I know the name of my great-great-great-great grandfather off the top of my head. It’s Victor Bruno, in case you were wondering if we’re related. I may only have one sister, but I’ve got twelve first cousins who all grew up pretty much within driving distance of my house. These last nine months have been the first time in my life I’ve lived more than a three hour drive from my parents’ house. That’s right, I come from a two-parent home (married 32 years in May). My parents’ house is about 500 yards from where my grandmother was born. I’ve got family within a half hour of the Convent, but I don’t see them very much. It’s wierd, I seem to have a lot more time on the weekends. I’m not always having to go to an Auntie or a Cousin’s or my parents’ place for a family get-together. Christmas this year was small, we only had forty people over for dinner.
We use a lot of family language in church. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. We call our priests ‘Father’ or ‘Mother’. We’re all siblings of Christ. We’ve got godchildren. The Bible sets up for us an image of church that should be mirrored in our families.
I hate to say it, but I think we’re modeling our modern church after our modern families. We get mad at each other, and instead of working out our differences and reconciling, or at the least just ignoring each other at the family reunion (like Auntie Dee and I do), people storm off alone and try to find a church family that’s more to their liking, and when they figure out this new church is also filled with fallible, imperfect people, they get fed up and just quit the church family all together.
We’ve got a broken church family, people.
Some days, I really wish I could quit my real family. But I can’t. And I’m rather glad of that. I may hate several of my cousins with a passion beyond reason, but if anyone ever tried to mess with them, I’d step up. If they needed the kind of help I could give, I’d give it, willingly.
My family’s not all blood. Ahermana and I were around the buffet table at the family reunion, and we were chatting with a friend of my mom’s who was just visiting the reunion for the first time. She asked how we knew each other. Ahermana and I looked at each other and shrugged. “We’re sisters,” she said.
Mom’s poor friend was quite confused. Ahermana is tall, willowy, tan and blonde. I’m short, round, pale-skinned and dark haired. We are sisters, though. Her godfather is my father. The Spanish word for ‘goddaughter’ is ‘ahija’. So, she’s my ahermana, my sister from other parents, who somehow has more interests in common with me than my Sr. Sister.
We modern people seek out the family-like community that we have been lacking. Blogs are just one manifestation of this, together with book clubs and fan clubs and other social groups whose meetings eat up our time. The difference between a book club and a church, though, is you can just quit a book club with few regrets. Quitting church has some deep consequences, and I’m not talking about theological, “Mine’s the One True Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, no matter what the Other One True Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church says” kind of consequences. I’m talking about consequences to the family. My cousin Papio moved to Tennessee with his new wife who doesn’t like our family very much. He doesn’t talk to us, now. It really is like losing a limb, you look around at family events expecting him to be there, to fill a familiar place, and he’s not there, there’s a silence where he used to be, and you’re off-balance.
Being family isn’t magic. It’s work. It’s talking, and laughing, and crying, and boasting, and humbling, and even sometimes, it involves eating crow and swallowing your pride and being kind to someone who’s had hurtful words for you in the past.
The Daily Office, said in community, is referred to as opus dei, the Work of God. Whenever we gather as a community and worship, despite our differences, despite our resentment and hurt feelings, despite ourselves, we’re bringing God’s family back together.
(I promise, I’ll probably stop these family-centric posts as soon as my ‘rents visit is over. You probably won’t believe it, but they’re not even here until Friday. Heh. I meant to only write a little, and an entire hour has gone by.)