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.”