Because of Pentecost

God is a Trinity of three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) who share one nature, one divine essence. This mystery is the highest and greatest revealed truth of our Christian faith. Everything we know and understand about being Catholic and Christian flows from this mystery. This day being Pentecost, we focus on how God the Father, through His Eternal Son, sent to His people the gift of the Holy Spirit as a means of grafting us into His very own divine life.

This day is historic, both because these events really happened and because it marks an immense change in the operation of God’s relationship to humanity. To perceive this change, we first understand that God created us as free beings, with our own souls endowed with the ability to reason and to choose. Second, we understand that, though we are different and separate from God, God is always pouring out His grace on all people. That is to say, God desires to be a part of every human life, and so, He operates in each and every human life because He loves what He has created. That love is the Holy Spirit, who keeps each of us in existence, prompts everyone to do what is good and avoid what is evil, invites us to know truth, and leads us to love and desire genuine beauty.

For most of human history, before the advent of Jesus and the day of Pentecost, God’s love and action on the human soul was external. God’s love and divine life did not enter our beings and so, we could not enter into heaven and into his presence. The Jews did believe in an afterlife for the good and righteous and a separate one for the damned, but heaven was closed to humanity for we were different from God. But let us remember, God loves what He created. He was not satisfied to allow humanity to remain separated from Himself. In His eternal plan, He sent the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, to become man in the person of Jesus Christ – God and man, two natures in one person. In Him, the Divine Life of God was joined to a human soul without suppressing His humanity and without diminishing His divinity. In Jesus Christ, God created the bridge by which He would bind all of feeble humanity to all-powerful divinity in order that all of us may have a share in his Divine Life.

This day of Pentecost, then, celebrates the moment when that bridge, that binding became possible for all of us. On this day, the Divine Life of God entered the souls of the disciples of Jesus gathered in the “Upper Room” and the souls of all who were baptized that day after hearing Saint Peter preach. Because of Pentecost, all who are baptized receive in their souls the Holy Spirit who is the very Love, the very Divine Life of God who does not want any of us to remain separated from Himself. Because of Pentecost, all who receive the Sacrament of Confirmation receive in their souls the seal of the Holy Spirit and the grace to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ and His Gospel, on order to courageously witness to the Truth even unto death. Because of Pentecost, all who go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation have the assurance that their sins are forgiven and that the Divine Life of God is restored in their souls. Because of Pentecost, we have the supreme dignity of being called to Holy Communion, the supper of the Lamb, Who makes us worthy to receive the consecrated bread of heaven which has truly become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. And because of Pentecost, we are all one family in the Body of Christ. We belong to God and one another. We are all siblings, equal in the heart of God, and we must treat each other according to the same love we have received from God.

May we truly live these holy and miraculous realities and celebrate them joyfully as true children of God until the day we see Him face to face.

Finding Hope amidst Depression

Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B (2021)

The story of Job is an important book of the bible about the testing of a righteous man. It challenges the notion that bad things only happen to bad people. Stated another way, you must be a bad person if something bad has happened to you. If you were blind or deaf, sick or lame, then you or your parents must have done something for you to deserve punishment from God.

Job, however, was a good man by all accounts, yet God allowed Satan to test him. He lost his children, his servants, his animals, and his land – and he had no idea why. Today, we listened to the lament of a very depressed man. Perhaps, like me and like Job, you have experienced depression. When you heard these words, did you say to yourself, “I understand what he’s going through. I know that feeling.” Perhaps you feel that way right now. Let’s listen to Job’s words again:

Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?”
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.

Eventually, Job expresses hope in God in the midst of his distress and even appears to prophesy about a future incarnation of God in the flesh and standing upon the earth as well as his own resurrection:

He has put my family far from me,
and my acquaintances are wholly estranged from me.
My relatives and my close friends have failed me;
the guests in my house have forgotten me;

My breath is repulsive to my wife;
I am loathsome to my own family.
Even young children despise me;
when I rise, they talk against me.
All my intimate friends abhor me,
and those whom I loved have turned against me.
My bones cling to my skin and to my flesh,
and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,

This moment is a critical one for the depressed Job, he realizes that his salvation, his Redeemer, is not dead. Despite all that he must endure, he does not despair and he does not curse God; rather, he believes that even if he were to die, he would see God.

