Everyone knows that February is the month of love and of Valentine. One wonders how many people know it is also the month of Ash Wednesday and this year these two days coincide.  Interestingly.   I found a message from Pope Francis’ Angelus theme on Sunday 4th February had a wonderful kind of clue as to how to deal with that. He said that  Jesus reveals the Father, who is “close, compassionate and tender.”  

MARFAM’s theme for February is LOVE GIVES FAMILIES LIFE.  On top of all that Sunday 11th,  the 2nd Sunday in February, it is World Marriage Day as well as being the feastday of our Lady of Lourdes and the Day for the Sick.  The Holy Father’s message, “ “It is not good that man should be alone— Healing the Sick by Healing Relationships,”

“It is not good that man should be alone” (cf. Gen 2:18). From the beginning, God, who is love, created us for communion and endowed us with an innate capacity to enter into relationship with others. Our lives, reflecting in the image of the Trinity, are meant to attain fulfilment through a network of relationships, friendships and love, both given and received. We were created to be together, not alone. Precisely because this project of communion is so deeply rooted in the human heart, we see the experience of abandonment and solitude as frightening, painful and even inhuman, all the more the case at times of vulnerability, uncertainty and insecurity, caused often by the onset of a serious illness.”

What could be more appropriate for all the themes to be remembered on this day?   It is not very often that the Church’s liturgical year gives us an opportunity to focus on marriage, so when possible MARFAM does so as best we can.  The THOUGHT FOR THE DAY for 11 February highlights the fact that marriage is not only for couples, but is ideally one of the most important foundations and building blocks of the Church. The fact that the Sacrament of Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments is to be highlighted, taught, celebrated and  supported. Marriage preparation is the aspect taken the most seriously, but not necessarily in its three phases, remote – childhood, proximate – adolescence and young adulthood, and thirdly immediate – shortly before a wedding.  Marriage enrichment and support for the various practical realities and difficulties and even support for the bereaved and divorced are also all part of marriage ministry.   The unmarried can and should support the married couples as “our” couples – a sign and model of the Trinity to us.  “The couple’s fruitful relationship becomes an image for understanding and describing the mystery of God himself, a communion of love. AL11.  Or to use the phrase, “close, compassionate, tender.”

Although most dioceses and parishes in our SACBC region do not have a comprehensive marriage and family office and ministry nowadays there are initiatives and marriage programmes in parts of the region such as Catholic Engaged Encounter, Marriage Encounter, Retrouvaille, Alpha marriage programmes and others such as Couples for Christ, Focolare Family Movement, Teams of Our Lady. Counselling is offered or referral made. Other programmes include Divorce Care and Griefshare and then there is MARFAM, which, I believe, has the broadest vision for marriage and family life and beyond to all of creation, with the theme OUR WORLD A FAMILY OF FAMILIES.   With the year planner different aspects of family life are focused on during the course of a year.  Catechesis at all levels should include marriage and Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia  and other documents are important resources for formation.  

Although God’s plan for marriage is ideally for it to be a happy, fulfilling one overall, well known are the host of complications in today’s society, apart from many casual “vat en sit” relationships.   Cohabiting couples, same-sex unions, divorced and remarried relationships are not approved sacramental marriages but as Pope Francis has written in Amoris Laetitia these situations are recognized and require pastoral discernment.       

Because everyone is loved by the Father who is close, compassionate and tender, caring for the hurting and vulnerable, offering a blessing as a sign of his loving care can be given to everyone as presented in the recent Vatican document Fiducia Supplicans.

It can be explained clearly by the priest or deacon, if a parish is holding a World Marriage Day celebration on 11th February, or another similar event, that married couples may renew their sacramental commitment at this time, or in fact at any time of their own choosing. A blessing for others present is a sign of the loving closeness, compassion and tenderness of the Father.  As has been mentioned in our weekly newsletter before, family blessings are a long  tradition in some families and cultures but can be adopted too, a blessing at mealtimes, offering a couple a blessing on their anniversary, a anyone young or old on a birthday or special event. A blessing prayer at happy, painful and sad moments in a relationship is a reminder of the presence of the Father, revealed to us by Jesus, in the closeness, compassion and tenderness with the Spirit in the Trinity.  TR


February 7.  Two priests were having a conversation about evil.  “We don’t often hear this in confession I must admit, but when I think about it I cannot get over some of the evil I see around me or read about in newspaper reports.  How could  people necklace another person, or torture someone and deliberately inflict maximum pain? Just think about the Israeli-Hamas war and what kind of brutal action by Hamas started it, while Israel appears to be bombing and killing civilians indiscriminately even though they deny this aspect, but yet being charged with possible genocide. Is all kinds of torture and many acts of war, and even cruelty to animals an indication of a sick mind or do we all have such a potential evil streak in us?”  “Maybe we do but those who do come to confession at least have a sensitivity about it. What I find difficult to understand is domestic violence.  How can anyone, usually the man, inflict such pain on a person they are supposed to love, and how can the victim, usually a woman, continue to put up with it.” 

Reflect, share, Scripture:  “Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him.  What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man come evil thoughts fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” Mark 7: 14-23. Pope Francis: The celebration of mercy takes place in a very particular way in the Sacrament of Penance.  Here we feel the embrace of the Father who comes to meet us.  We are sinners and we bear the burden of contradiction between what we wish to do and what we do.  Yet grace always precedes us. MM 8.   Pray: for a decrease in deliberate violence and torture and a conversion towards accepting the dignity of others.  Choose appropriate action.