in the Pope Speaks, Vol. 26, No. 2, 1981, pp.157-167.  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Pastoral Statements of U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with disabilities, $3.95, ASIN: BOOBIV6BIC

Assignments: The third paper is due at the end of this week 15. Topic: Discuss the spiritual pastoral help to be offered to a mentally or physically challenged person in the family

Schedule a ten minutes Skype defense of your paper. My Skype name is ugodom

4. COURSE REQUIREMENTS

This course requires three papers to be presented. The final paper should be five pages and the two other papers will be three pages each. They will be presented at the end of weeks 6, 11 and 15. They are to be researched cum reflective papers. The papers should be double spaced, 12-point font of New Times Romans. Proper academic format should be used cognizant of footnotes and title page at the beginning. Please consult the HACS style sheet located in the shared folder of the files tab in Populi for proper citation. These papers should be emailed to me at danaeto@holyapostles.edu or ugodom2000@yahoo.com .In addition to the three papers, you should sign onto the Discussion Board and post your discussion utilizing the questions provided at the end of each week’s lesson except for weeks 6, 11 and 15. You are also required to post a response to the discussion of at least one of your colleagues. The Discussion Board topics are listed under the Discussion tab, by week. If you do not receive a word from me that I received your paper within a few days of your sending it, I did not receive it. If you did not get the corrected paper back within a week, please let me know. If you cannot make the deadline, please inform me of the reason.

Discussion Forums:

We have two discussion forums; General and Required forums.

General Discussion forum:

This is for course-related discussion. You may post questions about the materials and topics, thoughts and comments about the course concepts. Be sure to respond to the postings of your colleague the same as you would do in a traditional classroom. I will monitor this forum, but please do not expect me to comment on all postings. Do please use the General Discussion forum for all course-related questions that you would like to ask of me, for if you have a question, chances are some of your colleagues have the same question and will be able to join in the response. You may also contact me directly as I do not check the General Discussion every day. Specific personal questions regarding your grades, extensions for due dates and private matter should be sent to me in an email: ugodom2000@yahoo.com. I will do my best to respond to you within 48hours. If I will be out-of-range of Internet access for several days, I will communicate that prior to the time.

Required Discussion Forum:

This forum is for weekly assignment submissions. You are expected to write one page every week following the week’s lesson and write a short response (not more than half a page) to your colleague’s submission. This is for the purpose of fostering a community of learners. I will monitor and comment once on all the submissions and responses, and this should help you to orient your mind to the materials as you begin the process of writing your papers.

5. REQUIRED READINGS and RESOURCES:

All the books should be available for purchase on the Internet using Amazon.com.

  John Paul II, The theology of the body: Human love in the divine plan, Pauline books and Media, 1997, $24.23, ISBN-10: 0819873942.

 John Paul II, Love and Responsibility, Ignatius press, 1993, $16.95, ISBN-10: 0898704456.

 Fulton J. Sheen, Three to get married, Scepter Publication, 1996, $9.29, ISBN-10: 0933932871.

Edward Schillebeeckx, Marriage: Human Reality and Saving Mystery, Sheed and Ward, 1965, $18.95, ISBN- 13:978-0722076644

Richard Hogan& John Levoir, Covenant  of love: Pope John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage and the Family in the Modern World, Ignatius Press, 1992, $12.38 ISBN-13:978-0898703993

Robert G. Schroeder, John Paul and the Meaning of Suffering: Lessons from a Spiritual Master, Our Sunday visitor, 2008, $12.90, ISBN-13:978-15927763146

Douglas Wilson, Her Hand in Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World, Canon Press, 1997, $10.80, ISBN-13:978-1885767269

6. SUGGESTED READINGS and RESOURCES:

Derek Prince, Marriage Covenant, Whitaker house, 2006, $8.09, ISBN-13:978-0883687819

John Cardinal O’Connor, Liguori Publications, 1999, $15.15, ISBN-13:978-0764803383.

Dietrich Von Hildebrand, Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love, Sophia Institute Press, 1991, $9.95, ISBN-13:978-0918477002;

Michael G. Lawler, Marriage and Sacrament: A Theology of Christian Marriage,  Michael Glazier books, 1993, $14.36, ISBN-13:978-0814650516

7. EVALUATION:

Grading

  • Three Papers: 50%,
  • Discussions: 30%,
  • Response to your colleague’s discussions: 20%,

GRADING SCALE:

A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 D 60-69; F 59 and below

8. DISABILITIES ACCOMMODATIONS POLICY

Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at rmish@holyapostles.edu or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.

9. ACADEMIC HONESTY POLICY

Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own. At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.

Students, where applicable:

  • Should identify the title, author, page number/webpage address, and publication date of works when directly quoting small portions of texts, articles, interviews, or websites.
  • Students should not copy more than two paragraphs from any source as a major component of papers or projects.
  • Should appropriately identify the source of information when paraphrasing (restating) ideas from texts, interviews, articles, or websites.
  • Should follow the Holy Apostles College & Seminary Style sheet (available on the Online Writing Lab’s website at http://www.holyapostles.edu/owl/resources).

