30 September is the last day of HERITAGE MONTH here in SA and we also commemorate the last few days of the SEASON OF CREATION, as well as starting MISSISON MONTH and the month of the ROSARY.  There are feastdays of some of our popular saints, and so the year, and especially the liturgical year provide quite some food for reflection this coming week.  I encourage families, especially,  to read and share more about the lives of these special saints as the DAILY THOUGHTS still only give a brief introduction.

Heritage Month is multifaceted if really explored deeply. Indigenous people and their traditions and culture, Christianity and how it was adopted, colonialism and its influence on colonisers and the colonized and also our natural heritage before subjected to the effects of climate change are all present in our current thinking.  More recent history, in a way, was more in focus than that of bygone days   What we call traditional but expressed in modern form, in dress, hair and food may be beautiful and colourful but is often hardly traditional.  So Heritage Month tends to express the past in modern guise, but it did give us a chance to spend some time considering and sharing our roots with children and at times with grandchildren.

The Church’s liturgical year is also a form of reflecting on our heritage, from the Judeo-Christian roots, Old and New Testament days and how the Church evolved over the last 2000 years face to face with many other cultures. Religious pilgrimages do highlight this aspect well.   The Season of Creation does offer insights too.   

And so we move on to MISSION MONTH and some of the saints of the month.  St Therese on 1 October wanted to be a missionary but because of her poor health that was impossible. Although she lived and died at age 24, a Carmelite nun, just over 100 years ago, she is nevertheless a patron saint of missions.   She leaves us her “little way,” a way of flowers that credited her with the title Therese, the Little Flower. 

Guardian Angels are commemorated on 2nd October.  Jesus himself did say that all children’s angels in heaven are face to face with the Father.  This tradition, though no longer as strong,  is still a meaningful one for families.

Toni’s St Francis

St Francis was a missionary too, 800 years ago, but in a very personal and unique way which subsequently provided the Church with thousands of men and women who followed him and, not to forget, his close companion St Clare. Many missionaries left home and family to spread their message to the whole wide world. It seems to me that the PRAYER OF ST FRANCIS, “Make me an instrument of your peace” is much better known than his CANTICLE OF THE CREATURES and  his wider focus on all creation. Everyone knows him as a lover of nature, birds and wolves feature in many images of him,  but it is in very recent times that the focus on the elements like Brother Fire and Sister Water have come to the fore, and, ironically not because of their positive quality and beauty but because of the destruction they have caused.   Or is it correct to blame these elements of Sister Mother Earth?  We do still talk of “Acts of God” but Pope Francis in LAUDATO SI’ puts the blame for the harm squarely on humankind, “who have inflicted it on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.   We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters.” (LS2)   

Saints are people of their day, relevant for their own time. Like prophets of old, they read the signs of the times, and so our understanding of their context is helpful. At the same time they are relevant too for other eras.   Creation theology and spirituality are recent developments in religion as society evolved in the last few centuries, beginning with the Industrial Revolution.  And humankind did not become aware of the degree of harm being inflicted on creation until well into the 20th century. Various ecological movements came into being in different settings. A day of prayer for creation was first celebrated in the Greek Orthodox Church in 1989.  

The EARTH CHARTER was developed by an ecumenical committee and approved in 2000.  Different religious bodies joined the movement over the years and the Catholic church did so formally only in 2015.  In 2019 Pope Francis called for a SEASON OF CREATION and the theme was agreed as JUBILEE FOR THE EARTH: NEW RHYTHMS, NEW HOPE” on the occasion of the 50th Jubilee of the EARTH CHARTER.  Read the full interesting story here.

The social encyclical LAUDATO SI is a milestone in the ecological awareness campaign and will be followed by another social encyclical to be presented in Assisi on Saturday 3rd October, FRATELLI TUTTI (Brothers all)      This will go further and call on all humankind, not only Christians to solidarity and ecological conversion.   TR  FAMILY WEEKLY 30 SEPTEMBER 2020

The October family theme MARFAM chose is FAMILY ON MISSION.   What will our mission be, as individuals, families, communities, parishes?   

The Southern African Catholic Church Pastoral Plan contains a section on CARE OF CREATION and states, “we need to change the way we act, and promote care for the soil in which our food grows, the water that we need for life and the air that we breathe.  We need to care for our environment and for all plants and animals and strive to use water responsibly and to be careful of all scarce resources. We should reduce our consumption of single use items or recycle them.  Above all we should appreciate and care for the beauty of nature that surrounds us daily.”    REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.

Previous Pope too have spoken. “Some business men and women, governments and financial groups are involved in exploitation which pollutes the environment causing desertification. Serious damage is done to nature, forests, flora and fauna, and countless species risk extinction.” Pope Benedict.

Pope John Paul II, in addressing the laity, reminded us that our area of concern is the temporal domain, the world and spoke often of the family, its basic cell.    

Pope Francis writes, “In the family we first learn how to show love and respect for life; we are taught the proper use of things, order and cleanliness, respect for the local ecosystem and care for all creatures.  An integral education enables us to grow harmoniously in personal maturity. We learn to ask without demanding, to say “thank you,” to control our aggressivity and greed and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of share life and respect for our surroundings.” LS 213.   Are these not the basis of social cohesion.  

On a practical level there are dozens of areas to choose from, nature, climate, scientific research, anti-consumerist thinking and behaviour. Growing flowers, trees and vegetables.   Bee-keeping, game farming, protecting wildlife from harm and hazards e.g. changes in their habitat from eagles to elephants.  Water sensitivity, power use and production – (making charcoal for fuel from mealie-cobs and paper is an initiative I just read about in EARTHBEAT. Poverty reduction – teaching skills and entrepreneurship, studying carbon footprints and much more are there for the choosing.   

A refrain of mine, is not only to empower women or girls, but to focus on and empower families in order to strengthen and build the relationships of all their members of  trust and acceptance.    In October let us live out FAMILY ON MISSION –  for the sake of the family, and the future of the Church and of the world.

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