There are a number of topics to focus on this week between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday.  IYF +30 with the theme Families and climate change and Laudato Si week are about life and hope. When the UN decided to choose FAMILIES AND CLIMATE CHANGE as its theme for IYF30, its 30th anniversary of the International Year of the Family, of course I was over the moon, with my head in the clouds as it were. Most appropriate I thought and very soon put pen to paper for a document for the Department of Social Development Family Directorate conference that was being planned. (Copies from MARFAM) Originally planned for 5th May, the official International Family Day each year but, because of the upcoming elections and business of ministers it was changed to be more of a showcase for successful delivery of services to families. Climate change was not one of the services they, or any government department or political party on the campaign trail, had visibly in their sights.  But the climate focus will be somewhere in the conference as I am noting the two aspects of the UN, i.e the impact of climate change on families and the opposite too, families’ impact on climate change through their actions and behaviour.

With MARFAM’s theme for May PARENTS FORM FAMILIES, I am reflecting on the role of parents especially with young children.  Early Childhood Education is increasingly being recognized as important for their development, but surely the role of their families is equally or even more important.  So I met and chatted with a friend I like to think of as “Montessori Mom,” knowing her interest in little children which led her to start and run a successful Montessori school for many years and use the approach with her own children and grandchildren. The system is built around a child’s natural curiosity and interests and a family at home can also create their own simple activities by watching out for their child’s interests and scouting around the house for suitable items to play-learn, linking school to home.  simply pouring water into containers, counting and sorting buttons are hands-on play-learn activities but add to that finding matching buttons to make a pair of eyes adds that special extra creativity.

What can families, parents, grandparents or carers learn from such an approach to apply to climate change?  Exploring nature, plants, animals, bees, insects, worms, the wind and the weather can be left to children on their own, but together with a guide and talking about what they see, or hear, or smell or taste, parent and child will find much to appreciate and may well produce the wonder and awe which are also God’s gifts in creation. Could it be that the gift of the Spirit associated with Pentecost that we call “fear of the Lord” should rather be seen as “wonder, awe and respect.” With a focus on caring for our world which is suffering due to human abuse, neglect and most often indifference, families can instill good healthy practices.   Simple rules about not wasting water, or lights, cleaning and beautifying one’s own special space can be given special meaning when considering the effects on the creatures of creation.    

Remembering that climate change impacts on us and we impact on climate change, what would the effect be if all parents developed a caring for creation mindset. If they considered that “natural” should mean sustainable living, caring for the earth and also for the poor, these two being the foundation of Laudato Si and its promotion of integral ecology.  It could start with Natural Family Planning, natural childbirth, breastfeeding versus bottle feeding, eating and drinking healthily and learning day by day how nature works.   Children’s natural curiority could be channelled into how things grow, even how worms can help. Soil science was featured in the news recently as a scientific study.  Young kids put many things into their mouths and they do eat soil, one of mine did.   That may not be healthy or wise but children can be encouraged to explore their world and even when it comes to food try different tastes, textures and smells.  Is that tactical kind of curiosity channeled sufficiently by watching TV or Youtube or playing games on their own computer.  Maybe they’ll soon be using AI in their world too. God forbid that his creation should be so misunderstood and hardly appreciated for the wonders that little ones can share enthusiastically with their parents, probably even teach their elders a thing or two. We learn a lot even from out kids of all ages., things that adults can share in their grown-up world for the benefit of other family searchers.  Bio-mimicry is a study I recently discovered, based on discovering what we can learn from nature. Maybe we families at home with a bit of help from Wikipedia can make important discoveries for the world at large.   Did you know that ant hills and their underground chambers are highly efficient examples of air-conditioning and the knowledge is being used in architecture?  

Education at school at all levels is obviously important for what is taught, but the school of life, and family life at each of the possible levels can hardly be beaten on the way to becoming “seeds of hope” as the Laudato Si week proposes.     TR  FAMILY WEEKLY 22 MAY 2024       


May 23. Laudato Si’ Week.  Catholic Social Teaching has long spoken out against unjust labour practices and exploitation of workers.  Justice and Peace Desks in dioceses and parishes too have taken up that message which on the whole has not been well received, often too by families when they feel personally criticised for not paying their servants, while they may stand up for justice in the workplace.  On one side it took Pope Francis to speak out more publicly on behalf of the poor and oppressed. In our country, while all political parties do express concern for the poor the EFF, the Economic Freedom Fighters are the most vocal and active in mobilising people.   

Reflect, share, Scripture:  Cry now, you rich. Behold the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields which you kept back by fraud cry out. and the cries of the harvesters have reach the ears of the Lord of Hosts. James 5:1-4. Pope Francis: Man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life. Nonetheless, once our human capacity for contemplation and reverence is impaired it become easy for the meaning of work to be misunderstood.  LS127  . “One expression of the attitude of serene attentiveness to others and to everything is when we stop and give thanks to God before and after meals. I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom. That moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life; it strengthens our feeling of gratitude for the gifts of creation; it acknowledges those who by their labours provide us with these goods and it affirms our solidarity with those in greatest need.  LS227  ACTION.  How aware am I of Catholic Social Teaching on this and other issues?  Let us pray:  As families let us be seeds of hope in our lives and our world, rooted in faith and love.