For Catholics, in particular, when we think of May we think of Mary. Maybe some of us also think of Mothers’ Day or maybe we think of both. For centuries already May has been Mary’s month and there are many different celebrations, traditions and devotions in parts of the world to honour her. Quite often they include spring and flowers and new life too. So parenting could get a look in there in line with the 2020 Family theme “Our World – a Family of Families” and the May theme, “Parents form families.” In the world of today, while ideally it is the task of mother and father, in South Africa the mother-headed family is the more common family form. Only 1/3 of children in fact spend their childhood years with both their biological parents together.
One question that surfaced in the Stage 5 Covid-19 lockdown regulations was that of co-parenting in the case of divorce and split families, where children would be stuck with the one parent during lock-down. A more problematical scenario that surfaced is the issue of family violence at this time because of the stresses and strains of being restricted. It tends to be spoken about as gender-based violence but should preferably be seen as family violence as it certainly involves the whole family and not members in isolation, a woman and possibly children abused by a man. The best response should offer support to the larger family unit. It is to be hoped that the programme for preventing family violence that was introduced by the SA bishops some while ago will be widely implemented some time soon.
At the beginning of this month of May, we can combine devotion to Mary with the task of parents to provide formation to their children. Socialisation is learning the life skills to live within a network of relationships. Interacting with others in formal and informal settings, managing differences and conflict and sharing resources are essential for healthy development. Education is the responsibility of families and includes information of all kinds also sexuality education and faith formation.
Family spirituality is experienced and caught rather than taught. Whatever parents, or those who play a parenting role are able to do in the current circumstances is modelling, which can be positive or negative. Formation for spirituality for any family, whatever their various religious backgrounds, can consist of family prayer, regular and simple prayers at certain times e.g. meals or bedtime. It can include praying the rosary or a decade or two. Spontaneous prayer is a bit of an art if families are not used to it but it is a valuable way to learn to pray that can be seen as quite foreign for some of us. It is in families with mixed religions that such skills are more commonly found. There can also be bible reading and sharing as a form of family communication on issues of concern. This can open the door for worthwhile discussion. On a less formal note discussion and activities around the Parenting theme in our World can be done too. MARFAM has some booklets and materials to help. See www.marfam.org.za
For Mary’s month the rosary is an obvious choice. Depending on the family situation a format such as in the booklet AN HOUR OF PRAYER FOR MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFE linked with the Rosary can be meaningful as it highlights the different aspects of family life that are experienced in real life. The booklet has reflections and prayers to read before praying the decade. Not all five need to be used at any one time. Order from www.marfam.org.za/shop
1st decade. Pray for those preparing for marriage. This includes children, teenagers and those already engaged.
2nd decade. Pray for all married couples in different stages of marriage from young to elderly.
3rd decade. Pray for all families and their different situations with regard to children.
4th decade. Pray for married people who are alone for a variety of reasons, or for single people.
5th decade. Pray for those ministering to families and couples. That includes priests and religious, health professionals and social workers, as well as those in specific family programmes.
At this time of Covid-10 related lockdown and many health, relationship and financial concerns Pope Francis has asked for special prayers to be offered. His message and one of these prayers included here.
“The month of May is approaching, a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.
For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually.
“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God”.
In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under your /protection.
Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.
Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.
Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.
Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.
Blessed Virgin, illumine the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.
Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.
Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.
Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.
To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.
AND………… As Sunday is MOTHERS’ DAY let us all pray for one another, old and young.
TR FAMILY WEEKLY 6 MAY 2020