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously. Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.

10. ATTENDANCE POLICY

Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.

10. INCOMPLETE POLICY

An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.

11. ABOUT YOUR PROFESSOR

Fr. Dominic Anaeto is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Nnewi in Nigeria. He holds a License in Spirituality from Gregorian University in Rome, a Doctorate in Pastoral Theology from the Lateran University also in Rome, and a diploma from the Christian Institute for the Study of Human Sexuality at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois. He is a certified counselor on topics related to Human Development and Human Sexuality. He functions as a director of spiritual life which involves giving spiritual conferences, moderating retreats, seminars and recollections. He offers pastoral counseling and spiritual direction to individuals and groups. Presently, he is a professor at Holy Apostles College & Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.

 

LESSON SUMMARIES

Lesson One- Week one:  The Nature of Christian Marriage

Marriage between two Christians (two members of the mystical body of Christ) is a sacramental mystery, a divine action, a supernatural reality, an external visible reality but with supernatural content. It is ecclesial community and Christ is the head and the basis-through the sacraments with which Christ wishes to unite all men to the Father and participate in the divine life. The Christian community is a community of love. Two of these unite in conjugal community in deeper love, for it is love inside love. Both to be and to act of the spouses are in Christ and pertain to Christ in whom they obtain the efficacy of their “agire”. Through the mission of Christ, marriage has become a means of following and imitating Christ, serving the kingdom of God. It has come within the gifts of the Holy Spirit, a heavenly Charism and an instrument of building up the church. Hence Christian marriage is a mission and a vocation. For all the sacraments operate on the supernatural plane sharing in the efficacy and salvific action of the Godman. The sacramental grace of matrimony is the special participation in the mystery of redemption through the sacraments, symbolizing also the union of Christ with his beloved Church, the church he has acquired as a pure and holy spouse-bearing fruits of new members.

The Vatican Council states: “For this reason, Christian spouses have a special sacrament by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the duties and dignity of their state. By virtue of this sacrament, as the spouses fulfil their conjugal and family obligation, they are penetrated with the spirit of Christ. The spirit suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity. Thus they increasingly advance their mutual sanctification and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God (GS 48) and building up the Church.

During the pre-marriage instruction, the pastor must explain and insist on this theological point that Christian marriage is a sign of the mystical union of Christ with his church-a sanctifying, consecrating and fruitful union and mystery.

Week 2- Lesson 2: Marriage as a Covenant

Is marriage a contract or a covenant? A contract is more structure orientated than a covenant and reflects a body of rights and obligations. But marriage exceeds this connotation. A covenant however, contains the element of unreserved love and self-giving. It reflects a relationship of mutual concern for the value and dignity of the persons who are involved. A covenant is a relationship of fidelity which is primarily based not upon mutual rights and obligations but rather upon mutual enrichment. The mutual self-giving which is expressed in the covenant relationship is by its nature so deep and so all-encompassing that it asks for indissolubility.

The human reality of marriage as known to us through the scriptures is a sign of the loving and covenantal relationship between God and his people. Marriage is in itself sanctifying because it was understood as a symbol of the covenant between Yahweh and his chosen people. Christian marriage is a symbol of Christ’s union with his church. The Vatican Council states: “he intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the creator and qualified by his laws. It is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence, by that human act human whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other, a relationship arises which by divine will  and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one (G.S, 48). This permanency  of union is essential for the good of the children and the institution itself and in special way the parties themselves.

However, there is element of contract in marriage and it is a very important element for specifying the nature of the relationship (a marital one) and for other safeguards. The covenant aspect is to be emphasized  because marriage relationship is deeper than mere legal structure.

Week 3- Lesson 3: Christian Marriage as a Vocation in the Church

For the Christian spouses in virtue of the sacrament of matrimony whereby they signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and his church help each other attain the holiness of their married life and in procreation and education of their children. By reason of their state and rank in the life of the church, they have their own special grace and gifts among the people of God (cf. L.G. 11). For if a person is assigned to a special place, role or function in  the church and given a specific permanent sacrament and specific graces to fulfil the supernatural role or function, he must be given or the group must receive calling or vocation from God. In Christian marriage two Christians are assigned by Christ the important role of visible symbol and reminder of his permanent and fruitful union with his church, are consecrated in their union by a permanent sacrament and granted a specific sacramental grace of Christian couple and the right to necessary actual and remedial graces. Therefore two baptized persons entering the state of Christian wedlock receive a specific calling or vocation from God.

Christian marriage is an effective instrument of salvation. Marriage as a supernatural reality should be regarded as a secular or human reality lived supernaturally. Marriage is therefore both a secular and a supernatural reality. In virtue of its elevation to the supernatural level the secular has been transformed into the supernatural. According to St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians (5:22-23), marriage is in itself a mystery of profound reality- a self-giving and union comparable and symbolical to that existing between Christ and his church; So that the marital life which exists between the husband and the wife ought to be a participation in the love and union of Christ and the church.

