Whatever matters matters. What is dished up to us in the media matters. Whatever. If there is a fire at the cathedral in Paris, a cyclone in Mozambique, a bomb in Sri Lanka. Or a death or suicide of a celebrity. That is the way of the world.
What concerns one’s own life situation matters. If one is poor and hungry, unemployed, hijacked, becomes a grandparent, has a sick family member. That situation matters.
Some matters involve information – sometimes quite useless but nevertheless interesting. Quizzes are very popular these days and some people have vast stores of “knowledge.” An African proverb tells us “Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand.” There are other matters that affect the reality of one’s life situation. Maslow, a psychologist, has designed a helpful model of a hierarchy of human needs, the most basic of which is survival. Food, security, needs for love and belonging and eventually for self-development or self-actualisation affect one’s degree of happiness and fulfilment. Much of the news we are fed daily does not necessarily have a particularly useful effect on this and so that is why maybe we don’t always feel good.
During this month of August MARFAM reflections have focused on the theme of WOMEN AND MEN MATTER. They matter in their personal, individual capacity, but very much so in their interactions and relationships. People are relational beings. We relate to other human beings in different ways and with different levels of intimacy and we relate to God too.
Sexuality is an important aspect of who we are irrespective of our degree of sexual intimacy. One priest told a group of young people, “the degree of your intimacy should be the equal to your degree of commitment.” Women pledge their solidarity but we’ve also all heard how women can be catty or bitchy in the way we treat other women. Men will be macho amongst themselves. The point is that our sexuality affects how we relate to others.
During this month, then, these kind of relationships have been in the spotlight. There are both positive and also negative aspects. Pope Francis loves to speak of the joy of love and that includes sexual love. Gender-based violence is firstly a relational issue, an out-of-balance relationship, one of control, domination, submission, resentment and conflict that too often results in violence. It is not the result of poverty or whether one has a job or good education although these can and do have an influence. GBV affects the rich and the poor. Combatting and addressing GBV should be more from a relationship perspective, not just a punitive one, learning communication skills, listening, expressing feelings and needs as well as values. Ideally it should not be done in isolation or separately with women and men..
Some months ago the Church in Southern Africa invested in a programme to be set up in all dioceses, “How can we help to end violence in Catholic families?” by Dr Christauria Welland. It was designed specifically for Catholic couples and families and is built on psychological principles with Scripture and Catholic teaching from Pope Francis and others. Hopefully this implementation is happening and will be done after the Johannesburg Archdiocesan Synod too. The extract below is particularly meaningful. “As the Bishops of Mexico have pointed out, violence within families breeds new forms of social aggression, since “family relationships can also explain the tendency to a violent personality. This is often the case with families where communication is lacking, defensive attitudes predominate, the members are not supportive of one another, family activities that encourage participation are absent, the parental relationship is frequently conflictual and violent, and relationships between parents and children are marked by hostility. Violence within the family is a breeding-ground of resentment and hatred in the most basic human relationships” From AL51
I have been part of a team developing a study document on marriage and family life for the upcoming Johannesburg Synod. In the study document the team had presented a holistic view of a family focus in all of Church life, in the parish but especially within relationships at home, the domestic church. Parishes were to study the document and answer a series of questions. I find it rather disappointing that the responses do not appear to have taken us very deeply into the relationship aspect of marriage and family. Was the family focus fully picked up? We’re still in the preparatory period and at the synod there will be time for further reflection. Maybe the challenge there will be to listen carefully because the reality facing families and the issues that matter to many families may be related to jobs and skills and poverty and building food gardens while strengthening relationships may seem a luxury. However, family enrichment and relationship education is more likely to address domestic violence than food gardens is. But, it does inevitably depend on which matters matter. TR FAMILY WEEKLY 28 AUGUST 2019