Please consider making a gift donation to MARFAM this Christmas to help us in our ministry for eco-friendly families.

We’re into the 3rd week of Advent,  Sunday was Gaudete Sunday, so this week could be seen as Gaudete week.  But Gaudete means rejoice, and how much rejoicing or joy are we experiencing right now?   Much of the news is depressing, taken up with the latest war reports, mainly from the Holy Land, but there are conflicts in a number of other parts of the world too. Plus a volcano in Iceland, an earthquake in China and a serious mountain fire in our own country in the Western Cape are aspects of war in creation, through natural or man-made action.

Is there cause for joy?  The climate conference, Cop 28 last week, ended with some gains and some let-downs.  A transition towards phasing out of fossil fuels and an agreement on payment for loss and damage are positive outcomes, but ones that won’t have a direct noticeable effect on us ordinary people.  

The wars around the world are hardly causes for joy, unless one looks into the tiny gains, some hope in the ongoing attempts towards a cease-fire, a pause, or talks and action towards peace.  Some of these are happening quietly in the background at times, like the Vatican involvement in negotiations on the release of children kidnapped by Russia in Ukraine, something which surely must be celebrated.

This year our Advent programe includes the CHILDREN’S PEACE PILGRIMAGE episodes of which ae published daily on our website. See https://marfam.org.za/2023/12/04/december-thoughts-for-the-day/    Our 2022 Advent-Christmas programme was very Franciscan and included a reflection on how St Francis described perfect joy.  In a long discussion with Brother Leo he lists many things that he does not consider perfect joy, like making the lame walk, the deaf speak, being versed in science or Scripture, knowing all about the earth, plants, birds, fish, animals and people. Then he concludes “greater than all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit is the grace of overcoming oneself and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury and contempt.  For in all other gifts we cannot glory because they are gifts from God.  But we may glory in the cross of tribulation and suffering, because – as the apostle Paul says –  ‘I will not glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘ That is where I, Francis,  will find perfect joy.”  I believe this does remain a constant challenge to us all.   

An international peace-building organization PAX CHRISTI  made its annual award in 2023 to “The Parents Circle – Families Forum (PCFF)  a collaborative Israeli-Palestinian organisation comprising more than 700 families, all of whom have lost a close family member due to the continuing conflict. Furthermore, the PCFF firmly believes that the process of reconciliation between the two nations is an essential precondition for attaining a lasting peace. The organisation employs all available resources in the fields of education, public gatherings, and the media to disseminate these concepts.”   One of their initiatives is a Peace Square for dialogue where those affected can share their stories and listen to one another, and so experience a degree of healing.

Healing can include our minds and bodies, healing human relationships and spending time in nature, alone or especially together as families.   

Maybe, just maybe, a special source of joy, is the self-accepting and emptying of Francis, the sharing and listening to other suffering brothers and sisters, as well as expressing love and care.  We can consider others affected by violence, the poor,  abandoned children and  animals, and not forgetting our own special loved ones.   As we pray in the prayer of St Francis, “It is in giving that we receive, in pardoning that we are pardoned and in forgetting self, that we will find unending peace and joy in eternal life.”

May your Christmas be a growing experience of perfect joy.      TR FAMILY WEEKLY E-NEWSLETTER 20 December


20 December. Read, reflect, share, pray.  Grandad Joseph and Granny Mabel knew about war, as they had experienced political fighting in their own part of the country, just as they knew was happening elsewhere, with children so often the innocent sufferers. How could they be compensated?

Granny shared a story. “Imagine what it would be like for children to travel from all over the world, from near and far, meeting up with others and finally ending up altogether from different countries in Jesus’ birthplace, in time for his birthday. That is what happened to Busi a young boy from Shoboshobane, a small village in the old kingdom of KwaZulu-Natal, where one Christmas, when he was just a baby, a very sad thing happened. Different clans had been fighting amongst themselves for a long time. Things came to a head that December. On Christmas eve, no one would have expected it, but when many of the local people had gathered in one of the bigger houses to pray together there was a sudden loud noise and a crowd of men with spears and assegais rushed into the village and began attacking, beating people and stabbing them. The local men were not prepared for this and could not defend their people. Quickly the battle was over, the attackers fled and many villagers were left dead or seriously wounded. Busi, whose full name is Sibusiso, meaning blessing, was one of the few children who survived with his mother. The survivors of the massacre fled into the hills and later moved on to different places, leaving their village abandoned, as if there was a curse on it.  Years later it still lay, overgrown with grass and weeds, roofless, empty shells of homes.  “It’s a bit like what has just happened in the Holy Land,” she sighed

Scripture: I will hear what the Lord god speaks, he speaks of peace for his people and his faithful.  PS 85.  Pope Francis: In the name of victims of wars, persecution and injustice we declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue.  FT 285