The life of God is not lived in a vacuum. We do not become Christians and then withdraw from relationships with others. Holiness is not something we find outside normal, everyday human activity. Any and all fruits of following Christ with Francis must show up primarily in those relationships which are fundamental: family life. Charity and prayer, penance, poverty, humility—all must have their first fruits in what we contribute to the atmosphere of our home.
“Happy are those who endure in peace. By you, Most High, they will be crowned.”
St. Francis of Assisi, “The Canticle of the Creatures”
Our conventional wisdom and traditions are taught and experienced in our families. Parents do not merely produce children; they set the tone. It is true that outside influences seem to be having a greater impact today than before the Internet made us all-knowing, and cars and planes made us the most mobile creatures in history. But nothing can destroy the basic family unit.
Equally obvious is the fact that there would be no big Church were it not for thousands of little churches where the Gospel takes root in the most intimate of personal relationships: husband-wife, parent-child, brother-sister, cousins, grandparents, and so on! They will succeed to the degree that they have given and forgiven, agonized and rejoiced in the little community from which they come.
When Christianity pervades a whole way of life, it gradually transforms it. We can experience that first in our families. In Christian homes, husbands and wives find their vocation in being witnesses to one another and to their children of faith in Christ and love for him.
Emphasis on the family as the foundation of Church and state inevitably introduces a comparison of married and single people. Those leading a celibate life, and perhaps also living alone, have their own witness to give. They do not share the particular satisfactions and problems of married life—a sacrifice on one hand, an advantage on the other. They may be freer to engage in apostolic activities outside the home. Their witness of a charitable, joyful, and chaste life is rightly honored as an integral part of the Church’s life and activity.
Questions for Reflection
What is the greatest gift parents have to give their children?
In your own words describe the importance of family life in today’s society.
Connecting with Scripture
When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.
Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”
He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. —Luke 2:39–52
Connecting with Franciscan Writings
Most of his life he had been on the road to somewhere or from somewhere, or he had watched others doing the same. The earliest image he had of his father was that of a traveler. He always seemed to be gone, away in Northern Italy, or in the Provence of Southern France. His mother was the stable one, and he and his father moved toward and away from her. This traveler in him gave to his whole life a sense of movement.
From his mother he received his softness, his warmth, his music, and his poetry, for these were all of the Provence. His father had met Lady Pica in the Provence on one of his many trips into France to buy tapestries and cloth. He brought her home to Assisi, where she remained all her life while Pietro continued his forays into France.
From his father Francis took his love of adventure, his stubborn adherence to his convictions, his practicality, and his journeying, restless soul. His father moved in his mind on continuous caravan routes to and from Assisi. And he continued to move there long after Francis’ separation from him. He was always meeting Pietro at crossroads in his mind, and they would be reconciled at some deserted fork in the road, and Pietro would say he understood what Francis had to do that day before the Bishop of Assisi.
Perhaps that was one reason Francis was so often on the road. Perhaps he secretly hoped that his imaginings would come true. And now in the confusion of his dying hours, he could not remember if the reconciliation really did take place or if that rendezvous was kept in his imagination alone. He wanted to rise from the ground of his hut at St. Mary of the Angels and take to the road again. Or was his father dead? Yes, he had died that day in front of Bishop Guido. Or was it later? It really didn’t matter now. He soon would meet his Heavenly Father face to face and He would tell him of Pietro.
Somehow he thought that their reconciliation was at hand, that the crossroads he had dreamed of was not of this time and place. It was somewhere else outside of time where every tear is dried and every wound is healed. Yes, he knew it. He and Pietro were about to join their hands and hearts once more. He wanted to burst into song in thanksgiving to God for this last Dream about to be fulfilled. And when he pictured God in his mind, God’s face was suddenly Pietro’s. —Murray Bodo, Francis: The Journey and the Dream
Application to Daily Life
Whether you are married or single, pay attention to the influences within your home, always seeking to strengthen your witness in following Christ.
Choose one new activity this week to help bring those closest to you (no matter its constellation) closer to each other and to God.
Thank you, Lord, for the blessings and the challenges of my family who help me become the special person I am created to be. Help me to rejoice in its miracles of love. Amen.