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Coffee Conversations with Bishop Barron: `The demand of love`

Before Bishop Robert Barron flew to Cebu to join the 51st International Eucharistic Congress, unknown to many, he got to spent an afternoon in Manila on Jan. 24 to speak to leaders and families of different Catholic charismatic communities about mercy and the family at the St. Paul's College Pasig. 

Mercy can be easily confused for unconditional approval, as the word is often thrown around when one asks for pardon without wanting to face the consequences. Parents can be an example of mercy and still discipline their children by rooting it all in love. “When you root it in love, the question resolves itself,” Bishop Barron explains in a Q&A session over (imaginary) coffee with Fr. Joel Jason, and Couples for Christ (CFC) members and parents, Aldy and Joy Katigbak. 

 “Love is not a feeling or a sentiment; it’s an act of will.” The Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles in the US recommends that parents ask themselves the same question St. Therese of Lisieux asked: “What’s the demand of love in every situation?”

The conversations centered on the Filipino Family in the Year of Mercy, picking up from Pope Francis’ declaration of the Extraordinary Julibee of Mercy from Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016, and how the Filipino family can practice mercy and be bearers of Christ’s light. Attendees were encouraged to send in their questions earlier in the afternoon via SMS and Twitter, aside from the initial set to encourage a more meaningful conversation and deeper understanding of what mercy was all about. 

“The world needs mercy,” Bishop Barron said while discussing what the Holy Father meant in declaring the Year of Mercy. “He sees the world especially in need of [mercy], and the Church’s role is to turn the face of God’s love in a suffering world.”

And the best way to start that is in the family. “When you are humbled by the experience of being given mercy by God, you become dispensers of mercy to your children,” shares Joy Katigbak. “It is great mercy to be entrusted by God with the lives of our kids.” But families, particularly Filipino families, are also facing challenges that could keep them from being dispensers of mercy in the world.    

Balancing Mercy and Discipline

“We cannot speak of mercy apart from the notion of love,” Fr. Joel affirms. “Sin should not be swept under the rug.” 

Migrant Workers and their Children

Perhaps the highlight of the Q&A session was the video about Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), and how their situations affect the lives of family members they left behind to earn a living. Several migrant worker parents were interviewed about their jobs and why they chose to work abroad, and later, these parents were allowed to hear what their children had to say about the situation. This brought  tears to several in the audience as they acknowledged this was a reality in the Filipino family – what can the Church about it?

“You ask difficult questions,” Bishop Barron chuckled. He acknowledged the reality of this, knowing that Filipinos are everywhere in the world, and a big chunk of the Filipinos who go to church in other countries are migrant workers. “The Church’s love can be more concrete for the children,” he states. “The Church can be the face of mercy for the children whose parents are absent.”

Remember the Identity

From this absence stems other problems that threaten the Filipino family, such as same-sex attraction among the Filipino youth. Bishop Barron reminds us, “Sexual attraction is a feature of one’s life, and it does not define us. Our identity is we are beloved children of God, not based on our sexual desires…Announce the identity of the person. Remind them of God’s love for them.” 

The prelate, who also gave two talks at the 51st IEC, said this doesn’t mean that the Church should stop declaring the truth that these sexual attractions are not the fullness of human sexuality. But these teachings must always be rooted in love. “When the Church leads with love, you lead with the articulation of the vision of human sexuality.”

Preserving the Catholic Family Identity

Although not highlighted as a problem, a question was asked regarding marriages to non-Catholic spouses. “How can we preserve the Catholic identity in a family?”, one asked. To this, the bishop simply responded, “Accentuate the positive, whatever is life-giving in the Christianity of the non-Catholic. Always draw people to the fullness of Christianity.”

Eucharistic Empowerment

As Bishop Barron was in the country for the IEC, a question about this was inevitable. With this, he reminded everyone of the most sacred words in the Mass – not the consecration, but the final blessing. “Exit the doors of the church and transform the world. We must be the Church that transforms the world.”

Mercy and the Family

As a parting note, he gave a final advice for families: forgiveness.

“What bedevils families is the lack of forgiveness. The worst conflicts happen in families, and as parents, you must show your children the path forward, ways to resolve conflict without violence. Teach them the way of forgiveness.” (Tina Matanguihan)

Added on Wednesday, February 17, 2016


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