As I have just finished my last semester here at the St. John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family in Rome, I am now commissioned to write a thesis that I am hopeful is mic drop worthy.
But before we get there, I want to share a little of what has been going on behind the scenes that can no longer be spoken about as if it is not apparent; the legacy of St. John Paul the Great's vision for this institute diminishes by the day. Let me explain.
When I first felt the call to come study here in Rome, it was through a extraordinary call from God while on pilgrimage in Rome. To your surprise, I was not so ecstatic. I fought with every fiber of my being to explain myself out of this direction. Lord, I don't even speak Italian. Lord, you know I don't like big cities. Oh and my favorite, Lord, I bet the food in the cafeteria is gross and I can't survive with that. All in all, joke was on me. With the grace of God, I received what I believe as a gift of tongues that I am now fluent in Italian. Also, if you were wondering, the food in the "mensa" is amazing.
Before embarking on this journey, I started in a "test-run" by coming for a couple of courses in the first year of the project. My italian was horrible, I understood almost nothing, but one thing I knew for sure was this was where I was meant to be. How did I know? I bought one of the only books translated in English of Msgr. Livio Melina's "Learning to Love" for our orientation class. The truths I discovered inside these pages opened up my heart and mind to know that this was the formation I always desired to learn. I quickly came to know that this guy, Monsignor Livio Melina, was not only forming students from the teachings of JPII; he was living the legacy of St. John Paul II within his gift of teaching.
Upon finally making the commitment to finish our research and development for Project Illuminate with this formation in Rome, I was only then shocked upon my arrival to learn that Msgr. Melina had been fired from his position as President of the Institute. You can read more about this here. Immediately I felt "duped." The only thing I could wonder was why did this happen? Usually if you're fired, it means your actions led to that event, right? So I dug a little deeper.
Just three months earlier, the institute released a book entitled, "Quale pastorale familiare dopo Amoris laetitia" translated simply into "Which pastoral care of the family after Amoris laetitia." Monsignor Melina being the president of the institute gave a pretty clear response that went as follows:
Now another question one has to ask is if this is the institute housing the Church's top experts in Marriage and Family in the heart of Rome, why does the entire book radiate an outsider's perspective? They were outsiders from the very beginning. In the two synods for the Family, these top experts were never asked to consult the Church Fathers. That's like the President of the United States holding a session to determine if we will go to war with no military strategist invited. However, it quickly became clear when the dust settled how unclear the interpretations began to spin out of control.
You may be thinking to yourself, well that statement is not quite a "smoking gun" of a justification to replace Melina until you get to his conclusion of his chapter known as Building on the Rock: Keys to Reading the Post Synodal Exhortation Amoris laetitia:
Powerful words to truly display a projection of what could happen if what were being said about the errors within the Papal document were true. Three months later, the curial response was known by a forced resignation. After I collected myself from the initial shock, my first week I sat down with another American colleague for lunch talking about the entire situation. One of my strengths in politics was forecasting, where you can analyze the social climate to predict a candidates next move. It was October of 2016 that I remember clearly saying, "well if they went for the leader first, it will only be a matter of time until they restructure the entire institute to fit their agenda." My colleague's response was comical at best saying, "yeah that will never happen! But why do think that?" It is what I would have advised them to do to win an election.
Fast forward to September 2017, from navigating a tension that you could cut with a knife the previous year, my worst fears came to light in the form of a Motu Proprio labeled as a name change to add "Theological." In reality, it was an abolishment of the old constitutions that St. John Paul the II had founded the institute on. Mainly one could see those constitutions as his teachings and writings on the family. In the attempt of "broadening its field of interest." (Francis, Art I.) these new constitutions are based on what Papal documents? You guessed it! Amoris laetitia. In short, an update was needed, where to be honest it was not. Many have asked, "So how's the JPII these days?" as if referring to a terminal illness of sorts. They are surprised when I say, unified.
It has been short of a miracle with the community that I now consider my own family to come together to re-institute a weekly all school Mass and Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration to pray for the future of our beloved community. After classes we go down to the "mensa" to have lunch and share with each other some of the highlights of the course we just had; it is something truly from the heart of St. John Paul II. Oh yeah by the way, we all come from different parts of the world only speaking in italian as our common path to learn, CRAZY!
Each day that I have grown closer and closer to my colleagues here in Rome, it has become clear that we are representing something much more than our cultural origins. It seems we are representing the Church being called to last battle between heaven and hell that is said for Marriage and the Family. When I hear the topic of our conversations, the passion, and intellectual growth to defend these truths, I realize we are the soldiers being prepared for war. Most importantly every movie illustrating a final battle between light and darkness, the one who overcomes and conquers are the ones who fight with hope molded by adversity.
So what is a legacy worth fighting for? The legacy that the Pope of the Family has left for us to form future generations to overcome and conquer in this last battle. I close with a wise quote from the Hunger Games:
Well I am here to say that no one can contain our spark of hope. These sparks of hope have given rise to the flames enkindling this next generation to overcome any darkness because our hope is in the Lord.