There’s a commercial for a famous brand of macaroni and cheese, where the mother chases the child with vegetables and she only finds peace when she surrenders the attempt to make her daughter eat the green stuff, and gives her what she wants –the pasta with the powdered cheese mix. Serene music plays and everyone wins. Except the child did not eat what the child did not want to eat, and the mother got peace at the price of her authority to instruct and insist that her daughter not always simply riot if she did not get what she wanted. It was a false victory. “You be you” and “I be me” requires we abdicate caring about what another does with their lives physically, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, in all things, is not love. It’s indifference. It makes our family life weak, just as surely as only eating carbs with butter, milk and powdered stuff would make our bodies weak as well. It makes all of us into irritable islands, unable to suffer each other’s company, much less each other’s foibles.
We live in the age of relativism, when the world tells us, no relationships matter except to the extent as there is consent. The only thing that matters is to “you be you.” These are the fairy tales of our culture and our age. What they presume and present in almost every case, is whatever was, is not good. Whatever came before is wrong, and whatever is proposed that up to now has been deemed as bad, must be embraced if in fact society is to survive. The reality is not this fairy tale, at least no more than the prior fairytales of “Father always knows best.” Both deny the reality of reality, where families have structures and roles and purpose, but are also executed by flawed, fallen individuals. Real life has broccoli in it, in addition to mac and cheese. It has struggles that lead to a clash of wills. It has structures, there are people in charge like mothers and fathers, teachers, doctors, priests, adults who are supposed to weigh the goals of the “shoulds” of life, against the allure of the “shoudn’ts” and teach the next generation, while reinforcing to themselves, the virtues of not always getting everything. We can’t stay up all night every night. We can’t eat everything always we want to, and there’s toil and struggles to address every day. Life is not one happy meal after another.
The reality is, to be a family we must have a foundation of rock, not sand, which means the Domestic Church only stands if its foundation is love. It is only possible through love, because it takes all of life to construct it, and it is never done being built, it is always being cleaned, refined, remodeled, expanded and adapted to hopefully show each person in the family, their role in God’s Universe. Our families are not constructed for us exclusively, because love always extends both inward and outward. Our families are for us to study, serve, grow and recover when we fail, how it is we are to love our God with our whole heart and our neighbors as ourselves. “You be you” and I’ll be me requires that we never experience friction, that we never question each other’s decisions, never push people out of their comfort zones –to eat vegetables or work on studies or go to bed on time –because one’s wants and personal desires and comforts are the primary means by which one celebrates and expresses one’s person and personal autonomy in this relativistic world.
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” Not so. Hell is radical isolation, loneliness, and the conviction that not only am I not loveable, but I do not love. If no one could tolerate being around us, if no one could suffer us for our faults, love us despite our sins, and forgive us when we fail, then we would be radically alone. God wants us to know that even in our exile, we are beloved, and God is always with us, knocking on the doors of our hearts, hoping we will allow Him to flood our lives with grace. The Domestic Church is a glimpse of Heaven, in that it is where we are loved, taught, fed and always challenged to love more. It is a glimpse of the peace the world cannot give when everyone is at the table. It is a reminder that we are always called to go out into the world and gather, and having our children bring their friends, bring their future spouses and children into the home, is the growing of the Body of Christ itself.
Hell is the agony of profound indifference, whereas Heaven is the awesome reality of infinite and undividable love. Mother Theresa said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” It lacks the glamor of going out to slay dragons or refurbish whole neighborhoods…but it actually will involve no small amount of slaying dragons and refurbishing neighborhoods. It will bring about the true beauty and joy and peace, the access to heaven we have here. It will involve eating vegetables, setting bedtimes, doing homework, saying no, and patching bruised knees and bruised feelings. It will be a labor, heroic in nature and scope, requiring warm saintly hearts with strength of perseverance to rival paladins. It will not make the news. It will be like a plane landing safely. That’s the role and that’s the goal of all of our Domestic Churches, to make it possible for everyone to find themselves safely home in the heart of our Lord.
Pexel Photo by Maria Pop