(Even With Those We Disagree With)
Hi Catholic Family… Blessings of August and the twilight of the summer of 2008! Can you believe that in the Arizona town where we live, the schools started on July 30th? Holy Moses – I seem to remember that summer vacations were always from Memorial Day till Labor Day plus or minus a few days. What in the world is going on? Which has nothing to do with anything – certainly not the topic of eating together.
Some of you may know of the Catholic columnist (and author I think) named Pat Wargocki. I see her columns in the Tucson Diocese Newsletter (NEW VISION) and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her writings elsewhere. At any rate – she had a column some time ago on The Importance of Eating Together. We could make a complete column and podcast show on just that topic. How often do you get together for a real family meal? Do you pray before you start? Do you hold hands while you pray? Do you give everyone at the table a turn at leading prayer? Do you have the television on during the meal? Do you have any family customs associated with eating your meals? Customs such as someone bringing a topic to the table so that it can be discussed? Things like that.
Pat Wargocki’s column described a scene that might be all too familiar in America. A friend told Pat of a son invited to a friend’s house for dinner. The supper was a buffet setup by the family pool. The mom had to leave to go to a meeting.
The father of the house made up his own food platter and left to go inside to watch football on TV. A young sister in the family fixed her plate and went to her room so she could eat and talk with her girlfriend on the phone. So the boy, the invited guest and his young pal sat by the pool and ate their meal alone. Holy Moses moms and dads – do we need any more examples or indications of what’s going wrong with family life?
Our children are grown and away from under our roof – but even my dear wife Dee and I sometimes get caught up in the ‘you eat when you want and I’ll get something if I’m hungry.’ I hope we didn’t instill or allow much of that when our kids were young. I don’t think so.
You have likely heard this before: We Christians – our faith is grafted on to the Jewish Faith. And Jews knew the importance – the holy relevance of meals shared together. I often think of that wonderful movie Fiddler on the Roof and I remember their meals – sacred experiences and lives shared.
Jesus was a Jew. And we know that fellowship… being at table with his friends… his family… this was so important to Him. Important enough that He left us a memorial to show us what it means to be family and come together. In the Church setting – we call it the Mass and Jesus serves us Himself – completely. Eating together is so important. Giving everyone a voice and a chance to share about their day… about what comes to mind… about plans and dreams for coming times. I’ll bet Jesus and His ‘family’ did this.
These days, parents can and should share about their memories from childhood or their families of origin. Kids love hearing stories about when their parents or the grandparents were growing up. How they got into scrapes or jams… how they were corrected for mistakes. Trips they took. And yes, I may be painting too lovely a picture when some meals involve cranky, fussy babies or spoiled teens – but the goal – the hope is that we send them off with the memory that the family that prayed (and ate) together, stayed together.
Which brings me to a short closing thought. I have recently joined a regional Christian Ministerial Alliance in our community. Clergy from different Christian churches — we are members of a separated – some might say, a broken family – just as brokenness often comes to our human families. But I am so pleased and honored to pray with them and to be with them and give witness to the fact that we are still family. We may, as we pray or we break bread – we may say something that sounds like criticism of another family member. Or maybe it’s just something that ruffles the feathers of areas of disagreement. But like hosting a prodigal child who comes out from the bedroom after a period of separation – let us welcome the other person into our hearts and our circle of love. I don’t mean this to imply that our separated brothers and sisters are like prodigal children – I just mean that there are areas that have caused breech in our unity. Let us love them… let them love us. Let us have meals (not including our Eucharist of course) and common prayer and dialogue. Let us do our best to love as family loves.
Some time ago, Father Thomas Bokenkotter wrote these words:
What Unites Us
Despite the divisions and differences within the Christian family, there are obvious common elements and bonds we should not lose sight of: We all turn to Christ as a source of meaning, value and healing for humankind. We all revere the Gospels and other books of the New Testament, which present a basic vision we can all share. We all turn to Christ through prayer and believe in the importance of prayer. We can focus more on what we have in common, on how we can pray together and join in common projects for building a more just world upon the values of Christ. The Christian family tree has the same roots: Christ and the Old and New Testaments.
I think this applies to our at-home families as well. Let us all gather at the table and refresh and restore our love of family. Would someone pass me the mashed potatoes, please?
Blessings. Deacon Tom