In history books many years from now, the 21st century will likely be known for its most significant crisis. That calamity is not related to terrorism, political discord, or economic uncertainty. While these are sobering problems of our day, they are not the most significant. The most critical crisis currently facing our time is a crisis of the family.
Easter is a time of resurrection and new birth. Easter is also a time of hope. Many families today are in desperate need of resurrection – especially within their relationships. And many are losing hope.
Whether your family is coasting along with joy or on the brink of collapse, these five recommendations will help your family grow in relationship, grace, and hope.
The 5 P’s to Resurrecting Family Relationships
Fr. Patrick Peyton is the Catholic priest who so famously coined the expression: “The family that prays together stays together.” There is profound truth in these words. I am a firm believer in the power of prayer. And, the older I get, the more I rely on this daily practice.
How should I pray? Good question. Fortunately, Christ gave us the answer. Pray alone and pray with others – and do so daily. Whether you pray spontaneously from the heart, use a devotional, pray with the Scriptures, attend daily mass, or pray with rosary beads, the actual method is less important than the actual act of trying. If you are new to regular, daily prayer, using a devotional, an app, or prayer guide may be of value as you become more comfortable. Pray alone for a minimum of 10-15 minutes each day. Also, be certain to pray together as a family. This one act can transform your family’s life.
DO you know the difference between collective living and communal living? Collective living refers to a group of people who happen to share the same address – but they do not share much of a relationship with one another. Communal living, on the other hand, means that, not only does a group of people share the same address, they also share in relationship.
As Americans in the 21st century, we are suffering within our families from a lack of communal living. Busy schedules and an addiction to screens are keeping families from being present to each another. Later this week I will devote an entire article to this idea of “Being Present” to one another. Be sure to read that article for more ideas. In short, however, we need to slow down and put our smart phones down – and be present to those around us.
Anyone who has been married for more than a month has likely been hurt by, or has caused hurt toward, their spouse. No matter how much we love the people around us, we all sin. As a result, family life provides excellent practice in humility and forgiveness. Beautiful love and tremendous strength can result from challenges within the family. However, growth demands that each member of the family is humble enough to say they are sorry, and merciful enough to extend forgiveness.
At times, the hurts caused within family relationships require outside help in order to heal. Never be afraid to ask your pastor, a mentor couple, or a good marriage therapist for help. Marriage and family life are worth fighting for – and sometimes outside help is needed to heal the wounds.
4. Be pleasantThere is a lot of negativity within our world. Politicians routinely disparage the names and family members of their opponents. Social organizations, under the guide of “tolerance,” often slander entire groups of people with backbiting accusations that contradict the true meaning of the word “tolerance.” Athletic fans can be rude, TV personalities may be insensitive, and social media addicts can be downright vilifying.
Where is our refuge in this expanding reservoir of ridicule? Our safe-haven should be found within the family.
How do we make our homes places of peace? Quite simply, by being kind.
There truly is magic in the words “please” and “thank you.” Practice saying them over and over and over again with the members of your family. In addition, strive to build one another up, encourage each other, let your family members know that you love them, you believe in them, and you’ve got their back.
If you’ve fallen into the habit of putting down your spouse, your children, or your siblings; if you regularly use sarcasm under the guise of humor; if you have stopped using “please” and “thank you” routinely throughout the day – then let this Easter season be a season of resurrection for you. Resurrect your words and actions. Be kind!
Finally, for families to survive, perseverance is a requirement. Interestingly, when we consider the virtues, we can see that perseverance has made the “Top 7” list. As you may know, the theological virtues are faith, hope, and love. The four cardinal virtues include prudence, justice, fortitude (perseverance), and temperance. Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB reminds us, in her book The Rule of St. Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century, “We have become a throwaway society” (2010, ix). Tragically, this “trade it in for a newer model” attitude has even affected how people view marriage and family.
However, as Sr. Chittister also notes, “It is not perfection that leads us to God; it is perseverance” (2010, 83). So, too, with family life.
Truly, it is not daily perfection in all of our interactions that leads us to a happy and fulfilling family. No, it is perseverance: perseverance in daily prayer, in routine presence, in regular forgiveness, and in unending kindness.
Raising a family in today’s culture requires a Herculean effort.
Without a doubt, raising a family takes intention, it requires commitment, and it demands sacrifice. And yet, other than our relationship with God, there is nothing more deserving of such an effort.
May God bless your family! Happy Easter!
Pamela Patnode will be speaking at the MN Catholic Home Education Conference at the University of St. Paul, MN