December 30.  Holy Family feast. Personal reflections, Toni Rowland. Every family is called to be a holy family.  Most simply that has been MARFAM’s message that has evolved over the last 28 years. Our first approach was promoting marriage – Becoming Married, Sacrament for Life.  In time, with the greater consciousness of the variety of family forms, the ministry focused more broadly on family life.  Every family a holy family.   The 1st African Synod in 1994 presented the African church with the image of Church as Family of God.   This image together with the Vatican II concept of the family as the domestic church crystallized the vision of a family focus in all of Church life.  Family is our identity, even before community.  As God is Trinity, we are created for relationships and the particular close, intimate and types of relationships of a family, even in its various forms, are identifying features. The creative and reproductive aspect of family relationships especially make it like God, co-creators, although God is not sexual, being spirit. Sexuality dare not be neglected, as a special and unique aspect of humanity’s ability to love.  Sexuality itself is not relevant only in marriage but more broadly parental, sibling and elderly loving and the wider family are human and sexual too.

As a result of many societal changes the understanding of a family has changed, especially in very recent years.  In Catholic families husband, wife and children remain an ideal as the cornerstone of society. In reality the many other forms of family that have come to the fore cannot be ignored. There are fewer married couples, and even fewer married in church. There are childless families. A single mother-headed  family is becoming a norm.  Fathers are living away from their children. Widowed and divorced people, grandparents, siblings and same-sex couples head families. Adults live alone but remain connected to extended families.   

My further spiritual reflection in recent times added the dimension of creation, not just in a generic way but similar and the very particular way to human and family.  Creation too is relational and with a sexual nature and reproductive ability.  That is after all how creation continues.   Lastly for me the theological understanding of incarnation, God is love, love present in God’s own creation from all time and for all time has been added. This has been my spiritual journey and reflection for this day, Holy Family feastday, an image still to be developed in much greater depth. 

MARFAM is a Marriage and Family Renewal Ministry, primarily an evangelization initiative, promoting the strengthening of family relationships and family spirituality.  MARFAM’s theme for the years 2020 – 2022 has been OUR WORLD, A FAMILY OF FAMILIES. This will continue to develop an even broader vision of creation as family, in units with their particular tasks. “FAMILY MATTERS” will remain the vision and message MARFAM continues to promote into the future.   

Pope Francis recognises and addresses all people everywhere, and all families, Christian and those of other religions. Most recently he has highlighted THE WORLD, OUR COMMON HOME, a family of families that must include flora and fauna. Tragically human (mis)behavior has affected the whole of creation, especially noticeable in climate change and its often disastrous consequences. Now it is our responsibility as the human family, beginning in the home, to make amends and in promoting family relationships and spirituality incorporate this aspect into the care for all of creation promoted already 800 years ago by one of Pope Francis’ great models, St Francis of Assisi.  Holy Family feastday aims to build holy families, of all kinds.  Scripture: Collect prayer. O God who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practising the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal reward. Reflection: Thank God for our particular family. Han our family pracise the virtues of family life more fully?