A CHILDREN’S PEACE PILGRIMAGE.  A Christmas parable for our time for families and family-minded people.  

Published in daily installments from 18 to 26 December. Also published in full as part of the monthly pdf for December. booklehttps://marfam.org.za/2023/12/04/december-thoughts-for-the-day/ This is also available in booklet form. Contact [email protected]

Introduction.  An activity to prepare for and discuss the story.  Read: This is a family story for reading, sharing and discussing and telling in simpler form to young children. rather than a story to be read to them.

Activity for families: To make a poster begin with a large image of a map of the world. Mark Israel and Bethlehem on the map. (Is this not nearly in the centre of the world?) With the help of google find and mark all the places where there is war going on, or places where peace has just been made. Find out something about the history of the places, what happened and how the children there were hurt, injured and kidnapped or orphaned. Draw a line from each place to Bethlehem in Israel and see if you can make a big star on the world map, like the silver star in the cave in Bethlehem which you can see from google

Think also about the little wars that we fight in our own homes and communities. Is there something you can do as a family to help to bring peace into your world?

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18 December. Day 1. Read, reflect, share, pray.  To prepare for their family Christmas weekend Grandad Joseph and Granny Mabel decided to tell a story that they had put together with Granny Toni.   Some of it came from their own history, some from local history, some from their lives, praying and sharing over the years and some also from very recent world events, especially the Israel-Hamas war, which had begun on October 7, with a surprise attack and which was still carrying on after more than two months.  The story was about pilgrimages. Pope Francis, after the important meeting in Rome in October 2023, had spoken about the way forward in life as a pilgrimage, a journey, walking together. That made Granny Toni decide to include some thoughts from her own pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2005.

Granny Toni started by saying, “Do children go on pilgrimages? And if so where do they go? Most likely they would go with their parents if the family was going to Ngome, Fatima or maybe to Rome or the Holy Land. Do those names bring to your mind pictures of holy people and holy places? When we see pictures of Jesus and Mary and other saints we often see them in churches or deserts or quiet places, but remember that Jesus lived 2000 years ago in a normal family in a normal little market town called Nazareth. There were probably goats and sheep in the streets, dirt roads or tracks running up the hill, a well where the women went to fetch water and have a gossip about the affairs of the town, and where the children played with the kind of toys they had 2000 years ago. I saw that Nazareth doesn’t look like that any more, nor does Jerusalem or Bethlehem or any of the places we read about in the Bible. 

Going on a pilgrimage is a journey to a place that is special for you. It can be a journey of discovery into the past or to a place that is special and sacred to your own family, like the grave of your great-grandfather. For Catholics pilgrimages are often to places where Mary, Jesus’ mother appeared. She has appeared to children, like at Fatima more than 100 years ago, or Medjugorje until quite recently, to give them a message from Jesus. These messages are always about love, making peace, about mercy, accepting one another and caring for one another. 

Scripture: We shall go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. For the sake of my family and friends let me say, “Peace upon you. For the sake of the house of the Lord, our God, I will seek good things for you. Ps 122   Pope Francis. I ask everyone to go with me on this pilgrimage of reconciliation with the world that is our home and to help make it more beautiful. LD 69.