The Vatican Council states: “parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the creator, and are so to speak the interpreters of that love. Thus they will fulfil their task with human and Christian responsibility. With docile reverence towards God, they will come to the right decision by common counsel and effort. They will thoughtfully take into account both their own welfare and that of their children, born and to be born (G.S.50). The Council continues: since the creator of all things has established the conjugal partnership as the beginning  and basis of human society and by his grace has made it a great mystery in Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32), the apostolate of married persons and families is of unique importance for the church and the civil society. Christian husbands and wives are cooperators in grace and witnesses of faith on behalf of each other, their children and others in the household. They are the first to communicate the faith to their children and educate them, by word and example they train their offspring for the Christian and apostolic life. They prudently help them in the choice of their vocation and carefully promote any religious calling which they may discern in them.

Week 4- Lesson 4: Marriage as a Sacred Reality and Divine institution

The Second Vatican Council has in a most special way re-emphasized what had already existed in the teaching of the Popes.

  • Pius XI, “Casti Conubi” Dec. 31, 1930
  • Pius XII, “Allocution to Midwives”, Oct 29, 1951
  • Paul VI, “Humane Vitae”, July 25, 1968

Namely, that to understand and appreciate the beauty and grandeur of Christian marriage, we must strive to see it through the eyes of Christ; to see it from his own point of view, in its relationship to God. We must, therefore, strive to acquire Christ’s attitude and outlook towards marriage. Through Christ, every intimate detail of married life assume all the joy and happiness and fullness of life intended for this sacred state. Marriage belongs completely to God. It is something entirely in his hands. He instituted it. Once we understand this, we possess the first essential fact to be realized concerning the nature of marriage. That marriage is a divine institution is aptly summarized in this short prayer uttered by young Tobias:

“It was You who created Adam, You who created Eve his wife to be his help and support; and from these two the human race was born. It was you who said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; let us make him a helpmate like himself’. And so I do not take this my sister for any lustful motive; I do it in singleness of heart. Be kind enough to have pity on her and on me and bring us to old age together. And together they said: Amen, Amen”. (Tobit 8: 6-9)

Week 5- Lesson 5: The Sacramentality of Christian Marriage

Nowhere does the grandeur and beauty  and salvific power of Christian marriage shine out as in its sacramentality. As a natural contract, marriage is the act of mutual consent by which a man and woman give to each other the right to relations and to the normal features of married life; living together and co-operating to meet their common needs and interests. In the Old law, this natural contract was incapable of giving grace even through it belongs entirely to God. When, however, Christ came on earth, he lifted this natural contract into one of His abiding saving mysteries. Christ the Lord is the well-spring of grace, “of his fullness we have all received” (Jn 1:16). Through his life, death and resurrection, he made all things new (Apoc. 21:15), healed them and conferred on them a new holiness. He has thus abundantly blessed marriage and conferred on it a new holiness. Through Christ this supremely natural reality became a supremely supernatural reality fitted to the task laid on it of revealing the dimensions of the mystery of salvation. In making marriage a sacrament, Christ simply took the natural contract and made the Sacrament identical with it. Henceforth, the very act of mutual consent by which a Christian man and woman become husband and wife is capable of giving them grace. Every sacrament is an encounter with Christ. As the marrying pair meets each other in their consent, they meet Christ as well who now makes perceptible and active in them his saving effectiveness. Christ becomes sovereignly effective to bind and sanctify these two people. The partners themselves achieve in this sacrament a veiled contact with the Lord. This is what it means to say that marriage is a sacrament.

Week 6- Lesson 6:  Christian Marriage as an Image of the love between Christ and the Church

In one of the prayers in the New Rite of marriage, the church thus prays for the married couple: “Father, in the fulfilment of this sacrament, the marriage of Christian man and woman is a sign of the marriage between Christ and the Church”. And in another prayer we read- “Father, you have made the union of man and wife so holy a mystery that it symbolizes the marriage of Christ and his church. In the Christian tradition, beginning with St. Paul, Christian marriage has always been regarded as being a profound spiritual reality modelled upon the union of Christ with his church. In order to grasp a little of the beauty and splendor that is Christian marriage, we must, therefore, understand better the deep mystery of the union of Christ with the church and see therein the perfect love which should be typical of the two in one flesh in Christian marriage. Christ came on earth only for his church, the society that he wished to found. As soon as founded, the Church’s only concern henceforth was for Christ, her master: Christ gives himself entirely and dies for the church. The church suffers and is persecuted constantly as she struggles to win more souls for Christ, souls in which and through which Christ continues to live on earth in his Church. A union as intimate, a fusion of hearts as complete, and affection as mutual, exclusive and durable as that of Christ for this church and the church’s for Christ is the model God intended for marriage when he raised it to the dignity of a sacrament. Any Christian marriage that falls short of this ideal will flounder helplessly around in the midst of unending confusion and frustration. On the other hand the Christian couple’s faith in this mystery  of the mutual love between Christ and the church, to which it is their task to bear witness, enables them to persevere together even in times of suffering and to look forward in trust to the second coming of Christ when all the love between Christ  and his church and all love sanctified in Christ will be brought to a glorious consummation.

