Sunday, August 25, 2013


"As the family goes, so goes the nation."

Blessed Pope John Paul said that once on a visit to this country.

Family: the love that begins with a man and woman, a commitment made to each other and to the future by bearing children, a nucleus, a nourishing clan from which springs more love and commitment and continual strength. A chain that promises support even when the separate links are geographically removed from one another.

Someone said that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother. I believe it, because I witnessed it. My dad adored and honored my mother through near constant financial and emotional struggles while raising us kids, and they have now been married 40 years. They just went to Paris to celebrate.

I am the fruit of a lifelong, for better or worse commitment, as is my husband, and I have seen the harvest of such relationships through others. We recently had a young woman to dinner, a confident woman who is embarking on a great new chapter in her life, and she spoke throughout the evening often of her family. She was proud of her familial, spiritual, emotional roots. They were strong; she knows it, and we felt it in her words and expression. She knows who and where she came from, the safety net is there, and though she hasn't been immune to heartbreak, she has been better able to learn from it and continue on her personal journey with courage, and what's more, with hope. Her parents and grandparents gave her the tools and have her back.

The idea of this commitment, of marriage, seems irrelevant to society - an old-fashioned notion, an archaic idea from a less tolerant, more rigid age that believed in sin and didn't know how to efficiently prevent pregnancy. But marriage will only become unnecessary if humanity stops producing offspring as a race, if we are doomed to extinction and can no longer look to the future or hope, because children have an innate need to know, love and respect their parents as their foundation. It is instilled by God, because parents, for good or ill, are a child's first instructors, their initial survival experts, should be that first brilliant illumination of God's love for them.

I was recently shopping for my new niece with my daughters. Two young saleswomen were tending the shop and discussing their toddlers.

"Are you married to your baby's daddy?" one asked the other.

"No, are you?"


My heart sank, and it plunged more when one said to the other, "My boyfriend wants to get married, but I said, 'What's the rush? We don't have money for a wedding right now.' "

I believe in saying prayers spontaneously. For the homeless guy on the street corner, for the young man being held by security and yelling about it in the supermarket, for these young foolish women who don't understand what they are denying their children, their partners or themselves.

It's so common, I know, and I would be disheartened except that I remember how often in the gospels it was recorded that Christ sat down to a meal with sinners gladly and taught them, pulled them along by his beautiful Grace, and how they responded with abundant hope.

But seeds of love, respect and fidelity are still being sown. You can imagine our joy when my husband and I lately discovered that we will have the wonderful opportunity of celebrating a marriage on his side of the family with the extended family. It's joy bestowed by the Creator, a strengthening of the body of Christ, another steadfast link in the chain that connects us to our Heavenly Father and to each other and to the promise of the future.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Child Seeks

Sometimes I'm weary of searching for God, of trying to fit him into a human's linear understanding of the universe. Sometimes I find that Christ's words are hard to understand and accept. Sometimes as I prepare to read at Mass, I have to pray for enlightenment of my dull, truant mind. I drag my feet in the good soil often, tired of trying to do good - tired of trying, not the same as actually doing.

I've had a close friend tell me I have a childlike faith. When repeating this to another dear friend, she agreed emphatically with that estimation of my spiritual age. And I know it, and what's more, I thank God for it - except when my childlike faith shrivels into a fetal position.

Times like these call for the personal touch, and if just now I find that I cannot find God in the details, cannot throw a stone into the great pool of faith in things not seen to cause even a little ripple, then I lean on the memory of times when I felt God's presence strongly:

_When Dad used to read the Bible with us on Saturday evenings in my childhood, and it felt like Christ himself was speaking through him, there in the room with us

_The time God answered my prayer, very specific prayer, when I was pregnant with my first daughter

_The many times when I felt the Holy Spirit was delivering a little message to me, encouraging or reproachful, in the words of a friend, stranger or family member

-In picking the minds and hearts of friends and acquaintances to learn what they know of God's grace and mercy

_The lovely, serene moments in various sylvan or riparian environments when all the whispers and sighs of nature seemed to convey Him in every living thing

_In the hospital after my car wreck when I was mourning the man who lost his life when he hit our van with his motorcycle, and I turned away from my husband toward the room and felt that Jesus was standing at the foot of my bed with a smile, pleased that I had forgiven

_When I pray tiny, short prayers throughout the day for people I pass on the street and people I love or for myself, and I gain beautiful snippets of peace

These experiences don't translate well to others, no matter how they shore me up in my dry spells. All I can tell anyone who finds themselves in a fallow field is the same that I tell my children: seek Him, seek Him continually and pray always. If you don't seek, because you are lazy, ambivalent or tired, you won't find Him. You will not discern Him in others, and you will not respond. You will not gain awareness of how he works in your life through the lives of others or of how He desires to use your talents. As a priest once said in an apt homily, we learn the most about God through each other.

I still have my childlike faith. I've been aware of God from the time I was a small child; by His grace, I trust I will never lose that awareness. I know my understanding is imperfect, and I wage war with my constant selfish leanings, indolence and poor understanding. My baggage is not that of experience but that of complacency. I stagger along, praying a little here and there, but I am conscious of the emptiness that awaits me if I don't seek Him. I regret that many already feel that astonishing depression and don't understand there is a peace that Jesus left us for the asking.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.