“I chose you to go out and bear much fruit, fruit that will last”
(John 15: 16)
In the family, children “learn to love inasmuch as they are unconditionally loved, they learn respect for others inasmuch as they are respected, they learn to know the face of God inasmuch as they receive a first revelation of it from a father and a mother full of attention in their regard” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to Bishops On Collaboration of men and Women in the Church and in the World, May 31, 2014; Youcat, n⁰86).
Inspired by the Youcat (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church) throughout 2013-2014 during the youth meetings, the above quotation fed several discussions which led to the topic: “Family Challenges” for our Christmas Workshop 2014. For family life has been prioritized by the Bishops of Southern Africa for three years (2014-2016).
Considering the constant crisis of commitment in South Africa and also in marriage and family, the workshop entailed helping the Youth of Maria Assumpta Parish to grow in love and in commitment to God and one another. Among many challenges, few were prioritized according to the local needs of the Youth: HIV/AIDS, Teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, violence and crime, divorce and new family additions, sexual and physical abuse, contraceptive methods, natural family planning (NFP), artificial fertilization… and other correlatives topics like: abortion, menstruation, use of condom, masturbation…were also tackled.
From the 20th evening to the 24th December, different facilitators accompanied 115 youths from the Local Christian Communities of Acornhoek Parish. Srs Jane (Flagstaff) and Peninah (Johannesburg), Ntumi Mogane (Social Worker: Young Adult from Acornhoek), Frs. Jose de la Cruz, Jean-Philippe Lokpo, Jérôme Soku, Kgomotso Sebopela (MCCJ), Bro. Boniface and Charlemagne (MCCJ), Kokwana Regina (Ste Anne-Widow from Acornhoek); Desmond, Emerentia, Abednego, Hlayisani (Bosco Volunteers) facilitated this moving youth gathering with different teachings, prayers, reflections, games, sports, work in groups, braii…
After this moving and familial experience, many resolutions were taken to build up the family of God in Acornhoek, starting by the young people. Youths who are far from home were encouraged and expressed their desire to join catholic chaplaincies where they are studying or working. Moreover, we felt renewed, revived and converted on the approach to love, sexuality, marriage and family. It has also been perceived that the position of the Catholic Church on all those boiling issues seemed to be superficially understood by the majority of the young people, who should be the sentinels of tomorrow.
Above all, the Catholic Church advocates a holistic-ecological approach to sexuality. This includes sexual pleasure, personal love and fruitfulness. A chaste love defends itself against all the internal and external forces that may destroy it. Continence and abstinence are values which can help married people, religious, and single people to become more and more matured, freer, and more loving person, able build better relationships.
Let sing with the Book of Song of Songs: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned.” (Song 8: 6-7)
Love will remain mysterious. With God as our partner our journey through life means growing in love and in commitment to God and one another. Jesus tells us that there is no greater love that to give one’s life for others, something that begins in our families.
We can only fulfil our high calling by making an ontological jump from the biological conception of family to the spiritual one, form libido conception (pleasure) to agape approach (self-giving). This needs commitment and sacrifice. It’s impels us to develop the logic of extra mile. We need also to realize more and more that we are all interdependent, members of the Body of Christ, we need one another. Not only need one another but need to help one another. Coming together is just a start, keeping together is a progress and growing together in love is a success.
A commitment to love is a commitment for life.
Fr. Jérôme SOKU, MCCJ
Youth Chaplain of Acorhnoek Parish