In every worthwhile endeavour, it is important to know your “why.” And when it comes to our celebrations, we Catholics are very good at doing this.
We know why we celebrate Christmas.
We know why we celebrate Lent.
And we even know why we celebrate Thanksgiving Day.
But here is one that so far seems to elude most of us: Family Day.
Sure, it seems simple enough. We should celebrate … our family. In fact, in countries where this holiday is actually promoted that is pretty much the message: Celebrate your family. Whatever that is. Whatever it looks like.
The family becomes a living icon, a symbol if you will, of not only how God wants the family to live, but more importantly, a symbol of what God is—that is, a loving communion of persons.
But I can’t help feeling as though something is missing, something like an opportunity or a depth that we Catholics could and should explore simply because of who we are.
After all, if any religion could be the champion of family, I dare say it is Catholicism—but that’s for another article on another day.
On this day though, Family Day if you live in Canada like I do, we need only dive a little bit into the meaning of family to see why most Catholic parents are missing out on something much more dynamic and affirming than appears at first glance.
I am aware that I am shocking no one with this beginning. After all, any one could have said this. The atheist could say this. Heck, even someone against all other families could still be thankful for their own family. Where is the insight there?
And yet, it needs to be said.
In a world where gratitude is fast becoming something of the past, and religion seems to hang by a thread because of it, thankfulness for one’s family is still the foundation by which we need to enter into this day. Without it, no greater insights can be formed and no deeper meaning can be valued.
So, I have to pause for a moment to consider that I was born into a family, no matter how imperfect or limiting, and so were you. And it is because of this family that you and I have become what we have become, for better or for worse.
What’s more is that you and I have also chosen a family by first choosing another man or woman. You said “yes!” to another who also said “yes!” in return. That too is worth thanking our God for. But few seem to do it.
Let’s go deeper. On a day like today, it is quite unusual to hear parents step back and consider what they have unlocked through the gift that is family.
After all, we know (don’t we?) of the amazing potential that one single soul holds for the rest of humanity.
We know that the child in your home could be the one to cure cancer, or stop WWIII, or become the next Pope.
But more than this, and even without this, we know that the human person lives on into eternity. Consider that for a moment.
Simply by being family, we journey with others into the unknown with none but the Good Shepherd to guide us. And when another child joins us on that journey, the pilgrimage is all the better for it.
How can we not be in awe of this?
But let’s go deeper still.
As much as we should see our becoming as truly awe-some, we cannot and should not forget about what we have become as a family.
On one level we know that family is the first societal unit (even if that is just husband and wife) and because of that, the family is to be protected and even honoured as everything else is built upon it.
On another level though, the family becomes a living icon, a symbol if you will, of not only how God wants the family to live, but more importantly, a symbol of what God is—that is, a loving communion of persons.
It is this awareness that propels families to renew their efforts at evangelization, to be hospitable, and to extend their hearth to those who currently are in the midst of choosing their family and the culture that will accompany it.
Gratitude, awe and awareness.
This is what I believe every Catholic family can and should reflect on during a day like today. Because if we do, it won’t just change how we live—it will change those around us as well.
Patrick Sullivan is a Catholic Speaker and the President of Evango, a Catholic Media Organization that seeks to build a culture of Catholic evangelization and missionary discipleship. Patrick travels internationally to speak at Catholic events, parenting conferences, and to lead retreats and parish renewal missions. He is the creator and host of Me & My House, the Catholic parenting program that is transforming how we minister to parents in our dioceses, parishes, and communities. Patrick lives in beautiful Barry’s Bay, Ontario with his loving wife, Kyla, and their nine children.