Why does a certain word suddenly jump out and speak to you?  And then again, and maybe a third time.  My word today is resilience.

In the next phase of my work with Laudato Si I am reflecting on community participation as well as community resilience, taking into consideration that a family is one of the first and most lasting examples of community. The activity I’m working on is an article on community resilience and empowerment.  But how can we define resilience, and community resilience. The definition below is from a health care perspective: “the sustained ability of communities to withstand and recover from adversity. Resilient communities include healthy individuals and families with access to health care, both physical and psychological, and with the knowledge and resources to care for themselves and others in both routine and emergency situations.”  

Picking up the latest Daily Maverick issue of Our Burning Planet presented me with the statement “We have a moral responsibility to enhance our resilience to the impacts of climate change, in a way that improves lives and livelihoods for all.”  It referred to climate resilience, i.e taking action to ensure withstanding climate risks. And there is societal resilience, as described above. All this was presented for a just and climate-resilient transition.  After that the statement concludes that “We are a resilient nation.”  

But what all is resilience? Different aspects could be : strength to stand firm in the face of adversity, and the ability to bounce back after being struck by adversity.  Also important is the ability to just bounce, e.g. flexibility so one can sink down and come up again.    What is it’s opposite?  Fatalism, defeatism, despair, giving up hope.  

Where does resilience come from?  Is it a natural attribute or can it be acquired?   Research into positive psychology has revealed choices and decisions that can be made to develop or improve resilience.  Examples are : extracting strength from problems, tapping into your inner optimism, determining the costs and benefits of unhelpful behaviour, making a learning list, exploring one’s values,  learning to change negative attitudes and feelings to more positive ones and identifying one’s coping skills.  It is important that a resilient family would be able to communicate and work together.  

So resilience has to be multi-faceted, referring to us as people and how we interact more positively with others. It also refers to situations, e.g. poverty and climate change, recognizing or building in coping mechanisms to mitigate against harmful conditions.   

There is mention in the research of hope. In addition, it should be true that believers, Christians and others, should depend on their relationship with God, depend on faith and love and certainly encourage growth in these virtues on a spiritual journey, part of a journey of faith.   This could be included in our prayers towards the coming of the Holy Spirit, during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, being celebrated in our region on the days between the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost.   


Lord God,  who set the moon and the stars in place and gave us your only begotten Son, the Light of the world. Through the light of his presence, heal our wounds and renew our strength.Let the fire of Pentecost melt our stubbornness, reveal all that divides, and set us in the path of unity; to the glory of your mighty name. Amen

The final session of Laudato Si week was a Prayer gathering focusing on Community resilience and empowerment as part of the Synodal Journey, of communion, participation and mission. A Mass was celebrated in Brazil, with witnesses and testimonies on the effects of recent climate disasters in their area. 

In a webinar on Urbanization, Migration and the impact on families in the context of gender-based violence, the concept also surfaced. Resilience, in all its forms, should be an important attribute for families at all times but in particular those experiencing family violence.  All types of adversity can and do affect families, death, accidents, illness, behaviour problems, substance abuse and losses of many kinds. A resilient family or members would have the strength, knowledge and courage to make helpful decisions and take action to cope.  A resilient family would be able to withstand adversity better than a family that feels defeated and hopeless.

As the Daily Maverick article notes, “We, South Africans are resilient people.This is what climate adaptation in South Africa looks like; it is ingenuity in the face of significant challenges and experimentation in a rapidly shifting landscape.  

As a family with a carload of children, bouncing up and down in the back, on the way to a seaside holiday, would hear the constant cry, “Are we there yet?”   TR FAMILY WEEKLY 1 JUNE 2022