Week 7- Lesson 7:  Marital Chastity

Marital chastity is an expression of strong and tender love. Conjugal chastity is the fruit of well-ordered marital love. In order that the two-in-one-flesh unity, as well as disciplined continence of the married couple to be perfectly chaste, a tender genuine and constant love must give force and texture to the whole relationship. Authentic marital love must thoroughly animate married life if it will not be left to be dominated by a purely sensual element. As an encounter in total love, marital union imposes a series of obligations for conjugal chastity: regarding the manner and mode of the union, the attitude and posture, the incidental accompanying intimacies, love technique, the correct and proper request for fulfilment of conjugal duty and the restraint due.

Principles

  1. There must be a reverential disposition and will to render service to life. Every Christian is bound by this virtue because it is a gift and you need to give back in response. Every married man must be ready to work towards this. Rendering service to life means procreating in union with God in Christian responsibility. If the couples refuse to do this in marriage, they are contradicting themselves.
  2. Since chaste wedlock is a virtue and one that is practiced in community of life, it demands, therefore, that the spouses be faithful in love to each other so that marital union may express and foster conjugal love and fidelity and the practice of virtue itself. If one refuses, the other party who wants to practice chastity is in trouble. No virtue is alone and therefore, no sin is alone. Prudence marshals out all virtues.
  3. Since marriage is a sacrament, marital union therefore must be oriented to Christ. Sacraments impose also tasks on us, therefore, marital love devoted, forbearing, sacrificing must be understood as fulfilling the sacramental task and commitment. This is understood from the theology of sex, through true notions of eros, instinct and agape. In instinct, there is  a mutual attraction of the sexes. In eros there is human love. Its sphere is broader and loftier than the merely sexual. In fallen-man, instinct and eros are in constant danger of imbalance. One must distinguish between mere sexual satisfaction of passion and genuine conjugal love-union. In the former, we have sex out of control, eros devoid of nobility, responsibility and true love. In the latter, we have eros matured through and in responsible love. We have agape-spiritual love; love born of God. This in its inmost essence is giving, submission, solicitude for the happiness and salvation of another, hence agape is infinitely greater than the instinct or the eros. It is to direct and to ennoble them, if not; they degenerate into egoistic self-satisfaction at the price of another’s degradation.

Week 8- Lesson 8: Matrimonial Consent: The basic Rock of Christian Marriage

The whole essence of marriage is consent. Canons 1081-1087 deal with consent. Matrimonial consent for Christians must be before the officiating priest and the two witnesses. Marriage is by its nature a contract. It is raised to  a sacrament without losing  its contractual nature. It is the signum sacramentalis. This consent is effected by the union or meeting of the spouses. Therefore, marriage consent is an act of the will by which each party gives and receives a perpetual and exclusive right over the body for acts which are of themselves suitable for the generation of children (cf canon 1081). Consent must be free, personal, mutually simultaneous duly manifested externally. Considering these conditions given, it follows that matrimonial consent can be invalid for reasons that affect the intellect and will  for example, ignorance, mental deficiency, mental disorder, error on the part of the intellect; on the part of the will simulation, fear etc. finally the church demands that consent be exchanged in the manner determined by Her

Week 9- Lesson 9: Marriage as a Community of Love

Everything that God has created proclaims in its own way the fundamental truth, “God is love” (1 John 4:16). Human being is the image and likeness of God and shows himself as such in his capacity for genuine love. In the natural order of creation nothing manifests the love of God so clearly and impressively as married love which at least in germ is also parental love. It is through married love that God, the creative love, has willed to perpetuate  the human race. Thus married love, the love whereby man and wife bring new life into existence and together cherish and nurture it, is a sign to all generations that God creates in love and as love itself  makes others sharers in his love.

In the actual order of salvation, God’s love has been made visible in an incomparably higher way, in Jesus Christ and in the alliance of love which Christ has established between himself and his church. This puts married love into second place as a manifestation of God’s  love but at the same time, bestows on it a grace and dignity.  Both married love and dedicated virginity now, in different ways, bring forth and participate in the fundamental sacrament of the dynamic presence and action of God’s love on earth; they express and participate in the alliance of love between Christ and his church. Marriage is a community of love and not alone of earthly love. Rather, through earthly love marriage becomes a community of salvation, a love that comes from God and leads back to God, a redeemed and redeeming love.

Love Between Three:  in bridal love man and woman emerge as it were, totally into each other’s life in the relationship of loving and being loved; each draws the other out of the isolation of merely individual existence. In this experience man learns at a profound metaphysical level that it is not good for him “ to be alone” and that it is only in giving and receiving true love that he can be truly himself and can come to the true fulfilment on his being. But married love in its deepest significance is more than a love between two; it is a love between three and this is in a twofold sense. Firstly, every genuine human love is an expression of man’s likeness to God as sharer in God’s own love. Wherever you find true love between two people, God the creative love is present and active. “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus tibi est”. Metaphysically considered, love of one’s neighbor is a fellow-loving with God, a sharing through one’s neighbor in the radiance of the Divine love. Every true and enduring love between men affords a glimpse of the love of the invisible God and as a union of love constitutes a reply to his love. Secondly, married love is a love between three in a sense special to itself. By its very nature, it involves assent to and co-operation with God the loving creator of men. Consciously or unconsciously, married love always and necessarily implies this fundamental assent to the  true love of God, who creates in love and holds in  disdain nothing that he had made. By virtue of its very form and significance, the concrete expression of conjugal love denotes a relationship of loving service to the creator, irrespective of whether generation actually takes place or not in particular instances. This is so absolutely true that at the very moment that a married couple deliberately deprive the conjugal act of this significance, their own love for each other is defaced and each becomes the prisoner of  his own empty self-centeredness. These are facts that married people need to understand quite clearly

