Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Largesse of Jesus and the Rome Synod on the Family

The largesse of Jesus

Largesse is a medieval word (Old French) meaning: extreme generosity, open handedness, big-heartedness, liberality, a willingness to give or spend freely and in abundance. In 13th century Catholic theology largesse was called a virtue ~ the opposite of avarice, which is selfish greed, hoarding, claiming and possessing.

Always there is the danger of forgetting and displacing this virtue-emphasis with the defending of dogmas, canon law, Church order, the application of scripture verses to other people's lives and even an obsession with sex. Those who hope to make the largesse of Jesus the centerpiece of Christianity (he always gives more than was hoped for) are often accused of going soft on morality. A struggling, weary, pained world awaits our announcement of the largesse of Jesus.

The gospels are filled with expressions of the largesse of Jesus:

Six stone water jars (each holding 20 to 30 gallons) turned into an amazing wine for the wedding that had run dry. (John 2:1-12) The largesse of Jesus!

The fellow who was lowered through the roof by his faithful friends who asked for restored legs but got all his sins forgiven too. (Luke 5:17-39) The largesse of Jesus!

The little boy's little bread and fish were used by Jesus to feed more than 5000. And they were satisfied and there were leftovers. (John 6:1-14) The largesse of Jesus!

The Jesus story of the Good Samaritan, perhaps the best known story ever told, has as its HERO a heretic loser-outcast - the one from whom you'd never expect anything good to come. (Luke 10:25-37) The largesse of Jesus!

The pierced side of Jesus at Calvary: blood came out and then water ~ EMPTY! (John 19:34) The largesse of Jesus!

Families all over the world await news of the largesse of Jesus for them!

  • A mom and dad and their children ~ maybe they are refugees!
  • A single mom and her children
  • A single dad and his children
  • A newly formed family with a step mom or step dad
  • A family of children being raised by an older sibling
  • A family of children being raised by a grandmother
  • A family of children being raised by an aunt
  • The family of parents who have taken in foster children
  • The family of parents with adopted children plus their own
  • The families of children shuttling back and forth between divorced  parents

Then recently I met a gay woman and her partner who are raising fifteen adopted children - all of whom are thrown away, unwanted special needs kids.  And I read about an older married couple who take in gay teens who have been kicked out of their homes, often by ostensibly Christian parents. These are families too. 

There's a lot of generosity, good will, sacrifice and self-forgetting love in all of these families. I hope the message that pours out of the Rome Family Synod is this: "How can the Church help and support you and your unique family to grow and to be safe and healthy, productive and good? What can the Church do to help you in your daily struggles?"

Most people are working so hard just to keep things together, through the disappointments, the fatigue, the financial stresses, the fears. People need the Church to be encouraging and hopeful. People need to experience the largesse of Jesus.

The Catholic Church excels in blessing things. That means the Church celebrates the goodness of God everywhere and in just about everything. In the old ritual book of blessings there are:

  • Blessings for pigs, goats and fowl
  • Blessings for bees and hives
  • Blessings for vineyards, tools, trains and type-writers
  • Blessings for beer, cheese, butter and lard
  • Blessings fire engines, oats, pastries and ashes
  • Blessings for silkworms and mobile film units
  • Blessings for communities suffering from mice, worms and  insect invasion
  • Blessings for fourteen kinds of processions
  • Blessings for ten different kinds of holy water
  • Blessings for eight kinds of rosaries
  • Blessings for fifteen kinds of scapulars...
  • But no blessing for a family.

There are priests who bless bombs, guns, tanks, submarines, warships and killer jets. There are priests who bless the homes, property, crosses, cars and graves of mafia figures. But there's no blessing for families in their variety and struggling need.

Here is the great colonnade in front of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. You know this, don't you, they represent the mother-like arms of the Church collecting and bringing into the heart of Christ every human person - all the human family. The largesse of Jesus.


  1. Not true... What about consecration of the family/home tonthe Sacred Heat?

    1. I'll hurry with eagerness to look. My immediate sense is that the world has changed so much since the devotion was first spread - for one thing - so many people don't even have homes now. So many people don't even have a place or a set of relationships they can call home. Maybe I will write my own Consecration. Thanks for the head's up!

