Monday, October 28, 2013

Three Thoughts for Family Life

One of my best friends regularly reads these reflections, gives me periodic feedback, and often forwards them to others.  But he recently admitted that, "When I see Everyday Evangelization in my email, my first thought is, 'Oh, no, here comes Dave telling me something else I should be working on'."  Ouch!

If these reflections ever strike you that way, please accept my apologies!  A quote from Flannery O'Connor captures my experience of blogging: She said, "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." These postings have been a helpful way for me to work out some things for own faith journey, and I hope an invitation for you to find ways to become an "everyday evangelizer" in your journey.

So please take the "three thoughts" below in this spirit.  These are areas which have been helpful for my own family--and which we continue to work on.  Thanks to one of the wonderful Nashville Dominican Sisters who invited me to speak to her school families on the topic, I was forced to think about what advice I'd give about family life.  Here it is:

  1. Cultivate Quiet.  "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps 46:11).  God has spoken and continues to speak, but how can we hear Him if our daily world is filled with noise?Decentralizing the TV, the computer, the Ipod, and/or the smart phone can be difficult, but there's no other way to make room for spiritual reading, for authentic conversation, for personal reflection, and for pondering the living Word of God in relation to my own life.  The "still, small voice" of the living God, who is Infinite Personal Love, still calls for each of us. 

    Our personal vocations--and those of our family members--hinge on whether we dare to create a space where we can hear the Word.  This will, of course, require "taming technology," which starts off looking like a neutral tool but can so easily morph into a relentless taskmaster.  But Jesus himself said, "Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me" (Jn 6:45).  Wouldn't it be worth it to slow down the "game" of life, to silence some of the distractions, and to simply be with the one who IS?
  2. Reclaim Sunday.  Who wants us to be on a continuous treadmill of work and of frantic rushing about, seven days a week?  In Harry-Potter-speak, it is "he who shall not be named."  In other words, it is certainly not the Lord God who created the heavens and the earth and who gave us the Sabbath Day as a day to rest, worship and rejoice in Him.  We need to find ways to eliminate the daily chores, the errands, the endless stream of work on Sundays, in order to acknowledge the one day of the week which has transformed all of human history.  It is the day of the Resurrection; Christ is risen (can I hear an alleluia, people?!).  Moreover, Jesus himself said that "the Sabbath was made for man" (Mk 2:27):  Shouldn't we accept this gift with gratitude?

    Once we have Mass firmly grounded as the foundation of the Lord's Day each week, the opportunities are endless.  Sunday is designed for family activities, favorite foods, naps or bike rides.  Even the potential false god of Sports could be transformed into a leisure opportunity, if it becomes more about spending time with loved ones than escaping from them!  My family continues to look for ways to make Sunday a more holistic day of re-creation; we've recently hit on the routine of stoking up the fireplace on Sunday evening and cooking S'mores for desert.  Isn't it time to make Sunday the best day of the week?
  3. Break Bad Habits.  The first point to note is that we're talking about my own bad habits, that is, not those of spouse or my family!  Rediscovering Reconciliation has been one of the great blessings in my life, and the interior confession to God of my daily venial sins has also helped me embrace a more authentic attitude of repentance.  How can I be honest with my spouse, or apologize to my children or friends, if I'm not willing to do so with the Lord himself?  How can I be the person Christ is calling me to be, if I close myself off to the healing grace which is offered in this often-overlooked Sacrament? 

    The lifelong journey of conversion can certainly be challenging--just as forcing myself to eat well and get some exercise can be.  But this is the only alternative to staying stuck in the muck created by my bad habits.  Actions so easily become habits, and bad habits can quickly morph into vices, which then threaten to define my character.  The Good News is that there's always time for conversion--time for "turning with" God's help.  Indeed, Catholicism is the religion of second chances, of transformation, of turn-arounds: As Jesus said, "Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:3).  Couldn't we all identify one habit which is harming our relationships, and then leave it behind--the way children move on from toys which they've outgrown? 
If these suggestions don't strike a cord, think about what you would add to the list.  If I could talk him into it, I'd get my best friend to share his three thoughts, because they would be more than worth working on :)

May the Lord continue to bless and keep you--

P.S. The "For Your Marriage" website has recently run a "top ten things to remember as a parent."

P.P.S. For those who subscribe to this blog via email, I apologize that the video link didn't work on last week's email.  If you want to check out the three minute reflection on whether we are "real" or "robots" when we profess the Creed, it's embedded in the following blog post: One Family in Mission.