December 31st New Years Eve. Ancestors for today. A beautiful image we have been given for the Church in Africa is the Church as God’s Family. We are also taught that a family is a little church of the home where God is present in the family’s history, our traditions and the events of our daily lives. African tradition has a greater openness to this focus than western Christianity and ancestors play an important role in African families. We can all consider who our role models are that can continue to inspire us to love as God loves all of creation. They may be from our own family in the past or even the present. They may be other families or recognised saints and martyrs even of today. Very relevant is our “brother in faith, the Arch,” , Desmond Tutu the late Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town but a recognised ancestor for all.

“May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children’s children!” Ps 128:5-6. Pope Francis. The spirituality of family love is made up of 1000s of small but real gestures. In that variety of gifts and encounters which deepen communion, God has his dwelling place. AL 315 . Society benefits when each person and social group feels truly at home. In a family, parents, grandparents and children all feel at home. If someone has a problem even if he brought it upon himself, the rest of the family comes to his assistance. His problems are theirs. In a family everyone contributes to the common purpose and works for the common good, not denying each person’s individuality, but encouraging and supporting it. If only we could view our political opponents or neighbours in the same way that we view our children or our spouse, mother or father. How good this would be! FT230 .

Reflect and Share. We have reflected in 2020 and 2021 on the theme OUR WORLD AS A FAMILY OF FAMILIES, that includes our human, animal and plant families and ecosystems. During this time the Church has adopted other themes too. The AMORIS LAETITIA YEAR with its focus on families will end in June 2022 with the World Meeting of Families. The 5th anniversary of LAUDATO SI which now continues with a 7 year programme LAUDATO SI ACTION PLATFORM developing the environmental focus. Its 7 goals are to be implemented in different sectors, the first being Families. A number of related initiatives focused on Care of Creation; The Season of Creation, the COP15 and COP26 conferences and a petition towards “HEALTHY PLANET, HEALTHY PEOPLE.” The Year of St Joseph is ending in December, but St Joseph has gained prominence in the Church and hopefully in families too. A focus on Grandparents and the Elderly, the Poor and Migrants and Refugees were commemorated during the year and are ongoing.

Locally there were commemorations of Grandparents and Marriage and widowhood too.

All these as well as a number of feastdays of Our Lady, St Francis and other popular and relevant saints were remembered.

As we come to the end of this year how have these commemorations contributed to our faith experience in families? Have we become more aware of the vision MARFAM is promoting of OUR WORLD AS A FAMILY OF FAMILIES, created and loved by God who invites us to love him, love one another and all the elements of creation? As we look forward to the New Year and once again reflect on OUR WORLD and its families, let us thank God for his many blessings, and especially for teaching us the way of love.

Toni Rowland