Married love is a love between three. The love that binds husband and wife together is absolutely exclusive of any parallel relationship between either of them and another woman or man; such a relationship would at once falsify the love between them. But their love involves openness to the fruit of their love-to children- when and as God, the third in their alliance of love wills that they should have them. This procreative openness, this assent to childbirth, constitutes the specific and differentiating characteristic of married love, the characteristic that sets it apart from every other form of love between human persons; and it is precisely this procreative openness that safeguards married love from becoming an “egoism between  two”.

Through the service they render to human life, husband and wife, in and by their very love, transcends them and win for themselves a place of honor in human society and still more in the Mystical Body of Christ.

What of the married couple that remain childless through no fault of their own? They also have a fundamental spirit of assent to and service of God the creator and through it transcend themselves. Their love issues in fruitful service to one another. Moreover, their love bears fruit also beyond themselves if, like those who live in dedicated virginity, they give generous and unselfish service to others and so bear radiant witness  to the fruitfulness of supernatural, Christian love.

But what of the case where conjugal relations are robbed of assent to the third in the alliance in both senses of “the third”- assent to the creator and to the ordinances of his love and simultaneously assent to the child as the fruit of married love? To refuse to have a child, even when having one is completely compatible with existing responsibilities, renders married love sterile in more senses than one. It then becomes“egoism between two” and this cannot liberate anyone from the isolation of his own egoism. Such a “love” (if it deserves this name at all) has no part in the supernatural fruitfulness of the church our Mother; in no way does it represent  and bring forth the alliance of love between Christ and his church; it does not radiate beyond the narrow circle of selfishness within which it is enclosed.

Week 10-Lesson 10: Remote, Proximate and Immediate preparation for Marriage

Canon 1063 made a general statement about how the Christian community with the help of their pastors can preserve the marital state in Christian spirit and perfect it further. This can be achieved through marriage preparation and pastoral care of married couples. The canon names four explicit areas  wherein pastors must assist in marriage preparation, “preaching and general catechesis of all the Christian faithful on marriage, proximate preparation of individuals planning to get married, fruitful liturgical celebration of the sacrament of marriage, ongoing marital assistance to those who are married”. The pontifical council for the family offered a document in preparation for  the sacrament of marriage which constitutes the remote, proximate and immediate preparation for the sacrament. Christian marriage preparation can be described as a journey of faith which does not end with the celebration of marriage but continues throughout family life.  The stages or periods which will be discussed are not simply chronological but could be spiral in nature.

Remote preparation: This is the period in which respect for all authentic human values both in interpersonal and social  relations is transmitted and instilled. This implies the formation of character, self -control and self-esteem, the proper use of one’s inclinations and respect for persons of the other sex. Therefore, effective marriage preparation must begin in childhood, children and young people who learn what the obligations of marriage care and who learn to appreciate the importance of the sacrament, will be better to apply these teachings to their  own lives when they marry. In this period, a faithful and courageous education in charity and love as self-giving must not be lacking. Charity is not   a mortification of love but rather a condition for real love. In fact, if the vocation to married love is a vocation to self-giving in marriage, one must succeed in possessing oneself in order to be able to truly give oneself.

In other words, parents educate their children in the matter of marriage in the way they live their own. Children learn a lot from the interaction of their parents. Children will have a positive picture of Christian marriage when besides witnessing the friendly interaction of their parents, the experience God’s presence in their home, hear their parents  talking together about the love of God, see them pray together, go to church together. Those who are married no matter how young they are, are teachers in marriage as soon as they become parents. So that, every home becomes a school for other marriages. Not only does the home become a school, it is also a domestic church.

Proximate Preparation:  Proximate preparation takes place during the period of engagement. It consists of specific relationship between the proposing couples. During the proximate preparation, it seems useful to provide the possibility to verify the maturation of the human values pertaining to the relationship of friendship and dialogue that should characterize the engagement. Canon 1063, lays emphasis on the importance of proximate preparation for those who are about to marry saying that it disposes them to the holiness and obligation of their new state of life. This is a period during which the couple will have the opportunity to deepen their faith as well as to identify any difficulties they may have in living an authentic Christian life.

The period of proximate  preparation should be  marked  with  making  young people getting to marry to understand that the commitment they take on through the exchange of their consent “before the church” makes it necessary for them to begin  a path of reciprocal  fidelity in the engagement period. This human commitment will be enhanced by the specific gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to the engaged who invoke him.

