Apart from being practical, theologically sound and spiritually mature, we are also called to be artistic, creative, filled with the joy of life in creation. This little poem continues to touch my spirit.  


“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.


The bishops of Southern Africa have just ended their 1st plenary meeting of 2024 in Pretoria.  At the press briefing on 30th January a communique was presented by Cardinal Stephen Brislin, the SACBC spokesperson, briefly noting the many, important and relevant topics that had been addressed in detail during the plenary. These included spirituality and faith formation, the Synod on synodality, the 2024 upcoming general election and the role of the Church as well as conflict in the Holy Land and South Africa’s role there was noted by Bishop Sipuka, the president of the SACBC. Apart from a number of other bishops the media presence at the briefing included SACBC communications delegates and Southern Cross, Radio Veritas, Johannesburg Archdiocesan News, and MARFAM,

Some discussion followed as each of the issues clearly had implications for the clergy and the laity as well.  Some time was spent on the Vatican document, a declaration on blessing of irregular unions Fiducia Supplicants.  The meaning of blessings in pastoral practice as a recognition that everyone deserves the care of the church and is open to God’s grace. In no way does it imply approval of a union which is contrary to the teaching on marriage. This has been explained a number of times and the SACBC had agreed on implementation by choice and with prudence.  Wider discussion can be followed on

A Pastoral Statement will be issued on the SA elections.   The Church is called to proclaim the Good news and to be a source of hope to people in the serious challenges facing the country, e.g. poverty and socio-economic matters   The prayer for the successful outcome of the elections has already been circulated and is to be prayed regularly at parish Masses.  I believe that it should also be included, in simplified form and in parts, in family prayer, together with discussion around responsible voting in the home, especially with the young adults eligible to vote for the first time.   I also suggested that in the pastoral statement climate awareness i.e. care of creation and Laudato Si should be noted as an urgent and global concern.

In the discussion at the press conference I also referred to the importance of the family as a unit, and not mainly as individual groups, youth, men, women.  The 30th anniversary of the UN International Year of the Family occurs in 2024 and the SA Department of Social Development will be responsible for the celebration of this commemoration which could also be featured in Church life as of social significance. It had not been raised at the plenary but possible initiatives can be considered.   Archbishop Mbambani, head of the Department of the Laity,  which includes marriage and family life, who was present at the briefing, suggested that the anniversary could be brought  to the upcoming Department meeting.  

Family life and care of creation are focus areas of the 2020 SACBC Pastoral Plan and while clearly not all issues of concern can be addressed at every plenary meeting, these aspects of the daily life of the faithful should not be left in the background as Pope Francis frequently reminds us in many ways.    The outcomes of the Synod will include changes in structures but also the new more prayerful approach to prayer, as in the Conversation of the Spirit, with its moments of prayer, listening and sharing from the heart.   It is my hope that this approach can and will  become a meaningful part of family spirituality.      

Those present at the press briefing expressed their hopes for the future, the Church and our country in 2024. Our task is missionary spirituality.   31 January is the feastday of St John Bosco, surely a missionary to the youth, founder of the Salesian family of priests, brothers and sisters, as well as lay associates, active all over the world. 1 February is the feast of bl Benedict Daswa a South Africa martyr, also a teacher. We thank them for their dedication and hope and pray for joy and fulfillment in their important ministry.    

I started by making reference to hope and the thing with feathers, the little bird.  Another gift of nature, and of a bird is a that it is a symbol of peace.  On my walk early one morning between Christmas and New year I was greeted by the usual greedy flock of pigeons and doves but amongst them I was blessed by the sight of one white dove.   It is my symbol of peace and the hope of peace, in the world and in our lives, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, as we move on from the month of Beginnings to the month of Love which gives Families Life.     TR FAMILY WEEKLY 31 JANUARY 2024  


January 31. St John Bosco was a saintly man responding to a calling for concern for youth, especially poor and street kids. He founded congregations of priests, brothers and sisters; the Salesians and Daughters of Mary to care for boys and girls and throughout the world there are many homes, schools and projects for youth. In a way he was adding to and creating a new, substitute, community family for them.  The Salesian Green Alliance also focuses on the wider view of care for creation. 

Reflect, share.  Scripture: Whatever things are true, honourable, chaste, praiseworthy, think about these things. These you have learned and made your own and have heard and seen in me. Phil 4:4-9.  Pope Francis:   From the Document on Human Fraternity and World Peace.   I reiterate the appeal for peace, justice and fraternity  “In the name of the poor, the destitute, the marginalised and those most in need, whom God has commanded us to help as a duty required of all persons, especially the wealthy and those of means.”  FT285.  Pray:  As a family we can end this month with a focus on THE WORLD, A FAMILY OF FAMILIES  bringing the needs of all human, animal and plant families into our way of thinking of creation. A good start can be on a note of thankfulness, thanking God for whatever experience of family life we do have. Thank God too for those who give of themselves to the care of those less privileged.  Choose appropriate action.