August 2. NFP.  When Jocelyn and Peter had first been exposed to Natural Family Planning they rather pooh-poohed the idea, but after trying for some years to have a baby they decided on a careful study of her fertility cycle. When at last they did achieve a pregnancy they were keen to do all they could to promote the method.  “It has been a real treasure for us, “   they shared. 

Reflect, share, act. Scripture :The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Matthew 13: 44-46.   Pope Francis. The Church’s teaching is meant to help couples to experience in a complete and harmonious and conscious way their communion as husband and wife together with their responsibility for procreating life.  Humanae Vitae highlights the need to respect the dignity of the person in morally assessing methods of regulating birth. AL82

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MARFAM’s Family Year planner has as its theme OUR WORLD A FAMILY OF FAMILIES and includes all areas of creation or the earth, or Our Common Home as Pope Francis writes in Laudato Si.   Each month of the Year Planner has a relevant theme and that chosen for August is Sexuality a Family Gift.  The reason for this choice is that in South Africa 9th August is Women’s Day and in many way the whole of August has become Women’s Month. Women are honoured and appreciated while there is a strong focus on their difficulties, continuing oppression and gender based violence.  What does not often appear to be addressed is their context, i.e. their family where many of their joys and pains are experienced. At the same time it is a question of gender, sexuality and its purpose in creation.

The introduction to the regular MARFAM Daily Thoughts for August is provided below.                                                     August overview.  Sexuality, a Family Gift.  God looked on his creation and was pleased.  Particularly good was the ability for creation to continue and evolve through its sexual reproductive capability in almost every life form. Because of the special attributes of humans, including free will, human sexuality is a special gift and blessing in its most profound expression in marriage. As an ideal it is often poorly presented and understood, is still often a taboo subject or seen negatively.  The reality of sin in human behaviour has resulted in situations such as gender-based violence and abuse. Women’s empowerment, the complementarity of men and women and positive education for youth are important. Gender-related changes and the existence of LGBTIQ+  persons is a reality today. Sexuality and  procreation are core aspects of all of creation, human, animal and plant. Other than manipulating this in nature, for our human benefit, we no doubt know too little of the psycho-social aspects of sexual behaviour in animal and even plant families, essential for the common good of all of creation.  Pope Francis: In assessing the environmental impact of any project, little attention is paid to studying reproductive patterns and some species face extinction.LS35.

With my current growing ecological awareness a friend and I had the particular pleasure of spending a few days in Pilanesberg National Park, call the resort, Kwa Maritane,  a Bush Lodge, so let me explain. The park is one of the most recent of South Africa’s national parks and its development and sustainability were carefully researched and are constantly monitored as was explained in an excellent information  talk.  This included the carefully planned stocking with some 6000 animals, from  the large, iconic big 5, (lion,  elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo) to smaller animals, trees, birds and insects,  all for sustainability and the correct balance of plants and animals for the particular geological ecosystem of the park as an ancient 1300 million year old extinct volcano.

Science clearly plays a major role in such a project, but also of interest for us was the aspect of psycho-social behaviour of the families of animals, birds, trees and plants.  Do they, animals and plants, communicate, or can they listen to one another’s warning of risk and dangers, and offering support?  What are their personal roles in the reproduction and care of their growing families, sometimes mating for life, living in extended families, or lone bachelor life?  Our guide on a tree and bird walk explained how a male hornbill will enclose its mate in a hole in a tree, for safety, until she has laid and incubated her eggs and infants are ready to fly.  While she is incarcerated his task is to feed his family through a tiny hole.  Cuckoos on the other hand are parasites, laying their eggs in other birds’ nests and letting a “surrogate” mother nurture their young.   On a game drive through the park the focus tends to be on sightings rather then on behaviour.

 What is our role as human beings, who have in so many ways lost those natural social skills associated with family care? We have seen ourselves as lord and master of all of creation and manipulated it for our own benefit.  We have to learn lessons of nature with humility and yet acceptance.  Just at this time humans were mourning the death of an elephant  whose carcase was left for predators and scavengers, but also leaving a calf to fend for itself. The mother was old, had outlived her lifespan, as well as her six sets of teeth, but the baby was sadly attacked and killed by lions.  Nature has to take its course.  However, in our time we know we have interfered and upset the balance, resulting in extinction of a growing number of species. Laudato Si speaks of the loss of biodiversity.  There is legislation afoot to ensure that up to 1/3 of land should be given over to conservation.  But should not our attitude and spirituality everywhere and all the time be eco and family friendly?  Developing our eco-spirituality is suggested in MARFAM’s booklet FAMILIES CARING FOR GOD’S CREATION  which uses the Laudato Si Action Platform goals as basis.  

For us two elderly ladies the experience is a lesson about God’s creation, a lesson of life and death. For all women, this month, the lessons of nature are not only about themselves.  This week hundreds of thousands of young people are gathering in Portugal for WORLD YOUTH DAY. It will be life-changing faith experience, and I pray it will also be an opportunity for lessons about God’s creation, of life and death.   As the elderly our days in our families are numbered but they, the young have to hear the cry of the earth and all its families and respond with integrity in order to save the day.      TR FAMILY WEEKLY E-NEWSLETTER 2 AUGUST 2023