By the end of this period of proximate preparation, the engaged couple should have a good idea of what marriage entails and how they will take their place in the Christian community, as well as how to preserve and cultivate marriage love later and how to overcome the inevitable conjugal crisis.

Immediate Preparation: The immediate preparation for the celebration of the sacrament of matrimony should take place in the months and weeks immediately preceding the wedding, so as to give meaning, content and form to the so-called premarital enquiry required by Canon law. “This preparation is not only necessary in every case, but it is also more urgently needed for engaged couples that still manifest shortcomings or difficulties in Christian doctrine and practice” ( John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 123). The aims of immediate preparation could consist of the following: a) synthesis of the previous preparation especially  its doctrinal, moral and spiritual content b)Experience of prayer in which the encounter with the Lord can make them discover the depth  and beauty of the supernatural life c) A suitable liturgical preparation which also envisaged the active participation of the engaged with special  attention to the sacrament of reconciliation d) Good use of the canonical talks that are envisaged with the pastor so that everyone can get to know one another better. Among the elements to be instilled in this journey of faith  which is similar to the catechumenate, there must be a deeper knowledge of the mystery of Christ and the church, of the meaning of grace and  of  the responsibility of Christian marriage as well as preparation for taking an active and conscious  part in the rites of the marriage liturgy. Generally, the Christian family and the whole of the ecclesial community should feel involved in the different phases of the preparation for marriage.

Week 11-Lesson 11: The Christian Understanding of Courtship

The theology of courtship is based on the theology of marriage. It is based on the dimensions of marriage- a sacramental contract; a way of salvation, typified in the unity of the church and Christ; it has an eschatological dimension. Therefore, it should be taken seriously like marriage itself. It is an important and a proximate preparation for a happy marriage.  In order to avoid the heavy penalty of an unwise choice, proper care must be taken by those intending to marry. Marriage is a sacrament ministered to each other by the bridegroom and the bride. It is a holy thing. Everything in marriage is holy. Therefore, there should be holiness in the preparation, in the interpersonal relationship that precedes this holy institution. Chastity in those who are engages is a prelude to true love in the married life because if there is no reverence before marriage, there will be no reverence in married life. Points of differences must be discussed during the courtship especially in religion and faith, family budgets, social relations etc. Courtship essentially is a period of self-knowledge and the knowledge of the other.

Week 12- Lesson 12: Responsible Parenthood

The Catholic Church teaches that there must be responsible parenthood. The world calls it birth control. The church’s moral teaching takes all things into consideration. She is aware of the socio-psychological and economic changes. Her morality for that matter must never be regarded as relative but rather as alert.

“Conjugal love requires in husband and wife an awareness of their mission of “responsible parenthood” which today is rightly  much insisted  upon and which also must be exactly understood (Humanae  Vitae, Paul VI). In this quotation, it is well to note the great significance in the distinction between birth-control in a sense hostile to the advent of children and the planning of births which  is entirely compatible with a holy willingness  to fulfil one’s creative obligations that arise from lawful wedlock. Welcoming children as understood in Catholic morality in conjunction with a certain planning of births in responsibility before God is vastly different from its counterpart in birth-control which  is simply and in an unqualified manner hostile to large numbers of children.  Catholic Christian morality accepts the doctrine of responsible parenthood. It does not and never  taught irresponsible multiplication of children but never taught birth-control in the immoral sense. Regulation of births is not avoiding unwanted children; it is not avoiding conception in one particular way namely by the use of contraceptives; rather, it is co-operating  with God after whose  image  the parents are made in having the right number of children at the right time and in the right place.

How can Christian married  people put this responsible parenthood into practice in accordance with God’s will and Christian morality?  Responsible parenthood implies a more profound relationship to the objective moral order established by God, of  which right conscience is the faithful interpreter. The responsible  exercise of parenthood implies therefore, that husband and wife recognize fully their own duties towards God, towards themselves, towards the family and towards society in a correct hierarchy of values. (Humanae Vitae).

The ways of regulating birth are varied. On one hand, something is done either before or during the act of intercourse to remove the procreative element from it. On the other hand, recourse is made to natural rhythm. In the former, mechanical  contraceptives such as condom which is worn by the man  or diaphragm which the woman fits into the vagina and the chemical spermicides which are usually employed  with the aim of preventing the sperm from reaching the ovum are used. Coitus  interruptus or withdrawal before emission  which has the aim of removing the procreative element is also resorted to. The currently oral contraceptives (pill) prevent the release of the ovum so that it is not there to meet the sperm. The intra-uterine devices which are fitted into the uterus by a doctor prevent the sperm from meeting the ovum; then sterilization results.

Moral Evaluation of  These Methods:  In relation to the act itself, in all these methods, the procreative element is deliberately removed from the act of intercourse. The act is no longer integral in its ontological and psychological sense. It is no longer fully Christian and religious because it is not in full keeping with  its finis operis-its nature. The act in its objective goodness is defective. It is therefore, bad in keeping with the old philosophical principle, “Bonum ex integra causa malu ex quo cum que defectu” (we attribute the quality of goodness to what is whole from every aspect and what is defective in any way is evil).

