Human Rights Month and International Women’s Day in March,  Women’s month and Women’s Day in August always tend to get me worked up.  Right from the very early days of MARFAM one of our objectives had been to promote a family perspective and not to promote women and women’s issues in isolation.  I suppose I have even become rather anti-woman to a certain extent because of the constant focus in society, and even the Church, on empowerment of women, women’s rights, discrimination,  abuse, gbv.  Seldom if ever is the right to motherhood and marriage in our day highlighted or given value.   Pope Francis on Sunday 10th March during his usual Angelus talk did raise it in passing, Institutions, social and political, have the fundamental duty to protect and promote the dignity of every human being, offering to women, the bearers of life, the necessary conditions to be able to welcome the gift of life and assure their children of a worthy existence.(a possible reference to abortion) Apparently the population in Ireland voted in a referendum to reject overly liberal proposed legislation around families. Here in SA I only heard about equal pay for equal work and how women were progressing in their careers and the workplace, plus there was some reference to abuse and discrimination.  

Where is a healthy balance that is not anti-woman, or in fact anti-man but is pro-family?  Because I believe that is the context in which every one of us live, men, women and children, young and old, married or not, straight and LGBTQ.   Family, in the sense of living in a network of relationships, where power issues, equality and democracy all play a role.  I do like the description given by then Pope John Paul II in 1981 in Familiaris Consortio. A family is an intimate community of life and love, bonded for life by blood, marriage or adoption. Can one say that covers a “multitude of sins”, of rights and obligations, but its relational aspect is the essential element.  It is not determined specifically by structure or status but by relational qualities and skills management too.  

Thirty years ago the first INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE FAMILY was held in 1994. We were there. Where are we now on the occassion of the 30th anniversary of the INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE FAMILY? More than twenty years ago at the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development  I presented a paper entitled, WOMEN AND FAMILY.   Having gone into detail on the societal (not religious ) points I made some concluding observations:

SOME OBSERVATIONS.  Some problems are:

  • A tendency to see things in isolation from a personal perspective only. 
  • Relationship expectations are not well communicated.
  • Relationship skills are poorly developed and differences become causes for conflict.
  •  Lack of commitment by one or other party to the relationship and to doing what is required to make it work. 
  • A culture of individual rights conflicts with a culture of the greater or common good of the family unit.  This comes into play when one partner wants to make unilateral decisions or when one refuses to take responsibility or seek help.   (Is this an important principle of Catholic Social Teaching?)
  • Family Life Education is essential.   This could be marriage preparation, marriage enrichment, parenting skills, counselling of various kinds.   Life is seldom better for anyone, the couple or the children, after divorce. Mechanisms should be put in place to promote healthy relationships.
  • There is an assumption that women in general want to work and achieve success in the workplace. The option of full-time motherhood is not valued.
  • Research in poor families in the US has shown that marriage is a safer, and financially more secure option than single parenthood, for women and children.

As Catholics it is also very important to recognize the theology and spirituality of marriage and family life.  In Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis reminds us of the love relationship of God and us and that a family is an image and the Trinity is our model.   All in all FAMILY MATTERS IN ALL OF CREATION..    TR family weekly 13 March 2024


March 13. “I envy people who always seem to have really strong faith in God,” Fr Jim shared. “During the Year of Mercy I heard some very sad stories and I admit I have found it hard sometimes to be honest in encouraging people. Like the young mother who had been gang-raped  and shared that she had no energy for her expected baby. I couldn’t blame her but shared the passage from Isaiah that gives me hope. First God promises to save them, then he tells them to rejoice, but the people remain sceptical. Finally God replies again with the famous saying about a woman and her baby.  It is helpful to observe how the people dialogue with God.  I think that is part of our new Conversation in the Spirit, a listening and dialogue approach that helps people to examine their real situation and make the best possible decisions.   

Reflect, share. Scripture: Read the relevant scripture passages of the day.  “Sing for joy O heaven, for the Lord has comforted his people. But Zion said, “the Lord has forgotten me.” The Lord replies” Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget yet I will not forget you. Is 49:8-15. Pope Francis: Conscience can do more than recognise that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognise with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God and see that it is what God himself is asking.AL303.  LSAP 4.  Adopting sustainable lifestyles. Pray a Lenten prayer. Loving Creator,   I ask for the grace of loving attention as I make decisions throughout the day.  Open my heart to remember that the ultimate goal of my life Is to be in a loving relationship with You, myself, my neighbor, and the earth. From Laudato Si’ prayer book.   Choose appropriate action.