Sometimes the topic for the coming week’s blog arises from experiencing a whole series of incidents that make the same point. The week before Christmas, a friend told me her nephew was coming into town. The 30 year old middle son of her brother, this son had struck out on his own, and unlike his brothers, did not go to college, but happily took up farming in a rural region of the mid-west. *One of the many Christmas dramas on the Hallmark network included the successful outcome of a struggle of a daughter to be her own person and not accept her mother’s career choice for her.* In Elizabeth George’s novel, Careless in Red, the wise man, Jago, says to Madelyn’s grandfather "The devil of young people is they got to be allowed to take their own decisions, mate… It’s part of their way to being grown. They take a decision, they make a mistake, and if no one rushes like a fire brigade to save them from the outcome, they learn from the whole experience. ’Tisn’t the job of the dad – or the granddad or the mum or the gran – to keep them from learning what they got to learn, mate. What they got to do is to help work out the end of the story.” *And how about the car commercial which pictures the family driving away in their new SUV. Husband and wife are smiling broadly at each other. Two kids are in the back seat, well dressed and well behaved. The message seems to be: Buy this car and your family life will be perfect. You can add your own stories about choices that family members make for or despite one another.
Family life isn’t perfect or even easy – not for us in our day, not for the Holy Family. In their family, there was an unplanned, unexpected pregnancy. Can you imagine the discussions that went on between Mary and Joseph? Later, when Jesus was twelve, he stayed behind in Jerusalem, setting off a frantic search for him – hoping he was safe.
The examples I began with, the stories of Mary, Joseph and Jesus tell us that in every age and place, in every culture, the process of growth toward adulthood is always a struggle for everyone involved.
Pope Francis, when he was in the United States in 2015, gave a about Family Life. “The perfect family doesn’t exist—nor is there a perfect husband or a perfect wife or a perfect mother-in-law. A family is made up of just us sinners. A healthy family requires the frequent use of three phrases: “May I please…”, “Thank You…”, “I’m sorry…”
If any of us – families or individuals – are looking for important New Year’s resolutions, this might be a good and holy place to start:
Pay attention. Listen. Encourage your children’s talents. Don’t override their dreams.
Say “May I please…”, “Thanks You” , “I’m sorry…”
Whether you are the parent, grandparent or offspring:
Happy New Year to you and all you love.
~Sister Joan Sobala