In relation to the married couple, we must judge these methods from the basic point that the true Christian growth of husband and wife and the respect for human life is violated. The above mentioned methods or birth-regulation do not satisfy the love of husband and wife. They do not correspond to the full physiological, psychological and human dimensions of marriage and of the act of sexual union.

These artificial means destroy in one way or another wonderful human and religious act of sexual intercourse in married wedlock. Contraceptive means destroy the physical integrity of this act for no longer is the man’s seed given to the woman to be received and care for by her. The psychological as well as the religious significance is also destroyed for there is no more giving, there is only selfish taking of pleasure by one or both partners without concern for the wishes of the other. There is mutual seeking for pleasure while ensuring that God’s design inherent in this act is so altered as to rob the act of its potential.

The Catholic Solution:  What will the couple then do? Total abstinence? Not necessarily, for there is a solution that seems to be the best way of meeting the conditions of equality and of mutual respect between the husband and his wife and of preserving the integrity of the sexual act not only with regard to its physical aspect but also in what it signifies.

RHYTHMS: In marital sexual unions, couples who have their eyes on regulation of birth can lawfully take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions and in this way they can regulate birth without offending the moral principles placed in jeopardy by the immoral and artificial contraceptive methods.

Some object by saying that it demands constant and accurate calculations and so destroys the spontaneity of love. In response we can say that working out the days when no conception will occur  or in the case of a couple who want a child, when conception may occur is just  one of many considerations such as whether one can accept responsibility for an increase in the family or not which precede intercourse. No considerate husband expects intercourse with his wife during her monthly periods or when she is sick. He has to take these periods into account just as he has to take many other factors into account. Loving thoughtfulness is not the negation of spontaneity in love but the negation of lack of control of instinct.

It is in this method that the majority of true Christian families must fulfil their vocation in marriage. This involves the acceptance of the need for a proper motive for regulation. It demands personal control and responsibility for conduct within marriage. There is full mutual donation; there is personal fulfilment, respect for each other and full union. There is full physical and psychological satisfaction. The non-occurrence of pregnancy is in the perfect design of God’s fashioning of the woman’s body and times of infertility.

Week 13- Lesson 13: Factors that jeopardize Authentic Married life

The church in her moral teaching remains ever loyal to the authentic principles but realizes as well the struggle required for the attainment of the ideal. The Christian in this world is an ever perfectible being. He is often beset with difficulties. In the field of married life the Christian today is beset with difficulties in the attainment of the ideal. His married life is often placed  in jeopardy by forces both within and outside himself. It is  for this reason that we shall not simply stop at outlining the holy ideal of Christian marriage as intended by God and sanctified by Christ but must also touch  even if briefly the problems our married couples face in today’s world and suggest practical helps towards the overcoming of these problems.

Most conspicuous among these problems are: lack of true love and marital infidelity

Lack of true love: love is the main stay of married life. Where there is no love there will be no successful marriage. Many think and say they love but love is often not well understood. Like every reality in creation, love is composed of two elements which in fact are indivisible but by right supremely distinct, one  of which at least if love develops in an ordered fashion is subordinate to the other. The one derives from the  body and animality, the other from freedom and the spirit. When  we speak of love being the mainstay of marriage, we should understand principally spiritual, love, true Christian love, the love born of God which guides all love. But what we often sees is the contrary. In fact, when people today speak of love they are referring to no other love but the instinctive and erotic love which without the agape is in constant danger of imbalance. This type of love is superficially more  attractive and vastly easier to follow. It is the type of love one finds often described in pulp magazines. It is the love that leads to so many divorces and re-marriages in today’s society. When people speak of such as love they are not only indulging in fairy tales fit only for the frustrated but they are also giving an utterly erroneous idea of love. Such a love is often selfish and egoistic and does not know what sacrifice is. Such a passing love cannot stand the test of Christian marriage, since it is often limited to the emotional satisfaction of people’s unruly desires. The Christian love required in marriage is divine love. It is benevolent and consists mostly in giving and sacrificing. It is solicitous for the happiness and salvation of the loved ones. It is this love that transforms and ennobles and guides the married couple in their intimate relationships.

Marital Infidelity:  Another danger that threatens the married life today is unfaithfulness in marriage. So many reasons account for that. We have the venomous influence of some advertising agents and exaggerated newspaper reporting.  There is so much talk of the “inseparable companion” even among the married people. We lament the dangers that can confront both men and women today in their places of work. A little disagreement in the family, a discovery of unfaithfulness by one of the spouses and a thousand and one other things can arise in the family which can be for one of the spouses an occasion for a temptation to which he or she can easily succumb given the circumstances of today’s industrialized life. The long absence and long separation between husbands and wives occasioned by the nature of their works can be very trying to marital fidelity, while we do not doubt that for some, it may increase the desire to return  to their homes.

