MARFAM weekly e-newsletter 10 April 2024

During MARFAM’s 30 years family spirituality has been an important focus in our ministry.   Even before that marriage spirituality was the first focus that Chris and I promoted while working in marriage preparation.   But it soon became clear that there is more to family life than marriage.   How many years of any one’s life are spent with one’s spouse?  For me it was 33 years and I am well on the way to my eighties.  Even while married there are other relationships to consider, i.e parent-child, elderly, siblings etc.    My point is that the Church in general has tended to focus on spirituality of the individual, undifferentiated and, when during Vatican II, 60 years ago, family began to come to the fore, the main aspect tended to be  marriage.  The family was recognized of course but not from the perspective of a specific spirituality.   For me even now my spirituality is marriage related, but of widowhood.  I believe that God is present in each home, each family, and in a particular way with each couple but also each man, woman or child in their own reality.  At present Pope Francis has taken a great interest in grandparents and the elderly, giving them a special day to be commemorated in July. In Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis describes a couple as the mirror of the Trinity, highlighting the aspect of God as family. Within the family which could be called a domestic church individuals enter upon an ecclesial experience of communion among persons which reflects, through grace, the mystery of the Holy Trinity. AL86.   This concept is often repeated in his other documents too.

So with the 2024 focus theme OUR WORLD, A FAMILY OF FAMILIES the April theme GOD AND FAMILY, is a very meaningful idea to be developed. It can be considered from different angles.  There is God in the family and God as family, both of which have become more incorporated into my thinking and MARFAM’s publications, articles and poems.   Very long ago I wrote a simple poem. “Does God really live is our house, the little one wanted to know……….”   Also a poem reflecting on “Parental Love is God Love is Tough Love.” 

How can family spirituality be properly developed and practiced.  Certainly through prayer, in and for families, e.g. our booklets A FAMILY PRAYER BOOK and AN HOUR OF PRAYER FOR MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFE, PRAYING THE ROSARY.  Also very much through the awareness of God present in a home and in the particular relationships mentioned above. During Covid, it had been my hope that as our churches were closed parishes would encourage this family focus more, but overall that did not happen. In fact MARFAM suffered badly financially as parish family workshops and parish family ministry training came to a halt, and have hardly recovered even now.   Many resources became digital e.g. THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY with a family focus on the scripture of the day and with quotations from Pope Francis on relevant teaching about family life and Catholic Social Teaching as a resource for family religious education.  

During Lent there was an added focus on becoming an eco-friendly family, a more recent focus which will continue and be developed further as a way of linking family with climate change during LAUDATO SI WEEK in May.  The UN in its commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the International Year of the Family highlights how the family plays a major role, both positive and negative in climate change. Laudato Si brings a spiritual dimension to this through eco-spirituality.  All these are incorporated in the MARFAM booklet FAMILIES CARING FOR GOD’S CREATION.  

We in SA like many other countries are currently in pre-election mode.   The MRM Charter of Election Ethics is offering very helpful insights into that aspect. How many political parties have environmental awareness in their election manifesto?  How many have a focus on strengthening all aspects of family life, other than combating gbv, or promoting women’s empowerment too narrowly in isolation.  

A useful 10 point list which originated years ago from Fr Chuck Gallagher of Marriage Encounter contains these elements of family spirituality which will be unpacked more in future:

  1. Unconditional acceptance
  2. Warmth and love
  3. Family goals.
  4. The need for belonging
  5. Family meals
  6. Conflict, forgiveness and healing
  7. The issue is not the issue
  8. Communication
  9. Security of permanence
  10. Interdependence rather than independence.  

I have often used an addition to the well-known slogan when speaking in parishes, “The family that prays together AND PLAYS TOGETHER  stays together.”   There was a time when my spirituality was more specifically God-centred, then it became more family-centred but now I see it as possibly God-in-family-centred built on God-as-family-centred.  Life is a journey, towards God and with God.    tr


April 10.  The group leaders were reflecting on the progress that had been made in promoting faith sharing over the years. “We haven’t really started to practice the synodal way of Conversations in the Spirit, with dialogue and careful listening.”  Octavia commented, “I can hardly believe that it is 8 years since we celebrated the Year of Mercy and started a study of Pope Francis’ special document. Mercy is still a difficult concept for me, especially God’s mercy, in the context of ‘Do not judge.’  I know that it was Jesus’ mission to help us to understand that.”  

Reflect, share, pray. Scripture: Jesus said to Nicodemus, ”God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-21.  Pope Francis:  Forgiving does not mean forgetting. In the face of a reality that can in no way be denied, relativised or concealed, forgiveness is still possible. In the face of an action that can never be tolerated, justified or excused, we can still forgive.  Free and heartfelt forgiveness is something noble, a reflection of God’s own infinite ability to forgive. FT250.   Pray for courage and openness to forgive something that is still burdening you.