This New Year, God is inviting you to be a family on purpose. This invitation goes out to all households, no matter the size, age, or blood relation of its members. God wants to remind you that He didn’t bring you together to simply be roommates who happen to share the same address. Rather, He brought you together to be a family, to be living icons of God’s inner Trinitarian life.
The family is called to to be the source and origin of Love. She is called to be the heartbeat of society. For it is the mercy and compassion, or lack thereof, that husband and wife and brother and sister show to one another, that flows into society. The home pours life giving blood to the organism that is society, and if the heart is broken, or, worse yet, if it stops beating, then what hope is there for community life in our parish or office?
As a family, we are called to participate in the divine dance of the Lover and the Beloved. We are called to give and to receive freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully without keeping tabs.
One of the biggest obstacles to establishing this intentional community is keeping tabs. We see our life in this building that we call a house as a chore and our connection to its people as a task force. Checklist A. Checklist B. Checklist C. Like Martha, we cry out, “Lord, do You not care that [insert name] has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell [him/her] to help me.”
To be a family on purpose, you need to intentionally come together. But with so many commitments and distractions, you need super glue. So what is this super glue that will bring you all together? Hint: it will be this same glue that will keep you together even when you are physically apart- when your spouse goes on a business trip or when your kids go off to college.
For most families, this glue is food. Sadly, once our kids grow up, daily dinner turns into an annual dinner on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and, if you’re lucky, birthdays. It seems that food, no matter how tasty, is not enough to bring and keep our families together.
What, then, can serve as this super glue? Allow me to share a story of a family that inspires me so much. At my previous parish, there was a family with eleven children under the age of fifteen. This family, despite its size, and despite the fact that its military father is gone several months out of the year, is glued together by prayer. No matter where in the world the father is, he always calls at 7 p.m. EST to say his evening prayers with his family. Prayer: this is the super glue we need to go from being roommates to being a family.
I want to invite you to allow prayer to set the rhythm of your home life. Prayer, not food, shows, video games, or anything else, should summon all the household’s members together. By forming a habit of morning and evening prayer, you’ve already made the first step toward establishing an intentional community. Once you have this down, the second step can be to add another intentional gathering time to read the Scriptures together. This can involve choosing a book in the Bible and reading a section or a chapter together after a specific meal time. Every member can then share their light from what has just been read. By holding this intentional gathering at the same time and place every day, you will help lift your family’s conversation to what St. Paul calls the “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable” (Philippians 4:8). Going to Church on Sundays and Feast days, of course, should be a given, so that your family may nourish your parish family and vice versa.
Beyond prayer, which is the super glue of any intentional community rooted in God, there are other glues that the Holy Spirit will inspire in your heart as you place this intention- of being a family on purpose- before God. These can include fun ideas like family game nights, bring-a-friend-to-dinner night, outings with mom and dad, etc.
We can’t forget, however, other important aspects of being a family on purpose, and these include the necessary tasks that make a household work. These are duties, such as cleaning, cooking, taking the trash out, and changing light bulbs, that we should accomplish responsibly and lovingly for the glory of God. These duties should not be seen as “chores” nor should they be seen as “mundane.”
We can gain so much insight by contemplating on the Holy Family’s hidden life in Nazareth, where, day in and day out, regular household duties were transformed into Sacred Service. Unlike in Bethany, in Nazareth, “Mary” and “Martha,” what they represent, were not at odds. The apostle, the doer, and the mystic, the be-er, were one. All of the Holy Family’s sacred duties were completed whilst contemplating the Face of God and being present always to Christ.
As we set off to make our homes intentional communities, we should not divorce Mary and Martha. If we forget God, if we forget prayer, then sacred service turns into a list of chores and family turns into a task force. The heart of the family should not be a taskmaster, nor should she make family members bitter or embarrass them with how they complete their duties to the household. Rather, the heart of the family should invite its members into an intentional rhythm and encourage them to contribute to the household responsibly out of love.
This New Year, may we establish intentional communities in our homes so that we may be families on purpose by remembering to pray, to have fun, and to work hard all to the glory of God.