Praised be Jesus Christ! This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. The following meditation was found on a card inserted into all the pews of a parish somewhere in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: “To the Parents of our Young Children, May we suggest...... Relax! God put the wiggle in children; don’t feel you have to suppress it in God’s house. All are welcome! Sit toward the front where it is easier for your little ones to see and hear what’s going on at the altar. They tire of seeing the backs of other people’s heads. Quietly explain the parts of the Mass and the actions of the priest before Mass and as they happen during Mass; don’t overwhelm them, though. Sing the hymns, pray and voice the responses. Children learn liturgical behavior by copying you. Take care of bathroom needs before Mass, but if you have to leave with your child, please come back. Remember that the way we welcome children in Church directly affects the way they respond to the Church, to God, and to one another. Let them know they are welcome. Let them know, too, how to be reverent in this house of worship. If at times your child is fidgety, encourage them to draw what they see in church. Feel free to use the back side of this sheet for that purpose. THANK YOU FOR BRINGING YOUR CHILDREN TO CELEBRATE WITH US. To the members of our parish: The presence of children is a gift to the Church; they are a reminder that our parish is growing. Please welcome our children and give a smile of encouragement to their parents.” Well, what do you think? It’s pretty well written and even if we might quibble with a detail or two, it does capture our joy when we see young families coming faithfully to Mass. In case you haven’t noticed, our parishes are getting younger again and that’s a rich source of hope for our future. Now the beauty of a parish family is that it runs the full spectrum of human life, from infancy to the day the Lord calls us home. We also want to be sensitive to the needs of our seniors and it seems both parishes are doing a wonderful job in this category too. It’s edifying when people park in such a way so as to let others with greater challenges have the spots closest to church. Moreover, we work hard to make sure Holy Communion is distributed to everyone in church, even if some are no longer able to receive by processing to the front. God knows our older members are rich in wisdom, humility, and redemptive suffering and our parish is indebted to them for this. When I was home over Thanksgiving I sat down and read my Uncle Leo’s memoirs, which he wrote before finally succumbing to Alzheimer’s in December of 2015. As you know, my own Dad is walking a similar path (Uncle Leo is his older brother by three years), so reading it was rather emotional. Toward the end, Uncle Leo wrote, “It’s frustrating! And there is also the depressing psychological aspect... it is NOT LIKELY TO GET BETTER. Confidence and good self-image is weak. It’s pretty obvious that I’m uncertain, lacking conviction and purpose.” Some have titled Alzheimer’s “The long good bye,” as it is a very challenging disease with no cure. Just the same, my Uncle’s faith in God was true until the end and someday God will show us how his suffering brought untold graces into the world. Uncle Leo’s last words are the most profound of all: “The dignity we seek in dying must be found in the dignity with which we have lived our lives!” There is enough wisdom in that statement for a lifetime of meditation. This weekend we celebrate God’s family, which is to say our family. And we are grateful for each and every one of you, young, old, and everywhere in between.
May God continue to bless us with the enthusiasm of our young families and the wisdom of our elders!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin