There are very many ways to look at sexuality as a family gift as has been done with the MARFAM DAILY THOUGHTS for the month of August.    It could be love and peace, or abuse, harassment, divorce and children, or unfaithfulness.  It could family planning and pregnancy or more religious like Mary’s Assumption and her role of motherly love.  One could say that every aspect of marriage and all of family life is sexual as all our intimate relationships are as male and female and gender-based.  In other words, one is never just a non-descript person.  

I have been spending time working on a programme “How to end violence in families.”   Much, but not all, the violence in families is experienced by women and girls. Intimate partner violence (IPV) or gender-based violence (GBV)  or at worst femicide, are being talked about in South Africa as a pandemic, needing urgent and consistent action.  Much needs to be done but there are already resources and a number of initiatives in the Church and society to combat these evils.  Positive  family sexuality education is an important need for all members.  

Different forms of violence against women include:    

  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Emotional
  • Stalking – spying on a partner
  • Economic – preventing access to money
  • Social isolation – preventing social contact with others
  • Intimidation – threatening harm
  • Male privilege, patriarchy – a male acting as if he has ownership of, and a right to control a woman  
  • Religious abuse (using religion to justify abuse, denying the freedom to practice one’s faith)
  • Child Abuse and maltreatment – hurting a child but also, a way to hurt the partner.

With a particular focus this month on women, for women, about and by women, there could be a moment spent in offering a prayer of praise and thanks. This prayer, by the CWL from the Bryanston parish newsletter, touches and includes the many areas of our lives, but as prayer needs to be about the reality women experience I believe it needed even more.    

Dear Lord,

You walk beside us, each moment of each day.
You know us by name, see each joy and sorrow.
You created within us a gentle capacity to love and nurture.
You gave us understanding and patience in a troubled world.
You laid upon us the responsibility to carry and care for new life.
You released us to run and dance, to sing and create

You crafted in us sharp minds that are able to solve problems and see possibilities.
You desire each of us to live life to the full, embracing your love for us and extending grace to others.
You gave your life so that we could walk free to build your kingdom on earth as in heaven.
You understand the pain and suffering we endure,  at times for the preservation of our families.

We lay our lives before you and trust in your unfailing love.

Guide us, Heal us, Touch us, and Lead us, to reflect more and more of your life within our own.

Pope Francis: The female body in culture and biology, reminds us of the beauty and harmony of the body which God gave to woman, but also of the painful wounds inflicted upon her, at times with brutal violence, for simply being woman. A symbol of life, the female body is also, unfortunately, often assaulted and disfigured by those who should take care of her and be life partners.   Pope Francis, Pontifical Council for Culture, 2/07/2015

There is a Marian “style” to the Church’s work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. In her we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong who need not treat others poorly in order to feel important themselves.  This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization. EVANGELII GAUDIUM, #288

August 23Work.  The speaker kicked off with, ‘“Equal work for equal pay,” is a popular slogan and goes to the heart of much of the gender question today in almost every sphere.  But should there be discrimination about the type of work men and women can do?“  “Women cannot or would not necessarily want to do hard physical labour, although that seems to be changing also in the area of sport, especially when it comes to payment. Are we built differently physically and mentally to work differently too?” Many relevant points were raised but once again the conclusion was that it had to do with balance and attitudes.  “It even starts at home with the way we teach our kids, boys and girls, about money and give them pocket money or expect them to contribute their time to making things work in the family.”  “And not necessarily in stereotypical ways,” Robert added.  Everyone was encouraged to go and discuss the issue further with their children at home. 

Reflect, share, act. Scripture The kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. Matt 20:1-16. Pope Francis. Masculinity and femininity are not rigid categories A rigid approach turns into an over accentuation of masculine and feminine and does not help children to appreciate genuine reciprocity.  Taking on domestic chores or some aspects of raising children does not make a man any less masculine or imply failure, irresponsibility or shame.   AL 286.