Living the Mission
Nature is putting on a lovely show here in the Northeast, as the fall colors peak. It is pure joy to set out on a car ride and compare and contrast the autumnal shades of country hillsides!
During this time of year, one gets a sense of the cyclical nature of God’s creation, and it is a good reminder of the way our journey as a family takes on many and varied “hues” as life presents its share of blessings and challenges. And just as an earthly journey requires a guide of some sort to the destination, a sense of our family’s mission will benefit all the members on our spiritual journey.
We have in our family a guideline that helps to keep us focused: “Love is Active.”
This phrase is a simple way to remember St. John’s advice in his first letter: “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18)
Of course, our over-arching mission as a family is to help one another get to heaven, but what does that look like on a day by day basis? That’s where our “Love is Active” guideline comes into play. It challenges us to be a part of something greater than ourselves, to look outward rather than be preoccupied with self, and to put actions behind those words of love that we speak to one another.
I was talking with one of our daughters over coffee and she said, “We all know each other’s business in this family!” I asked her if that annoyed her. She replied that while it could be that way at times, mostly it gave her a comforting feeling, a “got your back” kind of assurance.
Recent times of trial have seen this take shape in our family. Sometimes when it rains it seems to pour as it were, as a number of difficult situations have arisen involving various family members over the last few months. I have been both comforted and pleased to see this community of love that is our family praying and supporting one another with thoughtful gestures, phone calls, sacrifices and extra efforts to reach out and extend a helping hand, or simply to make sure no one felt alone.
The witness of love that I have observed has reminded me that it is not in the blessing times that we fulfill our mission, for those are easy times to enjoy and savor. The true test of our “mettle” as a family is in how we handle the crosses that come. Do we rely on our life of faith to offer perspective, embracing the crosses that come, or do we try to flee them? Do we view these times as fertile for spiritual growth or do we fear them?
These are questions that are worth asking of ourselves, and can help to steady us through life’s ups and downs.
Each member of our family has a common vocation – a call to holiness. That makes us no different than any other Catholic family, but it challenges us to support one another in our efforts to be the best version of ourselves.
Our older children have sometimes challenged the decisions or behaviors of the younger ones, and while we are aware of this as parents, the situation often has resolved without our intervention. Perhaps it is not always well received at first, but I think they realize that it is born of love and concern, not criticism.
Their encouragement of one another to virtue is particularly important now, as our children are leaving the home as young adults. They are without a doubt “their brother’s keeper” and must act accordingly, which will form lasting bonds between them and come to include their own spouses and children.
The lessons of love that are learned in the family, as we actively respond to times of trial, will radiate out and soften our hearts toward the suffering around us in the larger community, ensuring that we do not close in on ourselves. Over the years, it seems the healthiest thing to do when undergoing a trial is to do something good for another.
It is tempting to wish for the autumn colors to last longer, but they will pass and a new season of beauty will come. How blessed are all the seasons of this journey, when we are accompanied by those whose actions reflect their love!