What about us? Can we have the confidence of Job? Job may have been righteous and innocent, but what if we suffer because we were not righteous? What hope do we have? Job could only hope for what we already have in Jesus Christ. For Jesus is the fulfillment of Job’s very wish: Jesus is the Redeemer who lives! He stood upon the earth in the flesh! And through His resurrection Jesus makes it possible for all of us to look forward to a resurrection in which in our own bodies we will see God in the flesh. Jesus spent his days preaching, healing, and forgiving the sins of people who both deserved and did not deserve their sufferings. It didn’t matter. He was here to bring a new era of freedom in which every sinner could be a saint, in which every unrighteous man could be made a righteous man, and in which every depressed man could have hope.

Life can depress us, literally, it can press us down. Sometimes the weights that we are under are placed upon us and sometimes we place those burdens upon ourselves. Jesus came to lift those burdens. In exchange, he gives us a lighter, more fitting load and gives us the grace and power we need to carry it. Just as he does in the Gospel today, he is seeking us out, going through every town and village, eager to find us, to heal our hearts, to forgive our sins, and to give us his righteousness. When we surrender to him, our sufferings become His sufferings. He becomes our Redeemer and he even redeems our sufferings. He makes them powerful. When we pray through our sufferings, they become the most potent prayers on earth and in heaven for they are directly linked to the heart of Jesus Christ who is our God in the flesh. Let us find courage to rejoice in these sufferings and make use of them for all who need our prayers until we see him face to face.

Do you identify with Job? Have you found hope in depression? How? Please let us know by leaving a comment or sending us a message via our Contact page. If you like our content, please be sure to click “like” and share with someone you love.

“Grandparent” Does Not Mean “Old”

Recently I saw that Pope Francis declared a universal day in honor of grandparents and the elderly to be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday in July beginning this July 25th. His proclamation is meant to give priority to the pastoral care of the elderly, because they are so often forgotten, and to draw the generations together for the sake of “preserving roots” and handing on what these elders have received.

Though I celebrate the Pope’s efforts to draw attention to the importance of both grandparents and the elderly and though I could spend the rest of this post on more profound matters related to this proclamation, I’ve decided to address something more superficial (as you may have anticipated from the above title): “Grandparent” is not a synonym for “elderly”. The Pope may not be trying to put the two in the same category, but the press surrounding this special day seems to focus quite heavily on the “elderly” part even when discussing the “grandparent” component.

Looking at some research from AARP*, I found that the average age of first-time grandparents is 50, which is not elderly. Though this proves that Ellen and I are not that unusual as grandparents under 50, Ellen and I are often met with surprise when we tell people we have grandchildren. In Ellen’s case, I understand the surprise because she still looks like she’s 35. Maybe I should be flattered too, but my wrinkles and grey hairs aren’t that inconspicuous. To this point, the youngest age of AARP’s initiates into the grandparent club is 38. Yeah. That’s not old, even if it’s more unusual these days.

Given the statistics, “old” or “elderly” hardly seem fair. I realize that by the time my grandchildren are making their own living, I will be nearing 70. I guess the fact that I am two generations older than any of my grandchildren already makes me old, relatively speaking. Maybe I’m in denial. You can tell me so, but I will continue supporting my cause and claim that “grandparent” does not mean “old”, generally speaking.

I’m interested in your thoughts on the stereotyping of grandparents as elderly. Share a comment here or on our contact page. Click “like” if you enjoy our content and please share.

* Link to AARP research

The Courage to Seek Forgiveness

In my last post, I talked about teaching our children how to ask for forgiveness. Today, I want to take it up a level. More important than guiding our children through the motions of seeking forgiveness from others, is demonstrating the behavior ourselves. Seems obvious, right? I find, however, that no matter how much I agree with “actions speak louder than words” and reject “do as I say not as I do”, when it comes to humbling myself and seeking forgiveness, I often confront a greater counter-force to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Truth be told, I would rather others simply sensed my interior knowledge of having done something wrong or offensive. I especially want those who know and love me to grant the benefit of the doubt, namely that I regret my bad behavior without having to mention it. If we could all just go on without acting hurt or angry because of what I did, that would be great. I expect many people feel the same way whether they know it or not. This attitude, however, demands too much of the offended party and compounds the injustice of the original injury. I am no more able to demand a healing from the doctor without a willingness to undergo a treatment than to expect the healing of my relationships without the willingness to ask for forgiveness and offer reparation.

