Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Another Wednesday, Another Audience

At the Pope's Wednesday Audience this week, he continued his catechesis on the family. After focusing on fathers last week, this week he turned his attention to children. His address focused on the blessing that children are to a family, the way they bring life and multiply love in a home. So I wanted to take a moment to praise the beautiful, tragic, joyful chaos of family life. The most joyful homes I know, aside from my parents' home which raised four happy and mostly-balanced children and always takes the cake for joyful, are homes that are full of children. As a priest, I am blessed to know many families at many stages of growth. I know a family who just welcomed their eighth child into the world, only two of whom are old enough to have received First Communion. I know a family of five kids, two of whom are married and starting families of their own. When everyone is home to mom and dad's, you are overwhelmed by love. I know the family of six where the oldest boys are almost old enough to start helping with chores on the farm. And I know couples who have realized they will never have children of their own, and I've watched them slowly learn to let Jesus fill that gaping void in their lives and in their homes.

What do the Bishops need to discuss? Lego fatalities.
With the blessings of modern technology, sometimes parents share their struggles and household crises with me as they happen. I think the most successful parents are the ones who can discipline their kids when necessary and then laugh about it (when it's a laughing matter) in private. I was recently privileged to receive live text message updates as broken a single Lego caused the demise of the Millennium Falcon Lego ship, which then led to the war between the Rebellion (the brothers?) and the Galactic Empire (the sisters?) being reignited. I'm really guessing here at elements I don't understand. In any case, I'd asked the parents to participate in a survey about the current Synodal discussions about the family and I learned that the bishops of the world have totally missed the effect that Lego fatalities can have on home life.

The aftermath of the war
And I have no doubt that any parents reading this have their own memorable tails of comedy and woe. Parents are truly saints. Children are indeed a blessing, all parents recognize that, but to care for such a blessing indeed requires you to be a saint. The older I get, the more I appreciate my own parents and everything they went through for me.

As I think about the upcoming Synod and the Pope's call to go to the peripheries, I can't help but think that we should all look to the center to figure out what they're doing right. If the peripheries refer to those who are in difficult or irregular marriage and family situations, then the center would represent those happy, successful families who have it figured out. Not that any family is ever "successful" in the sense of having attained a goal or crossing a finish line. But some families have things more right than others. And you learn a skill best by trying to emulate those who have mastered it, not simply by avoiding the errors you see in yourself. So look to the parents who can hold together a house of eight kids, look to the parents who can weep with joy at their child's wedding, look to those who can discipline their kids for fighting and still laugh at a Lego catastrophe, and figure out what they're doing right. To learn about love, look to the large families.

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