I’m concerned that it is a human attribute, a failing or gift however one looks at it, to jump on bandwagons. The media of course are a driving force in doing so and of course too I am just as guilty as anyone else with my “topic of the month” becoming a main focus. Maybe little bandwagons don’t do justice to a topic but, maybe too, bandwagons can carry on too long, or are done to death without too much concrete action taken to address whatever the issue is. Women’s issues, xenophobia, racism, gender-based violence, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS have all been focus areas in society and the Church that have captured a large slice of attention and investment.
Bandwagons do have their place provided the bigger picture is not lost. This week I shall be making a small contribution on the role of Faith-based organisations at the DSD International Conference on Substance Abuse and Families. Next week MARFAM is one of the co-hosts at the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office(CPLO) Round Table on Gender-Based Violence and Implementation of the Law.
In the last few weeks the media has given prominent coverage to a very sad case of a 7 year old girl raped in a restaurant toilet by a white male. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. In mitigation he claimed he was high on drugs and alcohol and attributes some blame to his mother. This being South Africa, race has come into the issue too. The whole sad case speaks of a dysfunctional family and society where individual bandwagon issues cloud the basic needs to build and strengthen those family relationships that are so fundamental to a well-functioning society.
I remember years ago when HIV/AIDS was still at the fore front of public awareness. Every year I would ask Sr Claudia of the Johannesburg AIDS Desk what the theme for World Aids Day on December 1 would be. She once told me off, saying that every day is Aids Day not, just one day a year. Now the day passes it passes with little attention although the reality still remains. And the same happens with Women’s Day, Youth Day, and all the other commemorations that drive the media.
My concern at the heart of this reflection on bandwagons is the fact that climate change appears to be becoming an all-absorbing issue, in the Church as well. Pope Francis’ LAUDATO SI, is flavor of the month, or the year, for the moment, while we are just ending the EXTRAORDINARY MISSION MONTH. Do we now stop being missionary and evangelisers and become climate activists? Beautiful and meaningful as LAUDATO SI is, I don’t believe it addresses our whole faith story. I believe the Holy Father’s EVANGELII GAUDIUM has hardly been absorbed with its own powerful message of sharing and spreading God’s love and mercy which was underlying the theme of “Baptised and Sent.” And of course there is AMORIS LAETITIA and the gospel of the family which, according to my vision of the Church, is at its heart. And let’s not forget that we celebrated the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy only a few years ago and, let’s face it, we have hardly caught up with the 2nd Vatican Council which has already had its 50th anniversary.
In my preparation of MARFAM’s family-focused resources for 2019, the theme EVERY FAMILY MATTERS was more inclusive and true to life than equating family mainly with marriage. In preparing THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY for November on the theme LOSS MATTERS, I’m intrigued how my own perceptions have grown. Over the years I concentrated on death – as the Church does in November. Then I realized those left behind need some attention too and so I began to focus on widowed support. But then others who had a lost a parent or child asked, “What about us?” So now we have STATIONS OF THE CROSS FOR THE BEREAVED.
I’m working on MARFAM’s 2020 FAMILY YEAR PLANNER right now too and, with the intention of being as inclusive as possible, the theme will be OUR WORLD – A FAMILY OF FAMILIES. That does give us a chance to incorporate LAUDATO SI and the environmental focus, as well as AMORIS LAETITIA and a family focus but somehow for me the bottom line has become EVANGELII GAUDIUM, THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL. That may be a bandwagon and a half, but can be taken in small doses. Its opening statement “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. A Joy ever new, a Joy which is shared.” I hope and believe that it can, during the course of the year, in the Church and in families as little domestic churches, incorporate all the other bandwagons too leading to one of God’s greatest gifts, his experience of JOY! Which of course we all hope our rugby Bokke will bring us this weekend. TR FAMILY WEEKLY 30 OCTOBER 2019
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CPLO ROUND TABLE on Gender Based Violence and Implementation of the Law in South Africa. 7 November.
DAY OF REFLECTION FOR THE BEREAVED. JOHANNESBURG 17 NOVEMBER, PRETORIA 23 NOVEMBER.