From the U.S. Catholic interview with Julie Hanlon Rubio:
What should be the place of family?
We can think about our families as small Christian communities. We’re not just about getting the best house, education, jobs, but moving out into the world to do something about Matthew 25, “Lord, when did we see you hungry?”
How do we bring the works of mercy and justice to family life? For most people I think those are very disconnected. Some have that commitment, but maybe it’s just in how they vote or where they give their money. But in terms of how they actually live their family life, it’s not so much there.
My Italian immigrant grandparents had to put virtually all of their energy into family and had to sacrifice for that. In that context I realize what I’ve said sounds really odd. But two generations later many of us have more than enough, and now we can begin to think about how to expand beyond the family.
How can families pull this off?
There are some real choices to be made. In St. Louis, a big sports town, kids’ games are scheduled from Friday night until Sunday night, so if you have three or four kids, you could be going to games all weekend.
We started our kids a little bit later, even though everyone told us we had to start them on a sport by the time they were 4. We were very hesitant to do Sunday games, and we limited it to two teams total for the family at one time. That gave us some sanity over the weekends.
One of our family traditions is that we get a pizza and watch a movie together every Friday night. And we’ve been able to do some service, make it to church, and have dinner together. Those things were able to happen because we gave up on some of the other things that would have kept us too busy.
If I really believe that I am trying to form my kids as disciples, then I have to ask: How does each activity contribute to that? If so much energy is going to things that really aren’t forming us into being certain kinds of persons, then I’m not sure what we’re doing. Let’s really ask: What do I want to be? What do I want our marriage to be? What do I want my kids to be?
I notice that among my students, the ones who are really extraordinary in their faith as well as in their social justice commitments often come from families who have stepped off that busyness track. These kids have something in them that says, “I don’t really need to do all those things.” But there are no guarantees, right? There’s also the possibility your kids might totally rebel from that.
One of my sons has said to me, “I don’t like this whole simple lifestyle stuff. I really can’t stand it.” I say to him, “But you live the absolute simple life.” He’s worn the same pair of pants almost every single day to school because he likes them. He does not care about clothes.
I ask him, “Don’t you think it’s a good idea to have less stuff so you can give money away?” “Well yeah,” he says, “but I don’t like the simple lifestyle.”
What he really doesn’t like is the aesthetic: wood and candles and all that stuff that I love. He likes computers. But he doesn’t care about money or things. So I have to provide a way for him to think about living simply that doesn’t bring to mind candles or hippies with beards, but something that will work for him. …continued next week
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