Blessings Abound in Family Life

Last weekend I shared a photo of our driveway, packed to the curb with vehicles, with a caption suggesting that older parents would understand what a blessing it was. A full driveway means a full house, and the hassle of juggling vehicles is more than made up for by the joy of hearing the voices and laughter of our adult children and their friends mingled with Lily’s—our youngest and the only one still home on a regular basis.

Emma surprised us by coming home from the University of Mary on Monday night, ahead of a Holy Week snowstorm in North Dakota. Gabe joined us for supper and Mass on Holy Thursday and stayed until Tuesday, and Trevor plus two out-of-state classmates from Saint John Vianney College Seminary arrived Easter Sunday morning and headed back to Saint Paul with Gabe in time for Bishop Izen’s ordination.

I love our old traditions and the kids’ insistence that we abide by them: going to the Triduum liturgies; flat bread, grape juice, and the Last Supper account after Holy Thursday Mass; silence (or close to it) from noon to 3:00 PM on Good Friday and The Passion of the Christ in the evening; baskets and coloring Easter eggs on Holy Saturday, before the Vigil; and the mysterious Bunny hiding eggs and baskets in the wee hours before Sunday morning.

And I love the new things that arise from older offspring who are doing their own things now: Gabe wearing sandals like a true Franciscan on Good Friday and leading a group to pray at Planned Parenthood; Trevor and his classmates vesting for two Easter Sunday Masses after a full Triduum at the seminary; and sharing Easter greetings with Brendan, Becky, and our grandsons in Rome via video call.

It was a beautiful, blessed Easter.

I’ve said before that people often ask Jodi and me what we did to have kids who so faithfully practice their faith as young adults. After discussing this with our kids, our typical answers aren’t particularly profound:

  • We sent them to parish Youth Ministry events, especially Extreme Faith Camp, beginning in middle school.
  • We insisted on going to Mass every Sunday and we never complained ourselves, so they knew it was real for us.
  • We prayed with and for them nearly every day.

Last weekend, however, Emma shared something she had heard in one of her Catholic Studies classes. She said that the blessing of a father in his own home is as effective as that of a priest.

It makes sense: If the family is the domestic Church, and the father is head of the family as Christ is the head of the Church, then a father’s blessing ought to be a powerful thing.

Many years ago, a friend introduced me to the Aaronic blessing, which he prayed over his children each night:

The LORD said to Moses: Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: “This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them: ‘The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!’ So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Numbers 6:22-27

I have prayed this over my children, near and far, nearly every night since I learned about it. And it strikes me that this is precisely how the Lord might use me to sanctify my children, because my role is almost, but not quite, nothing. I invoke God; He does the rest. It’s simple and beautiful like Mary, humble and powerful like Jesus.

Emma went on to say that a mother’s meal, lovingly prepared and served, is similarly fruitful in the lives of her children—and this makes sense to me as well. Nourishment is a natural power and blessing of motherhood, a gift of God that gives life to His children. We nearly always eat the evening meal together as a family, and Jodi has prepared most of those meals for more than a quarter century.

Jesus entered history through a family, sanctifying family life so that the daily tasks and traditions resonate in heaven. We are neither saintly nor heroic. Praise God that, in His wisdom, it’s the small stuff that matters

The post appeared as a column in the Sunday, April 16, edition of the St. Michael Catholic Church bulletin.

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