I start the DAILY THOUGHTS overview for September with “many new insights have been incorporated into our way of thinking in recent years.” That hopefully is true, as, if one is not growing, it could be said one is going backwards, never mind standing still.  And insights are personal for everyone and certainly change over time.  Insights are also influenced by circumstances.  COVID-19 has highlighted how different insights can be, and within that it depends on how the pandemic has affected us, been infected, ill, hospitalized, death, locked down, vaccinated, etc.  Many feelings accompany events and influence our way of thinking and acting too. Interest, concern, fear, anxiety, panic, loss, devastation, hope.  Accpeted responses to fear are fight or flight, that can be “engage with” or “back off” and avoid.   Anti-vaccination sentiments can be any of those, and it is helpful to analyse which.

But my topics for today are about marriage and the other major concern facing our world, climate change, and how that has affected our thinking. Pope Francis comments, in  Laudato Si’, on different responses, interest, denial, and indifference. LS Maybe COVID has distracted us from the seriousness of the climate issue, which is an enormous challenge, a long term and likely permanent effect for the whole world, ultimately with greater consequences then the current pandemic.

On the topic of climate change, we are about to enter the Season of Creation. Its history reveals its true ecumenism. Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I proclaimed 1 September as a day of prayer for creation for the Orthodox in 1989. The World Council of Churches was instrumental in making the special time into a season, extending the celebration from 1 September to 4 October, the Feast of St. Francis. Pope Francis then made the Roman Catholic Church’s warm welcoming of the season official in 2019.  The Dicastery of Integral Human Development became part of the planning body.   Visit for a full outline of the programme. The 2021 theme is A HOME FOR ALL? THE OIKOS OF GOD and its logo is Abraham’s Tent.

However more and more Pope Francis brings in a new multifaith insight into his and the Church’s thinking and writing, especially in Fratelli Tutti, his latest encyclical on “social love” which is addressed to all peoples. Already in Laudato Si he addresses the whole world on the issue of creation while earlier papal encyclicals were often addressed only to the Catholic Church.  It is a positive sign of the times that our human thinking is progressing to become more inclusive on this as well as other matters.

In the Church there are newer insights too, in particular with regard to the greater and more equal role of women, in marriage and the wider Church. For me personally, my journey of faith, begun at home in my family and our marriage, took off at a greater pace with involvement in marriage ministry of various kinds over the years.  But beyond marriage came an insight that in today’s world and the Church too, marriage, and particularly Church marriage is not necessarily the only experience or the norm for adults. There is more to family then marriage and both are experienced differently in different cultures across the world.  For us, as Catholics a vital aspect is that marriage is a Sacrament, a sacrament of life, for life, i.e. a way of life for the whole of one’s life.  As sacrament means sign, it is our belief that a sacramentally married couple is a sign of God’s presence in the world. Maybe one could question “Are we not all intended to witness to God’s presence?” Yes, but marriage does so uniquely, mirroring the Trinity as the primary community of love, in communion, in intimacy, with creative, life-giving potential. That is what we, the Catholic Church in Southern Africa are celebrating at this time, in practice and liturgically – basing it on the Sunday Scripture readings from weeks 21 – 27 in Year B.  This initiative was first suggested by SECAM,  the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar after the 1994 African Synod which identified the image of Church as Family of God as particularly relevant for Africa.    

A more recent insight for me, which is also highlighted in Laudato Si, the encyclical on the environment, is that marriage and in particular its potential of total, committed and life-giving love is beautifully connected with the SEASON OF CREATION too. God does not create as an individual, once and for all, but continually, as a community of love . Marriage is a beautiful image of creativity. A love relationship, with its sexual dimension, is the act of co-creation with God of new life. Intriguingly almost every species in creation continues this process and task of reproduction and so of co-creation, in the power of God.   

Therefore the MARFAM FAMILY THOUGHTS starting from 22 August, but mainly from 1 September to October 4 incorporate a marriage and family aspect as well as an environmental or ecological aspect, both from a spirituality perspective as well as a practical lived perspective. Each DAILY THOUGH is accompanied by an ECO TIP as well as some learning material by way of quotations from Amoris Laetitia  and Laudato Si. These are uploaded daily, or available on request by email.

SACBC MARRIAGE WEEKS is a 7 week programme posted on the SACBC FACEBOOK page and consist of live streaming sessions on Sunday from 1-2pm with mainly clerical input and on Thursday from 7-8pm with testimonies from laity, couples and others.

DAILY THOUGHTS Overview.  Many new insights have been incorporated into our way of thinking in recent years.  Certainly THE WORLD OUR COMMON HOME, used by Pope Francis in his encyclical LAUDATO SI’, is a beautiful image and necessary insight into understanding, not only the wonder of the whole human family, but the family forms found in nature, i.e. all aspects of God’s creation.   We, the human family, in its various forms including marriage, and with different religions, political ideologies and experiences of wealth and poverty are the greatest threat to our world’s security and stability today.  Every other family in creation will suffer because of the way we have treated this common home.Pope Francis. The Church is a family of families, constantly enriched by the lives of all the domestic churches.  In virtue of the sacrament of matrimony every family becomes, in effect a good for the Church. AL87.  A fragile world entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing and limiting our power. LS 78

Ecological education can take place in a variety of settings: at school, in families, in the media, in catechesis and elsewhere. LS213. A few minutes can be found each day to come together before the living God, to tell him our worries, to ask for the needs of our family, to pray for someone experiencing difficulty, to ask for help in showing love, to give thanks for life and for its blessings and to ask Our Lady to protect us beneath her maternal mantle.  AL318.  

As we praise and thank God for his love and care in creation, may the Trinity grant us special insights into the unique value of the Sacrament of Matrimony for the good of the couple, their children, the Church and the world. TR

Family Weekly 25 August 2021