MARFAM FAMILY WEEKLY E-NEWSLETTER 3 JANUARY 2024. Check out for the 2024 Family Year Planner and other docs to download.

I picked up a book by the well-known environmentalist Al Gore, former US vice-president who was in fact more concerned about the earth and all its creatures than human political creatures    The book Earth in the Balance was first written 30 years ago, now has various updates and additions. until 2007 It is still frightening to see that so little  has really changed.  I have only briefly skimmed through it so far, but a focus on balance always attracts me. Balance and ethics and faith are some perennial virtues to save the world for the future generations, not just for our human children, but also for the other creatures, plants and animals  which, unlike us, are becoming extinct at an increasing rate.  Our grandchildren may not see a zebra or a giraffe or a bumblebee or frog of some special kind. 

Ecology like every area of life is interdependent. “Everything is connected, ”Pope Francis repeats in his LAUDATO SI , already 8 years old, and his 2023 follow-up Laudate Deum.  Al Gore is clearly a well-studied and wise man and he lists many features that are becoming extinct, amongst which is the family.  Trust me to pick that up and kind of disagree with him. We do certainly have to recognize that family life has and continues to change. To support my point of view I share a report I read of a married Syriac priest in Bethlehem, who was invited by American Magazine’s series on preaching, to share a homily on the feast of the Holy Family, on 27 December, a feast actually not recognized by the Syriac Catholic Church. Fr Yunan said, “The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that ‘a family is a sacred place.,’ but the prevailing concept of the family in 1921 when the feast was instituted by Pope Benedict XV was not only restricted to the parents and their children, it was including relatives and uncles, aunts, and cousins, as well as all the people who are living together in the same house,”  Drawing on a yet more ancient understanding from the Bible, Yunan adds that when Abraham “started worshiping the one and unique God, his entire family became faithful believers with him.”

This is what we in SA would consider the extended family and remains a value in African tradition. During the 20th century it seemed that western society mainly thought in terms of a nuclear families of father, mother children, a form which the Church also recognized. Are we in our day and age going to go back to the extended type of multi-relational group of persons who belong? That is my point, because there are specific qualities or characteristics I see as determining factors, with marriage the ideal foundational sexual union which begets children, although sexuality today is a much more complex matter and too often a matter of abuse. However in a family there are other biological connections, genetic characteristics and also inherited personality traits. Psycho-social characteristics of belonging, care for, loyalty and faithfulness and a host of common values and culture are important in necessary socialization, a chief function of the family. Fr Yunan, in Bethlehem at this time of war and considering what we have done and need to do to achieve the peace brought by the Christ-child, reflects and shares a prayer, “O God, forgive us. When I was saying ‘us,’ I was including everyone. I was putting myself with the one who kills, and I was taking the one who killed into myself as well, as one family, one human family. God forgive us.”

Having said all that let’s turn to Artificial Intelligence that can perform and take over so many common and basic functions of which, I admit, I know very little. Pope Francis in his message for January 1, the World day of Peace noted the positives of AI but also the risks. “New technologies must always be directed to the pursuit of peace and the common good, in the service of the integral development of individuals and communities. It is my prayer at the start of the New Year that the rapid development of forms of artificial intelligence will not increase cases of inequality and injustice all too present in today’s world, but will help put an end to wars and conflicts, and alleviate many forms of suffering that afflict our human family.”    Download the full message from       

Let’s ask ourselves, “Would we want our children’s personality to be shaped by a robot?  Could it teach one to love, to care for the elderly and sick, to ask forgiveness?  AI could technically produce a child, but would it be truly from you and me, our love in one flesh, a gift from God, to nurture and cherish for the glory of God and the care of God’s creation?  As we start 2024 with evidence of AI already all around and hanging over us, I wonder, would robots become passionate about ecological balance and conversion?  Would robots ever die a natural death or do they have to be bumped off?  This is another one of my scary thoughts as we begin a new Year.   Studying its contribution and risks to find an acceptable  balance is definitely one resolution I will need to get my teeth into.  Oh, but then do robots have teeth?  TR FAMILY WEEKLY 3 JANUARY 2024


January 3.  Most Holy Name of Jesus.  Bruce always felt a bit awkward talking about religion at home.  Most of the family were Catholic but he had never converted from Judaism. He said to himself, “I think that in the spirit of fraternity it would be good for me to discover more about the Catholic faith. I don’t know where that will lead me, but I will do my best. I won’t talk about it with the others though just yet, as they might push me too hard.” 

Reflect, share, pray and act. Scripture At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, those in heaven and on earth and under the earth. Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Phil 2:10.    Pope Francis:  “The name of Jesus. There is no other name. Perhaps it wills to do good to all of us, who live in a world that offers us such a multitude of ‘saviours.’ Whenever there are problems people do not commend themselves to Jesus, but to others, even turning to self-styled magicians that they may resolve matters. People consult tarot cards, to know what to do. But there is no salvation there: it is in the name of Jesus. And we should bear witness to this! He is the one Saviour. We can always call on the name of Jesus and repeat this simple prayer.  ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’  It’s a beautiful prayer, a prayer of hope, because I am turning to him who can open the doors and solve my problems, and make me see the horizon of hope.” Choose an appropriate action.