What does the Extraordinary Mission Month say to families?
Having participated in some of the phases of the recent Johannesburg Archdiocesan Synod I do have some insights into the outcomes although the full final report is yet to follow. As a team we worked on the Marriage and Family Life topic, prepared some reflection material and analysed the challenges that were identified by parishes. It was satisfying that the area of family spirituality, as in liturgy and prayer was seen as one of the top priorities.
As this is right up MARFAM’s alley I hope that these points, suggestions and ideas reaffirmed by Pope Francis in AMORIS LAETITIA could help readers during these next few weeks of the month.
- Families are the basic building blocks of the Church which can and should be seen as a family of families with all their daily realities.
- MARFAM promotes the spirituality and sacredness of ordinary family life in its various current forms; living at home, couples and parents, working, school, kids, elderly and youth.
- As the domestic church or little church of the home it is the first place and opportunity for its members to experience God’s presence. This can be done in simple ways, e.g. Do you bless your children with a sign of the cross on the forehead before bed? The simple and beautiful prayer of St Francis “Make me an instrument of your peace……. is appropriate for all families.
- The Church, parish, movements, sodalities etc, are at the service of its people, who live in these various families, not vice versa. That is how and where we give glory to God.
So when asking the question, “How family-centred is our parish?” a positive response would be, “We promote family relationships and their relationship with God i.e. spirituality in the home, and don’t primarily concentrate on the parish stuff.” Implementing this is tricky but essential if we want to make progress with our evangelization at all ages and life situations, accepting families as units not as individuals or members of the different portfolios or sodalities.
A recent experience highlighted this aspect. I attended a book lauch of Fr Larry Kaufmann’s new book BECOME LOVE, subtitled “Gradual growth and Transformation from John to Francis. It describes how the concept of Gradualness and the Law of Gradualness or Principle of Gradualness are developed by Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia. He does so mainly in connection with adapting and integrating irregular marriage and family situations. However how much sense is there not in recognizing that a family is the real place where gradualness makes absolute sense. Over the last 25 years (and that is a current MARFAM milestone) we have researched stages of marriage. Booklets BECOMING MARRIED, BECOMING WIDOWED, in particular recognize how growth in relationships with each other and with God develop and mature over time. As a catechist I found spiritual and moral development too across the growing years important to understand. Spiritual development in adulthood in the Church has tended to be focused on the individual too, and increasingly on women, rather than on a couple who are called to unity and a covenant relationship mirroring that of Christ and the Church.
The real locus for spiritual development, call it renewal, or mission, ideally begins in a family and continues there as life changes and develops. Family devotions used to be a common practice in homes, but no more. The Rosary is popular in some cultures and groups and is also often prayed individuals.
Quite apart from religion what is required in families is improved communication. Faith sharing – a la RENEW – should have taught us Catholics a lot more about sharing and spontaneous prayer from the heart. MARFAM’s THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY promote a similar process. MARFAM’S FAMILY PRAYER BOOK begins with the definition, “prayer is the raising of the mind and heart to God.” Those of us who learned our catechism 60 years ago know the sentence. But do we, any more than the next generation whose catechism consisted more of focusing on God’s love really experience raising a mind and heart to God. If you haven’t have you really prayed? In families I know it is sometimes the youngest member who is invited to pray at mealtimes using a sweet little verse they learned at nursery school. But for each of us, our faith sharing and prayers from the heart have more potential to bring us closer to God and possibly to each other. Family life is more than a series of challenges and spirituality is not the least of them but in the words of Pope Francis a source of joy. “The Joy of Families is the Joy of the Church,” is his opening statement in Amoris Laetitia.” Gradually growing towards that is a quite a mission, for a few weeks, month or years to come. Check out http://www.marfam.org.za for a range of resources and publications on family spirituality. Enjoy! FAMILY WEEKLY 9 OCTOBER 2019.