Seven more days for November suffrages. A ‘new human ecology’


I hope “suffrages” attracts the overwhelmingly large majority of politics-minded readers to this piece, which is not about elections. “Suffrages” are the prayers that one promises, or are prescribed by a church authority, for specific intentions. More people in the Church use it nowadays to mean the Masses, prayers, and other acts of piety–and sacrifice–for the repose and eternal bliss of the souls of the faithful departed.

November is the month for praying not just for our beloved dead but also for all the souls who are still in Purgatory. The first two days of the month are great feast days (or solemnities). November 1 is All Saints Day and November 2 is the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. In Church teaching November is to be devoted to prayers for all souls still waiting to be granted the joy of “residing” in heaven and there be with God.

This doesn’t mean you can’t pray for your beloved dead in other months of the year. The November suffrages make sure people who don’t normally remember their gone loved ones get reminded to pray for their eternal bliss.

Several sects, or cultural traditions within the faiths of Judaism and Islam, share the Christian concern for liberating departed loved ones from the Purgatory.

Unfortunately, the secular celebration of “All Hallows’ Eve” or Halloween has become so pervasive in our world today that some Muslims think wearing strange costumes of monsters, superheroes and Satan and going around the neighborhood “trick-or-treating” is a “Christian” celebration. The fact is every October 30 and 31st, many priests and bishops remind their flock that the consumerist celebration of Halloween is unchristian.

Last month, the highest Islamic institution in Malaysia, the National Fatwa Council, announced that Muslims should not celebrate Halloween, which is “against Islamic teachings” but erroneously called it a Christian celebration of the dead. The NFC urged Muslims to remember the dead by reciting prayers and reading the Quran.

Complementarity of man and woman
Many, specially orthodox Jewish and Islamic sects or traditions, are also in solidarity with the effort of the Catholic Church to preserve the natural-law idea of what a family is and the value of the family to mankind.

Last week, on Monday, November 17, Pope Francis opened the colloquium “Humanum” in the Vatican sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith together with the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

The colloquium was explicitly on “The complementarity of man and woman.”

The Holy Father said “the family is an anthropological fact” and is “not something that can be qualified by ‘ideological’ or ‘conservative or progressive notions.’”

To “reflect upon ‘complementarity’ is nothing less than to ponder the dynamic harmonies at the heart of all Creation. This is a big word, harmony. All complementarities were made by our Creator, so the Author of harmony achieves this harmony,” Pope Francis said.

Calling the complementarity of man and woman a “root of marriage and family,” he explained that “the family grounded in marriage is the first school where we learn to appreciate our own and others’ gifts, and where we begin to acquire the arts of cooperative living.”

The family in general “provides the principal place where we can aspire to greatness as we strive to realize our full capacity for virtue and charity,” Pope Francis said, but he also pointed out that families do occasion tensions and yet “also provide frameworks for resolving such tensions. This is important.”

In this context, Pope Francis postulated, “complementarity is not to be understood as a ‘simplistic idea’ in which the ‘roles and relations of the two sexes are fixed in a single, static pattern.’ “

“Complementarity will take many forms as each man and woman brings his or her distinctive contributions to their marriage and to the formation of their children — his or her personal richness, personal charisma,” he said. “Complementarity becomes a great wealth. It is not just a good thing but it is also beautiful.”

Manila Times columnist Francisco S. Tatad, an invited participant, described it “as an international interreligious colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman, and attended by religious leaders and scholars from 23 countries” that “featured 33 witnesses and presentors from various different confessions.” He noted that this colloquium “ came less than a month after the end of the extraordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which was marked by widespread media hype on a possible seismic change in Church teaching about homosexuality and marriage.”

“Religious leaders and scholars from Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism, Sikhism, Baptists, Evangelicals and Latter-Day Saints provided the non-Catholic perspective. Across the wide confessional divide, the speakers were uniformly persuasive, but more of the non-Catholic speakers had the assembly standing on their feet in prolonged applause at the end of their addresses,” Tatad said.

Crisis demands a “New human ecology”
In his opening speech Pope Francis also said marriage and family today are “in crisis.”

“We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment,” he observed. “This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

The Holy Father introduced a new term that, I think, will resonate with government and social leaders in the coming months and years: “human ecology.”

He said the crisis in the family demands a “new human ecology,” reminding his audience that while everyone understands the importance of providing protection to the natural environment, it is sad that “we have been slower to recognize that our fragile social environments are under threat as well.”

