Family Life: The Adventure into Love

Although there were a disproportionately high number of Eagle Scouts in seminary, success in scouting does not run deep in my family. My father’s scouting career ended abruptly after a rather humorous falling out with the scoutmaster. My end as a Boy Scout did not come so dramatically, but it did conclude having achieved merely ‘Second Class’ rank. Looking back, I certainly loved the camping, activities and camaraderie with friends. I have fewer fond memories of acquiring merit badges. I never accumulated too many of these embroidered patches, and to this day I can’t recall if I ever got the one for “Family Life”. It struck me even at a young age that alongside archery, leatherworking, basket weaving, orienteering, survival, woodcarving and the like, a skill like Family Life seemed out of place. I knew then, and know better now, that living well in a family was perhaps one of life’s greatest and most rewarding challenges, the true attainment of a lifetime.

Family life is a great good, but it is not one of those things that can exactly be ‘taught’ or mastered. It has always struck me how incredibly difficult it is to love those closest to us. This challenge varies according to the season of life we find ourselves in. It was exceedingly difficult, for example, to believe that my parents had my good in mind even when it didn’t seem like it to my teenage way of looking at life. There needs to be a constant decision to bear with others in their weaknesses, to share possessions, time and space, to communicate.

Family life has to be tried, practiced, pursued. I’ve come to understand that to love and live within the family that God has blessed us with, requires an ongoing effort sustained through a lifetime. In my more honest moments, I would still admit that I am still far from attaining to the ideal. I think most of us would admit that. In life we choose our friends, our spouses, our careers, but not our family members. Our family is the school of love in which God enrolls us: a boarding school - the place we call home, where love is learned and taught.

With today’s Feast we look to the Holy Family, who after the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, “returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth” (Luke 2:39). They give us a great example to daily recommit ourselves to learning to love in the sometimes mundane reality of family life. We are given the task and opportunity to live as a family which God has blessed (and challenged us with). As the Christmas season runs its course, we can decide with Jesus, Mary and Joseph to embrace the family within which God has placed us and let it be our means of growth in patience and Christian maturity.

I would like to draw attention to the list of nineteen couples named in this bulletin who have said yes to the challenge of family life and during the past year have begun the adventure of forming families of their own. For these who have just embarked on the path of marital love and sacramental marriage, our prayers are in order, that as husbands and wives they can grow in mutual love, self-sacrifice and virtue. Some of these couples have already opened their lives to the gift of life and now embark on the equally challenging task of growing into the roles of mother and father in faith. Our prayers are with them as well. Family life is not an ‘attainment’ as much as it is an ongoing invitation into the adventure of love. Our couples who have been married 25, 40, 50 or more years know that well. Blessings to you and thank you for your witness.

As we continue to encourage a culture of life in our parish, let us recognize the precious presence of the unborn in our midst. In the coming years I hope we can find ways as a parish to further support and cherish life in all of its stages. For example, the Church has a beautiful tradition of blessing expectant parents for a safe pregnancy and delivery. If you or someone you know would like to request such a blessing, please contact the parish office so we can schedule a time before or after a Sunday Mass. The blessing only takes a few minutes but is a great affirmation of the sacred dignity of human life in the womb.

Another way to strengthen our family culture as a parish is to find ways to support and get to know our engaged couples and newlyweds. One way we are actively seeking to do this is through a developing Marriage Mentor Couple program using the Fully Engaged curriculum from the Diocese of St. Cloud. If you are interested in assisting in this regard with encouraging and mentoring engaged couples or those preparing to have their children baptized, please contact Caroline in the parish office. Taking on this role of accompaniment and support of those seeking sacramental marriage could be a tremendous way to invest in your own marriage. One other upcoming marriage enrichment opportunity is the February 10th Cana Dinner. Please save the date for what is sure to be a fun and edifying evening at Elsie’s - talk about a great date night!

Christmas gatherings with family remind us that our family members are both a great gift and challenge. If you traveled for the Christmas holidays, returning home is like coming back to the school of love which is family life. If you stayed home this Christmas, you are right where God wants you to keep growing in love. Let’s together say yes to the adventure of family life. Take courage! It is worth the effort. This is our call as a parish as well: a Catholic parish is what I have always liked to call “a family of families”.

Begging the grace from God to love as Jesus, Mary and Joseph loved, into this new year of 2018,

Fr. Howe