As you may know, one of the lesser reasons – don’t ask me where it came from – for my studying Fisheries and Wildlife Management at the
University of Nebraska was so that I didn’t have to be around people. I could live and work in some distant wilderness without being bothered by others. Oh, how God takes care of us, in spite of us!One of the joys of my priesthood is being able to spend time with Catholic couples and their children. Often times, couples will apologize – before, during, and after – that the meal may be interrupted by screaming children or food being used by certain members of the family in countless ways other than that for which it is intended. I’m not quite sure what they think I’m expecting when I walk through that door; I don’t walk into a family’s home thinking I’ll enjoy a quiet, fancy meal with enriching and uninterrupted conversation. Part of the joy of being with and in a family is the life and energy that comes with forming children as civilized members of society as well as faithful members of Christ’s Church. The reality of forming children is that sometimes they’re “uncivilized”; as one of my friend’s likes to say, “You’ll have that!” For those of you who may have children who are – or have been – more “uncivilized” than not, please know that there is no family with perfectly civilized children, and that’s the way it is! They’re always a work in progress.
In spite of that, I have seen some very beautiful things take place in the homes of family and friends, parishioners and – almost – strangers. These things have sometimes been single moments of grace; others were simply the common habit and practice of a family in which I had the joy of partaking, even if only for a night. These are the truly edifying things that I see when visiting families. The food is good and, may I add, useful! Conversations can, and often times have been, edifying. It’s these glimpses into the little habits and practices of these Catholic families that has enriched my heart and helped me to see that the Faith is really taking root and growing in the hearts of our people, especially the littlest members of the Family of God.
As I reflect on these little customs and traditions in various families, I wonder where these have come from, and on occasion, mothers and fathers will graciously explain how such a practice has arisen in their families. Often times, it appears these customs have simply arisen as a result of being handed down from generation to generation; it’s “what we’ve always done.” In places where the Faith has been handed down from generation to generation, those habits are instilled deep in hearts from an early age and become the ways in which successive generations are initiated into that Faith which is “ever ancient, ever new.”
As we all know too well, that handing down from generation to generation is never guaranteed, and many converts, for all the good they bring to the Church, may have to be that first generation to establish those new traditions in their young families. Likewise, many cradle Catholics, for various reasons, have to start Catholic customs anew because they were not handed on from their parents. In creative and beautiful ways, many young – and not so young – families have nobly taken up the duty to instill those virtues in their children. As I said, it often seems that such families are learning new customs and traditions only slowly and with great effort.
At a time when those customs and traditions were handed down not just from parents to children, but within a community as part of a culture, it would have been much easier. Being in Italy, where at least the framework of Catholicism remains, I have come to appreciate the importance of a religious culture with various structures that can be of great support to the practice of the Faith in the family.
In recent weeks, I have come to reflect much upon this reality of the handing on of the Faith and the practical ways in which that is done in countless families. Perhaps I am not in the right circles or reading the right books and blogs, but I haven’t really seen any single location that provides concrete ways to live out the Catholic faith in the home. That being said, I thought of sharing some of the beautiful practices I’ve seen in Catholic homes as a way of spreading the goodness around and helping our families to more perfectly live out their vocation to holiness.
To that end, I want to start a little initiative that I’m calling #CatholicFamilyCulture. The idea is to post specific concrete ways that families can put their faith into practice in the home and in the world. If you’ve got ideas, send them my way via email, FaceBook Messenger, or Twitter Message. I hope to post 1 per day; then feel free to share them with others! Here’s to building Catholic culture and helping families become holy!