Wednesday, December 28, 2011

(59) Family of the Year: You Mean Us?

        At the end of a sport season or year many publications, organizations, and institutions often award "This of the Year" and "That of the Year".  With the Knights of Columbus, our turn came after being a Knight for about ten years.  Our family continually strives for the be just a tiny bit like the Holy Family.  Obviously we come far short of what we should be and have much to improve on.  Now we're going through the tumultuous teen age years with our youngest two.  Clearly, the jury is still out and we won't know how our four kids will turn out until they are safely with the Lord in eternity. 
        Although each family member has a free will and there are so many secular, cultural, and environmental influences beyond our control, the greatest tragedy and failure of a parent is for one of his or her children not to make it into heaven.  True, many parents do everything right and one or more of their children leave the Church.  I know at least two large families where some of the children are pillars of the parish, including a priest and others have left the Church.  All we can do as parents is our best and constantly pray for our children.  In our case, we know that we are trying and we're doing at least some things right. 

          WE ARE THE DOMESTIC CHURCH.  Every home, every family is its own domestic church within the universal Church.  Every father is supposed to be a priest, a teacher, and take the lead in that domestic church which is the fundamental building block of the universal Church, the Body of Christ with our Lord as the head.  Every mother is a nurturer, a teacher, the heart of the family, and a leader in the domestic church.  As the family goes, so goes the Church.  If the Family is strong, the Church is strong.  If the Church is in crisis, it is because the Family is in crisis.  That is certainly the case in regard to religious vocations.  Are we doing our part?  What a huge responsibility for every parent!  The Lord will judge us on how we complete our most important mission......raising our kids for eternity and the great mission that God has for each one of them here on earth.
       When one family breaks apart, the Church, the Body of Christ is wounded.  Friends and everyone in the parish grieve while the evil one gloats.  We must preserve the family at all costs because the cost of a broken family is always so much greater.  No marriage is easy nor always harmonious; no marriage is perfect; every marriage has problems from time to time; every marriage has its ups and downs.  Marriage is hard work.  Marriage is making up and forgiving every day; it's starting anew again and again.  Marriage is overlooking the other's faults while gently working for mutual sanctification starting first and foremost with one's self.  

       The mother must continue with the same feminine charm that attracted her husband in the first place.  The husband must continue to woo his wife and win her hand as he did during the courtship without looking for or expecting reciprocity although that will come some day.  Since the husband won her hand and she accepted him as he was, good and bad, it's his responsibility to make her happy even if it may seem to be impossible at times and require considerable humility.  It was probably easier during the courtship when we were young and the hormones were flowing and more active.  From the wedding day, the evil one works very hard to plant discord in families, especially in families striving to be holy families.  

        We must keep the family intact and do whatever it takes every day.......the little kind words, deeds, hugs and kisses for continuous nurturing of the relationship; serving the other without concern about who does more for the relationship and the family; the complete giving of self to the other, giving more than 50% each while striving for 100% each.......and as necessary or opportune: counseling; consultations with the pastor who may have to recommend temporary separation for certain extreme cases for treatment, e.g., alcoholism or wife battering; marriage encounters; Retrovaille; Cana Conferences; giving in; compromise; negotiation; and most of all prayer.  There is so much truth in Fr. Patrick Peyton's theme:  "The family that prays together stays together".  Research shows that couples that stick it out are usually happier in the long run......happier than those who quit and break up.  Generally the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence as remarriage brings a Pandora's box filled with a larger set of new problems, more often than not......worse.
       With much of the above in the back of my mind I wanted to share some thoughts upon accepting our award.  Perhaps we could be an example.  Perhaps a few families could learn from us.  The following is a testimony that I felt a need to share with other families in order to stimulate thought when we accepted the Family of the Year Award for 2008-09 from the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. Laced with bits of humor, you might enjoy it.  In the coming new year may we make renewed efforts to be more loving spouses, more responsible parents, to strengthen our families and bring them all closer to God.
At the Columbus Airport when John Paul returned  from Ave Maria University May 2009 or so.

Knights of Columbus Council 3335 June 17, 2009

        You're giving the Family of the Year Award to US? Are you kidding? If you'd pop in on us at our little house in Rio Grande, you'd certainly find a big mess. And if we're home, a lot of noise.......whining, bickering or arguing about something. I've lost my cool more than once. Ask the neighbors; they'll tell you and they're a hundred yards away. I'm not proud of that.

