Are we done with urbanisation, migration and family impact, the challenging themes for the 15th May International Day of Families 2022?  The new lengthy document presented on 13th May, as part of the IDF commemoration, addresses the subject in depth.   It does highlight the fragmentation of families and the effect on relationships of those leaving or staying behind.  It does not consider the environmental implications, e.g. effect on food production and climate-related reasons for rural to urban migration. But I move on within the wider subject.   

The MARFAM May theme, “Parents Form Families” and the upcoming LAUDATO SI WEEK  with its ecological focus lead me to comment on parenting and an ecological spirituality.  Some time ago I browsed through a beautiful coffee table book by naturalist author David Attenborough on THE TRIALS OF LIFE. A NATURAL HISTORY OF ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR  and subsequently watched his documentary on the subject.   Animal families and parenting still interests me, having been considering creation and reproduction. My article, as yet unpublished, “Reflections on THE TRIALS OF LIFE”  is one in a planned series on OUR WORLD, A FAMILY OF FAMILIES. Fascinating insights from a section on “Arriving” show reproduction happening in a great variety of ways that evolved and adapted over time. Some animals arrive in the world, tiny, undeveloped and with a million siblings.  Others do so as singles, and may be large and well-formed. Both possibilities can be equally successful. Actual fertilization happens in a variety of ways and places, within or outside of the female body.  

sea urchins bred

Sea creatures, including fish, produce vast quantities of sperm and eggs.  Sea urchins spawn in early spring when sea water warms up. Vast numbers assemble and when the moon is full, and tides are at the highest, males simultaneously eject their milky sperm. As clouds of this substance float in the water females are stimulated to release their eggs. Within this soupy mix sperm and eggs fuse and a new generation begins. In some cases the female dies after releasing her eggs.    

The topics of reproduction and human sexuality, calling it life-giving, are also presented as one of the catechetical topics in preparation for the Church’s World Meeting of Families in Rome from 22-26 June with the overall theme “Family Love: a Vocation and a Path to Holiness”  “The path to holiness taken by a father or mother involves growing in their love for each other and the love they give to their children, a beautiful and powerful calling.  This call consists in sharing with God the power of a love that generates life, in the flesh and in the spirit, a call lasting a lifetime, under all circumstances.”  In describing the characteristics of God’s love: “the Old Testament term for mercy and love means tenderness, faithfulness, assurance, initiative and trust that affirms and accompanies, does not abandon,  remains steady and conveys reassurance.  The Hebrew word for womb is the place in which the life of the child is formed and grows: it is a love that forms the body, preserves, protects, nourishes and welcomes the existence of another person.” “Two dimensions of God’s love are one that is paternal-masculine and another that is maternal-feminine. Mother and father are for their children the manifestation of this love.”  The catechesis goes further in comparing tasks of parental love to God love.  “The love of a father and a mother eager to embrace their call to holiness, goes so far as to perform acts that only God is capable of: to create and forgive.

Pope Francis is a realist, but also an idealist. While it is recognized elsewhere that these images are at times the reality and far removed from the ideal, the call to holiness must remain, even as we, parents, are aware of our shortcomings and yet strive to offer the best we can to our children, whether they are biological or not.     

In addition to the catechesis the days from 22-25 June will be devoted to a theological conference.    Only official delegates from bishop’s  conferences will attend but there will be streaming for others around the world.