Election 2019, What about the common good? Is such a thing still possible?

“Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love.”    Will Election Day 8 May be a Pentecost experience like 1994 was?   An experience where many feelings of anxiety, fear, anger and hope ended in a warm fuzzy kind of euphoria.  That’s not likely to happen this time, but nevertheless the inspiration of the Holy Spirit will be as deeply needed and our bishops are asking us to pray for wisdom to discern.

So what about the common good?  That concept is an essential part of Catholic Social Teaching and is frequently used.  I was intrigued in searching our MARFAM archives to come across the 1999 article below, which is still so relevant in 2019.

From SOUTH AFRICA’S  COMMON GOOD – A voter’s guide to 1999 General Election. The Goedgedacht Forum

The little booklet that was prepared as a thinking and discussion guide for the SA election only came to hand recently.  As the concept of focusing on the common good is so central and vital for family life and beyond that for social life we introduce it and recommend it to family people in their homes, workplace, school and very importantly, as suggested in the Appendix, for use in the Church in different ways at different levels. This is what linking faith and life is all about.  

Becoming sensitive to the common good.

In 1961 Pope John XXIII wrote, ” It is of great importance that all ranks of citizens feel themselves daily more obligated to safeguard the common good.”   This  all-embracing concept is dependent on the sense people have of themselves, of one another, the conditions under which they live and their sense of direction.  Showing concern for the common good draws a person out of himself.  Everyone has experienced the perilous state of our society. High walls topped with electric fences, razor wire, guard dogs, security patrols and carrying weapons depict not a good but a fearful society.  The high degree of incomprehension, antagonism and violence in our homes and sexual abuse of women and children show how lacking people are in human relationships.

The family – the cradle of the common good.

Whether or not a child grows into a responsible citizen depends largely upon the overall atmosphere of family life. Tragically many children are neither welcomed, nor supported, as parents abandon, neglect or ill-treat them.  The mass media often undermine family life offering illusory dreams.  Unemployment and poverty force family members apart.  There are even those who reject the idea of the family as an oppressive institution.  The consequence of all this is that family life is destroyed and society is mortally wounded. 

For many in South Africa of course ordinary family life is practically non-existent.  Thousands of single women struggle alone to bring up their children; their fathers may be dead, unknown or taking no responsibility. AIDS leaves children orphaned, or causes them to be abandoned while grandparents or other relatives, friends and neighbours look after others’ children as best they can.   Relations between parents or step-parents may be so strained that children are involved in the conflict. Finding this intolerable, they leave and claw a living on the streets.  Callous indifference or outbursts of violence, incest and abuse against women and children are common. 

There is no quick way of preventing all that devastates family life, no instant restoration of family values. Recognition and support can be given to all those parents, grandparents, other family members, friends and neighbours, civil and church organisations who care for children and often struggle against overwhelming odds to keep a bare minimum of family life intact.  The conditions they offer may not always be ideal, but growing children can still benefit from the support, stability and guidance they provide.  It is important that public authorities, ordinary citizens and more fortunate families  support such care-givers; a little financial assistance can make the difference between keeping a family unit together and its break-up.

Vatican II placed the family first on its list of concrete concerns in its document on the Church in the modern world.  As the basic natural unit of society the family is the place where persons develop as persons in the environment created by the unconditional commitment of man and woman to each other and their children.  Human rights and dignity find their home there. It is the meetingplace of different generations and the centre of hospitality, open to the wider society to serve the needs of others. 

In traditional African culture the family, including all blood relatives, the living, the dead and those still to be born is the true source of ubuntu.   The state has the duty of protecting and promoting truly human family life. The dignity of domestic work should be recognised. Parents must be enabled to provide an orderly and simple life-style for their family. The rights and dignity of children and the elderly must be safeguarded.  The natural right and responsibility for educating their children must be respected and served by the state.

Proper family life fosters democracy.

While a family is not a political democracy, similar social skills and values are necessary..  A child learns to communicate, not just to speak but to pay attention and listen. A trustful atmosphere where husbands, wives, children, parents, grandparents and other relatives model good communication enables a growing person to raise questions, make suggestions and express opinions without shouting or interrupting.   

Democracy depends on self-restraint – so does family life.  People must learn not to attack and harm one another or selfishly push their own views and desires.

SheepishTAILPIECE. Pope Francis on 29 April met representatives of the Italian Saint Martin de Porres association of hairdressers, hairstylists and beauticians of Italy, encouraging them in their profession in a “Christian style” and help contribute to the common good of society!!!!!!!

“A shepherd who locks himself in is not a true pastor for his sheep but just a hairdresser putting in curlers!”  From Conversations …

Enough said.   May the common good remain a target, a hope and a dream in the 20 years ahead.  TR  FAMILY WEEKLY  8 May 2019

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