        Our family is like a perpetual sitcom. Jaga is like Blondie. And me?.....some kind of a combination of Dagwood Bumstead, Archie Bunker, and Father Knows Best. Those characters go a long way back. Remember them? You're showing off your age. And you want to make US the Family of the Year?????

        But you know what? We're doing something right, maybe a lot of things right.
  • We know that it's extremely important for the father to take the spiritual lead in the family. So Jaga lets me think I'm the head of the family, but she claims to be the move the head. If Jaga feels strongly about something she usually gets her way. She's really the heart of our family. Without her, I wouldn't be on time for anything. Jaga complains that she always has to wait for me. Why I had to wait for her for 50 years and I was celibate the whole time. Honest. She keeps me on the straight and narrow, even praying for me over 15 years before we ever met.
  • We really try to be a Christ centered family with family prayer every night. The saint to be Father Patrick Peyton, the founder of the Family Rosary movement and also the once popular national radio and TV show out of Hollywood, “Family Theater”, always said: “The family that prays together stays together.”
  • We have EWTN on all the time and a little altar in the living room with a Marian art gallery throughout the house. Jaga wanted to become a nun..... until she met me. So now I'm married to one and we live in a convent.
  • We all go to Mass EVERY exceptions. That's not negotiable.....period. We go in our Sunday best or almost jeans, no shorts. After all, we're visiting the King of the Universe, not a rock star. We encourage daily Mass too and most of us attend.
  • We insist on modest dress in helping them to maintain purity. I don't want any punk kid ogling at one of my daughters or flirting. We pray that they will wait until that wedding night when for the first time and always she exclusively for him and he exclusively for her. That's special.
  • We encourage participation in sports and the boys are big sports fans; I can't get Jaga interested. But we place a much higher value on education. We expect our kids to study hard and do their very best in school. We try to use TV, videos, and travel for education as much as possible. You want to play another computer game.....OK, but no zip 'em, zap 'em, or shoot 'em up games. And a book.
  • We strongly believe what Pope John Paul the Great taught: “The parents are the primary educators in the Faith”. CCD is only a supplement, as important as it is. We read Catholic publications and refer to the Bible and the official Catechism of the Catholic Church. We try to send our kids to a genuinely Christ centered Catholic college, not to a secularized one that has lost its original Catholic mission. John-Paul is a sophomore at Ave Maria University.
  • We're fiercely loyal to the Pope and Church teaching. It's all or nothing, the complete package for our house. We're not in the cafeteria business of picking and choosing only what we like. Morality is absolute, not relative. It's the Ten Commandments, not the ten suggestions.
  • We've attended several of Catholic Familyland's pray and play vacation retreats for families near Steubenville. It's a great Catholic experience of fun, fellowship, and spiritual growth for family members of all ages. We thank them for their help.
  • We teach the kids honesty and to do what is right despite the consequences (integrity). We try to instill a work ethic --no where near as good as the Stapletons-- but we're working on it. We all serve as community and parish volunteers to give something back from our God given gifts and talents.....a grave responsibility. After all, life boils down to love of God first and then neighbor. That is, family, parish, community, and Country. I build on a teaching of Spiderman and tell the kids: “Great talents and gifts entail great use them for the benefit of Society.” We ask the kids to seek and pray for discernment of the will of the Lord or vocation for their lives.
  • Everybody in our family belongs to a parish group. We try to participate in as many parish activities as possible because every single person is MOST important toward building a strong parish community and making each parish event a success by his/her presence.
  • Because the Eucharist is the source, the summit, and the life of the Church, the entire family spends at least an hour at the St. Louis Church monthly Eucharistic Adoration. As Jaga suggested, I wrote the first draft of this talk in front of the tabernacle. See I listen to my wife. Isn't that right, Jaga?
  • Since spiritual directors recommend monthly confession, we try. That's harder to follow. Jaga rounds us up like the old nuns used to do with us as kids and marches us to confession.
       We're not old fashioned dinosaurs from another age. Do I look like a dinosaur? Did I hear someone back there call me Barney?

        We have a long way to go as a family, but we're trying. The jury is still out on how well we are doing. The future will tell and God will be our judge during our encounter with Him after death. Lord, please help us to be what you want us to be as a family. Maybe we can all repeat that prayer again and again and again.

        Thank you so much for this award. It's humbling because it makes us realize that the award gives us a BIG responsibility to live up to its ideals. After all, the Knights of Columbus are all about family. Every time we have an argument or quarrel, I'm going to scream: “Family of the Year, REMEMBER?” That reminder should help us to work out our disagreements more quickly. Thanks again and God bless you all.

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