    2. Thank you again for this reference. I did some homework at discovered that the Consecration is actually called "The Enthronement of the Sacred Heart," and the first thing the priest is told to do is to sprinkle the living room with holy water. That would have felt so right for my 1950's home. But the idea of family as everyone safely at home - starting in the living room exists for only a very few today. How changed the world is. I'm thinking of the refugee crisis in Europe said to be the worst since the Second World War. I'm thinking of the school I was chaplain to where one day a group of 30 kids was asked "Who comes from a home where the mom and dad are together," and only 2 hands went up. My goodness. Families are more various today than ever and largely for reasons born of sadness and terrible struggle of one kind or another. We need blessings and prayers that reflect those situations of pain.

  2. Those who take in special needs children or who are raising gay teenagers with support and love should of course be given special blessings and gratitude. But are you really saying hear that you support the Church giving their blessing to gay couples who choose to bring children into the world and create this new family unit? That we should welcome this change with open arms even as the bible tells us it is against God's intentions?

    1. I'm only guessing here but are you referring to pregnancies by invitro fertilization? - because I didn't reference that at all. By while you mention it, over the years I have met many, many people who have brought children into the world that way - so often actually that people are casual in referencing it. Only one was a gay couple. The gay people I've met who have children have adopted the throwaways of straight people. Wow! Back in 1978 - it might have been even during the conclave after the death of Pope Paul VI and Albino Luciano (who was elected as John Paul I) congratulated the parents of the first baby conceived by invitro fertilization. That is not to say the new pope thought invitro was a good idea - he feared that the babies conceived that way and who might have deformities would be aborted and that women would be reduced to the level of "baby factory" - nevertheless he said "Welcome". That's the largesse of Jesus. There's so much hate in this world and so much death - it's all around us and everyday. I welcome life and love wherever it's found. The world needs all the help it can get. As for gay people: The Christians often hated them in the 60's and 70's for being promiscuous and then after AIDS when the gay community settled down into the idea of committed relationships and family - hoping for and seeking the way of life that invites the greatest stability - they're still hated by many Christians. I think we should just encourage the best of people wherever we see it and stop worrying about everyone else. We all have so many problems of our own and in our own families. There used to be this advice lady, Doctor Laura on radio. One woman called and said, "My daughter is having a baby out of wedlock and I have loads of baby clothes from when I raised my own family. Should I give my daughter the clothes to use for her baby?" And Dr. Laura said immediately, "Absolutely not. You don't reward that kind of thing. Pack up the clothes and deliver them to the nearest Good Will center." Holy good God ~ talk about not having the heart of Jesus.

  3. Thank you for your open heart and your open mind.

  4. Jesus died on the cross for us even though we are weak, full of sin, full of hate, and do terrible things to each other. That is the truest gift of largesse one could imagine. How silly are we to judge.

    1. For me, the most beautiful line in the Roman Missal is found in the Preface for the Feast of the Sacred Heart: "To his open heart the Savior invites all people, to draw water in joy from the spring of salvation." We have a new access to the open heart of God through the pierced side of Jesus. Anything we might SAY about this is too small - we ought to only look upon it in silence.

  5. Jesus shows us that God's love for us is beyond our own selfishness and moralistic superiority. Even if the Church doesn't spread a an inclusive message of love for all, I know that there are those of us who are willing to point the way. I stand with you on this Father Stephen. Bringing Christ into the hearts of all of humanity. Like mother holds close her children.

  6. God offers us more of his love to aid us in taking Jesus from the church and be his hands and love, blessing God’s children we meet each day. We need his power to share his love. At times the joy is truly amazing. Yet not all will accept his love any more than they accepted Jesus’ message when he was physically on earth. Let us find the obstacles in our own lives that keep us from Jesus and rush to be filled with his love, so we can love others more.

  7. Amen Father! You seem to really understand the plight of families in today's world. It is difficult enough to raise children in a traditional home. The added stress of having a stigma attached must be just awful. I pray for those in the Synod to open their hearts as you have. To make all families feel welcome in their wholeness and their brokenness..

  8. Why are there 15 kinds of scapulars? There should be blessings for 15 different kinds of families.

    1. Why are there 15 kinds of scapulars? Sometimes the Church is like an over-decorated room. Too much "stuff" in the room you miss the loveliness of the view outside and beyond.

    2. Why are there 15 kinds of scapulars? Sometimes the Church is like an over-decorated room. Too much "stuff" in the room you miss the loveliness of the view outside and beyond.