Walk this way

Asian girl holding mom's legAs Mass begins, a new crop of Christians-in-training processes into Our Lady of Mercy Church in what has to be one of the most moving ceremonies of the church year. They stand in the center aisle, facing their sponsors, who begin by tracing the sign of the cross on their foreheads as the priest prays, “It is Christ himself who now strengthens you with this sign of his love. Learn to know and follow him.” We pray as the sponsor crosses the catechumen’s ears, eyes, lips, shoulders, heart, and hands, ending with: “Receive the sign of the cross on your feet, that you may walk in the way of Christ.”

A blessing of such beauty and power makes me wish that all Catholics could get one like it every year or two, to strengthen and focus our faith. Consider for a moment just the blessing of the feet. Let’s be concrete: Where might the way of Christ take my feet during the months ahead? To what places are our family’s calendar commitments actually bringing us? Continue reading

Don’t focus on the family, part two

Part two of U.S. Catholic magazine’s February interview with Julie Hanlon Rubio, ethicist at St. Louis University and suburban mom.  Here’s part one if you missed it. 

How would a parish attract families to engage in service and to learn about social justice?

It would start with creating community. With lots of low-key events with free food where people can just get together. In today’s larger parishes we have to create smaller groups within the parish.

If you want your kids to care about parish, it has to be more than a one-stop deal. If they don’t know people there, if they don’t have fun there, if they don’t feel supported, they’re not going to feel connected there. They’re not going to want to invest in that later, either. It’s not going to feel like home if they’re never there.

A parish can begin to reflect on the things that are taking up parishioners’ time. Are we asking people to put a lot of time into special events that parallel those in the secular culture, like auctions and carnivals that take up a lot of volunteer hours and maybe don’t create the kind of community that parishes would really want to see? Continue reading

Don’t focus on the family

Here’s part one of U.S. Catholic magazine’s February 2010 interview with St. Louis University ethicist—and suburban mom—Julie Hanlon Rubio. Look for part two next week.

Julie Hanlon Rubio’s work as an ethicist at Saint Louis University has drawn directly from her real-life experience of trying to make the works of mercy and justice as central to her family as homework and sports. She felt oddly like a pioneer. Even while studying for her Ph.D., she says, “my professors were visibly not happy with me when I turned up pregnant once and then twice. It’s not what theologians do.” Hanlon Rubio begs to differ.

“I don’t know that we have many models—which is fine, really,” she says. Drawing from the marriage liturgy, sacramental theology, lay movements such as the Christian Family Movement, and adding Catholic social teaching on the family, Rubio stitched together her family ethics. “If I really believe that I am trying to form my kids as disciples,” she says, “then I have to ask: How does each activity contribute to that?”  Rubio is the author of Family Ethics: Practices for Christians (Georgetown, 2010) and A Christian Theology of Marriage and Family (Paulist, 2003)

You’ve said that typical suburban Catholic parents feel a certain emptiness in their lives. Why?

It comes out of my own experience of hearing that everyone is busy, which means that so many interactions are on the surface. Continue reading