Week 14- Lesson 14: Properties of Marriage: Unity and Indissolubility

Unity: The first chapters of Genesis present two accounts of creation: Yahwist (2:4b-25) and priestly (1:1-2,4a). The common denominator between these two accounts is the unity of man and woman which is expressed as complementary: that is, mutual by asymmetry. The Yahwist tradition describes the formation of the woman from the rib of the man. Her formation is a unique act of God the creator that establishes the relationship between her and the man. “The man said: this one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh! she is to be called woman because she was taken from man” (Gen. 2:23). The man sees in the woman a creature “similar to him” that really draws him out of himself for the full realization of his most profound nature. The meaning of humanity’s original unity, through masculinity and femininity  is expressed as an overcoming of the frontier of individual spiritual solitude. Solitude in this context is the recognition of personal isolation and the movement towards the other. Personal isolation then becomes the way that leads to unity which we can define as communio personarum (GS 36).

Indissolubility:  So far, we have described marriage as the creator designed it when he made man in the beginning. After the fall, human weakness frequently modified and desecrated this beautiful pattern. When Christ came to redeem us, even God’s chosen people had perverted the divine ideal by tolerating easy divorce. But Jesus corrected their false views and restored marriage to its original place in the Divine plan. When Christ was questioned about the unity and indissolubility of marriage, he referred to what was “in the beginning. He quoted the words of the first chapters of Genesis (Mt 19: 3-9; Mk 10:2f). Christ refers twice to “the beginning”, “Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female”; “it was because you were so hard-hearted  that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives but it was not like this from the beginning”. He subsequently referred to Gen 2:24: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh. What therefore God had united, human beings must not divide”. It is clear that the expression, “human beings must not divide” is really decisive. In the light of these words of Christ, Genesis 2:24 sets forth the principle of unity and indissolubility of marriage as the very content of the word of God, expressed in the most ancient revelation. It is an explicit will of God in Genesis and confirmed in Mt. 19:3ff.

Week 15- Lesson 15: Specific Pastoral Situations: Physically or mentally challenged

Mentally and physically challenged persons must be seen as people with dignity and value. One of the first things we can offer people in this situation is a listening ear and help them also develop the ‘reciprocal listening to others’. It is also very important that mentally and physically challenged persons should be always and at all times accepted. No acts of charity or justice can be of lasting value unless our actions are informed by a sincere and understanding love that penetrates the wall of strangeness and affirms the common humanity underlying all distinction.

Spiritual Pastoral help to mentally and physically challenged: The issue of disability should be very important to anyone in pastoral ministry. How one treats people with disabilities tells much about how he lives out the Gospel message.  Ministry always involves being present to the pain, suffering, and vulnerability of our parishioners.  If we are afraid of our own vulnerability and limitations, then we will be uncomfortable and unavailable to the experience of others. The U.S Catholic Bishops has this to say, “The same Jesus who heard the cry for recognition from the people with disabilities of Judea and Samaria 2,000 years ago calls us, His followers, to embrace our responsibility to our own disabled brothers and sisters in the United States. The Catholic Church pursues its mission by furthering the spiritual, intellectual, moral and physical development of the people it serves. As pastors of the Church in America, we are committed to working for a deeper understanding of both the pain and the potential of our neighbors who are blind, deaf, mentally retarded, emotionally impaired, who have special learning problems, or who suffer from single or multiple physical handicaps—all those whom disability may set apart.” (Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops – On People with Disabilities – Website).  All of us are born with some kind of limitation or impairment. It may be minor, but we are all limited by our physical and biological make-ups. Our unique bodies and minds contribute to the kinds of abilities and dis-abilities we all have.  It is what I think about my unique self, its abilities and disabilities that make a huge difference in my own life, spirit, and soul. The most important thing to offer to a mentally and physically challenged person is ‘to engage him in a journey of making himself a gift to others.’ The first spiritual pastoral help that could be offered to him is ‘Support’, which means ‘Be there for him.’ Be there at crucial and critical times.  Be there to help him find out his potentialities and assist him to have a dream of what he can achieve in life.

Journeying together with him  is another important support for the mentally and physically challenged. It signifies support not from the security of hiding but from the sincere will of understanding the experience of the other from his own side view; that is empathy.  Empathy is walking in another's shoes, entering into another person's frame of reference or having the ability to experience life as the other person does by entering the person's world of thoughts, feelings, emotions and meanings. In giving support to a mentally and physically challenged person, empathy is very important, it is an expression of the regard and respect the pastor or counsellor holds for him whose experiences may be quite different from that of the pastor or counsellor. The ability to empathize with the mentally and physically challenged   person is enhanced by an alert attentiveness to facial expressions, body language, gestures, intuition, silences and so on. In offering help to the mentally and physically challenged person, he is also offered hope from psychology, interpersonal relationship and hope from the experience of being accepted unconditionally and loved by God. We also ought to show him how much we love him by giving much time to listening  to him and encouraging  him to formulate all the questions that are disturbing him. Pastors should understand that no matter the level of help they render to a mentally and physically challenged person, he is enduring a heavy load that arises from his life situation which he carries alone. The spiritual pastoral help to be rendered to the mentally and physically challenged in the family is to create an atmosphere that will dispose him see that Jesus suffers with him every day. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Mt. 11:28-30).

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