"Who are my mother and my bretheren?" And looking around on those who sat about him, [Jesus] said, "Here are my mother and my brethren! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother." ~ Luke 3:33 -35
Sunday, August 16, 2009
I've been musing a lot about the significance of our Catholic "family". One of the things I've long loved about being Catholic is the ability to go from parish to parish, state to state, country to country, knowing that there are always other Catholics. We believe the same things, we hear the same readings, we receive Our Lord. For just as St. Irenaeus said (or was it St. Ignatius of Antioch?) "There is one bishop, one altar, one sacrifice..."
We are united. We are family.
When I was living in Mexico for a semester and didn't know how to get somewhere, even though I wasn't practicing my faith at the time, I prayed, and found upon entering the combi, two religious sisters in habit. It didn't matter that I'd never seen them before; I recognized them as Catholics. They were family. They were MY sisters, even though I was thousands of miles away from home and barely understood the language.
The presence of recognizable "family" gave me the courage that day to speak up and ask the strangers in that combi for directions to get to the next day's destination.
Recently, on my trip out East, while I was lost on the platform at Newark NJ- Penn Station, I ran into another religious sister, and find it so ironic...every time I'm really lost, God sends me "family" so that, even if that person doesn't know where we are, at least neither of us has to be lost all by ourselves. And together we find our way home.
Who is my family?
Reflecting further upon this topic, and going back to July, I had written a post musing on whether I'd be meeting my "family" in these visits. As it was, when I arrived at the convent and was shown to the parlor, the General Superior was not available to meet with me. Another Mother, one of the foundresses, came to speak with me for awhile, another Sister brought food for me (as I'd been traveling over the lunch hours and hadn't eaten), and one by one, the Sisters I knew who were there for the summer also came to greet me. Even though I'd never been there before, I knew I was welcome and that, for the next week at least, this would be my home.
They made me feel like family, and even more so by the time I left.
When I went on to the next community, I had the same experience. I'd never met these Sisters, although there had been some email contact. It was enough. They, too, were family, and no matter what happens in my discernment, my life is better because I met these dear Sisters.
Although I was a bit wary in visiting the last community (as it seemed so insane to me to be visiting them!), those nuns, too, even in their silent way of life, were family. The conversations I had with the few I met were fruitful, friendly, and I left with a deep appreciation for their lifestyle, spirituality and...as members of my own family.
Yes. Each Sister I met this summer...is my sister. Our Sisters.
Where is Home?
Today when I entered my parish for Mass, I saw the same people entering who always arrive around the same time as I. One of the priests was greeting people as we entered, and I asked him if he'd had contact with a mutual friend of ours, reminding him to get in touch with her to hear her own good news.
I entered the Church and immediately saw people I knew, friends in every corner, many familiar faces. At some point I became aware that other friends of mine were seated in the pew behind me, and as I looked around, I realized that these, too, are my family. Nearby were another friend's parents, whom I jokingly call "Mom and Dad" just because it makes them laugh. Several pews ahead was another family I know, the head of which I once served with in parish leadership.
Yes, this is my parish. This is my home. All these people...my family.
My work parish has a slightly different dynamic as I also have friends and perhaps know even more people there, but as I am staff there, it seems there is more of a barrier. Even in a family, where there is authority of any sort, a barrier is erected, and it's something I can't quite yet explain in words, and definitely not in this same post. Yet, it's still a comfort to go there and know that it, too, is filled with my brothers and sisters.
I've written of it before, but it bears saying again: I love being Catholic! I love our faith, how it brings us all together even if we are nations apart. I love learning about thousands of years of theology and wisdom and sacrifice that has made us what we are today. I love knowing that we don't have to invent anything new. I love the fact that "I'm Catholic" is a call sign that says that even if we disagree, we have something in common and an indelible, invisible mark upon us that makes us adopted children of God.
I love that being Catholic means we'll never be orphaned, for the faithful are around us everywhere, so no matter where we go, there is our Father...and our family.
Thank you, Jesus.