“It is necessary first to promote the fundamental pillars that govern a nation: its non-material goods,” he added. “The family is the foundation of co-existence and a remedy against social fragmentation. Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity. That is why I stressed in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that the contribution of marriage to society is ‘indispensable’; that it ‘transcends the feelings and momentary needs of the couple.’”

The Pope ended his speech requesting the delegates to emphasize “yet another truth about marriage: that permanent commitment to solidarity, fidelity and fruitful love responds to the deepest longings of the human heart.”

He called on them to help young people so that they don’t “give themselves over to the poisonous environment of the temporary, but rather become revolutionaries with the courage to seek true and lasting love, going against the common pattern.”


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  1. Nobody will argue against the emphasis on the importance of the family for the well-being of a person and society. The religious answer to the problem is go back to the idea of the family as designed by God. Put God first and family second or any variation of it. Sooner rather than later, things will turn around. The reality is that there seems to be an aversion in the current trend in terms of search for solving family problems. For many, religious answers to a human issue complicates and confuses rather than elucidates and enlightens. Perhaps this is the reason why the non-catholic speakers were given a standing ovation at the conference on the family you cited. Undeniably, most families are underwater financially, emotionally, and spiritually. It would seem that the family in the words of Jesus is “divided unto itself.” However, a solution coming from the religious sector whether Christian or otherwise will be met with disdain and be perceived as out of sync and out of touch with where people are. For anyone to provide a prescription for a family problem would be assuming too much and displays a smack of arrogance. In social work, we have this dictum that says the family is the expert of its problems. Members of the family know how to solve their own issues. They themselves can surface solutions that will work for their unique struggles. Religious idealism maybe worthwhile to aspire for, yet it can put the family into a state confusion. It is hard enough to follow simple rules to better one’s life. Adding more difficult ones can be burdensome. At least, this is how some understand religious solutions to human issues. I know that the optics do not support the premise that family will ultimately find solutions which fit their needs, because we watch in horror tragic events happening in the family. However, we just have to trust that humans are created in the image of God and as they say, God works in mysterious way.

  2. Anima A. Agrava on

    Pope Francis by speaking for the “complementarity of man and woman” and the need to pay attentiion to the crisis in marriage by focusing of “a new human ecology” is continuing the catechesis of John Paul the Great and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
    God bless you, Santo Papa Francisco.

  3. Pope Francis’ calls on us to pay more attention to the “complementarity of man and woman” and to think in terms of “a new human ecology” to protect the human and social environment properly. Millennials should undo the harm against the social environment done by earlier generations. These issues should be treated as, or more seriously, than people are treating the Earth’s physical environment.

  4. Hindi ko talaga maintindihan,kung alam ng tao ang batas ng dios!! Ang nagsasabing mga tagapagturo ng religion ay nag-iisip!
    Ang taong nagkasala ay siya ang magbabayad ng sarili niyang kasalanan!
    Ang dios ay pantay sa lahat!
    Hindi pueding pagbayaran ng magulang ang kasalanan ng anak, ganoon din ang anak!
    Ang purgatorio at dasal ng mga mahal sa buhay ay hindi makapapapabago nito!
    bakit ano-anong aral ang iniimbento ngayon napaka-simple lang ang batas ng dios!
    papatayin ang tao sa sarili niyang kasalanan,kaya habang buhay siya ay pilit na sinasabi ng dios ng magpakabuti ang tao dahil pagnamatay na siya ay wala ng pagkakataon na makaiwas siya sa hatol!
    Bakit pilit ninyong gustong baguhin ang utos, ang daming utos ang idinadagdag ninyo na wala namang kabuluhan at inilalagay ninyo ang mga tao sa mali!
    Maawa kayo sa mga tao,ibinubulid ninyo lalo sila sa impierno!
    Kung kanikanino ninyo pinadadaan mga santo at santa,bago makarating ang panalangin ng tao sa dios,
    Kung kailangan mo ang isang mataas na officer o mayor pero kung kanikanino ka nila ituturo, hindi ka kaya magalit!
    Bakit pagtungkol sa religion,tuwang-tuwa pa ang mga tao kapag kung kani kaninong Santa at santo sila tumatawag, ngayon ang gusto ng dios ay dumirikta na sila sa kanya!
    Unang -unang hahatol ng dios itong nagtuturo ng kung ano-ano ang iniimbento.million-million tao ang ipapahamak ninyo!