As I advised before, I make it a point to use the words “Please forgive me for . . .” and name the offense. I am now open to a response and any emotion the offended has to share with me. I’ve earned it (presuming the response is proportional to the offense). If the person is a fellow Christian, I have hope that s/he will meet my request with mercy and grace, but that does not mean I am off the hook for the damages. Not only do I have an investment to make in repairing the relationship, I may have to repair physical property, too, depending on the offense. As we read in our catechism: Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction (1450).

Indeed, this formula imitates the Sacrament of Reconciliation intentionally. The elements of which go back to the old testament where both verbal confession and reparation are part of the healing process (cf. Numbers 5). Though forgiveness should never be dependent on the reparation, offering something of ourselves demonstrates our commitment to the healing of the relationship and our earnestness. Penance is our participation in reparation and should be expected, though the price for our sins has been fully paid by Christ. (More on this here.)

In some cases, both parties have given offense. One may have started the rift, but the other widened it in a backlash. Some may think the initial victim has the moral high ground despite also becoming an offender, but I would turn to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: [W]hen you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. (vv. 23-24, NRSVCE) Jesus makes no mention of who “started it”. The command is to reconcile; therefore, it’s always your turn to go first no matter who made the first offense.* Prayerfully, when you ask the other for forgiveness, the other will reciprocate.

* I believe I first heard this explanation from Dr. David Jeremiah on his radio show “Turning Point”.

I’m interested in hearing about your thoughts and experiences with reconciliation and asking forgiveness. Leave a comment below or leave a note on our contact page. Be sure to click “like” if you enjoyed this post and share it with others. Thank you.

Teaching Children about Guilt and Forgiveness

If there is one thing Ellen and I practiced in our years of parenting that we did not relinquish or modify as our parenting developed, it was how we taught the children about forgiveness. Leaning on materials donated to us by my sister* we learned that there is a difference between saying “I’m sorry” and asking for forgiveness. This lesson is something we share with every engaged couple whom we mentor for marriage and every parent we meet in preparation for the baptism of a child.

Although “I’m sorry” and “I accept your apology” are the mainstream way to smooth over a wound, the words don’t accurately communicate what the soul really needs. We usher two children involved in an altercation into this ritual then tell them to shake hands or hug to seal the half-hearted acquiescence to our demands for harmony. The exchange always seems to lack something because it bears no reference to what the parties ought to exchange. When I say “I’m sorry” I am expressing regret, not really asking for anything, though a request may be implied – amounting, on the surface, to a request that you acknowledge my sorrow. When I say “I accept your apology” I am not really getting anything or giving anything, I’m assenting to the fact that you regret what you did, which is only the beginning.

When I knew one of my children had offended Ellen, I would discuss the offense with them. Ideally, I would determine if the act was a mere accident or an act of the will. I would also discuss the moral nature of the act. If the act was immoral, then I would encourage my child to ask Ellen for forgiveness with these words: “Mom, will you forgive me for . . .” and in place of those three dots my child would state the offense. I especially emphasize this part of the request. Giving verbal expression of our actions is beneficial for us and the healing process. We are owning what we have done as we hear it sound in our own ears and we are showing the victim we actually know we did something wrong and it invites them to respond.

At this point, Ellen could give one of three responses:

  1. I love you, but that’s not what you did to offend me. Can we talk about what you did that hurt me?
  2. I love you and I’m rather angry/hurt/emotional right now. I need some time before we discuss this.
  3. I love you and I forgive you. Here’s why I was offended . . . .

Once the forgiveness is granted, we celebrated the mending with a hug and a kiss. (Note: I do not entertain here the possibility of not granting forgiveness, except to say Christ provides no room in the Christian heart for this option.)

Those who see guilt as a fabrication or manipulation might criticize the probing of offenses with our children, but distinctions matter if we are going to properly form our children’s understanding of sin and guilt as well as self-examination. We do not want our children thinking they have to ask forgiveness for amoral or accidental acts. I hazard to guess that too many people from a young age have been excoriated for things that were in these categories. Abuses of this nature can have a considerable effect on psyches and consciences, leading so many to suppress or ignore guilt and to criticize the faith and religion in general.

Regret or sorrow after giving offense is healthy. Our world, however, appears to have no idea what to do with guilt. When people quip about “Catholic guilt” I like to say the only reason anyone utters the tattered cliche: Guilt is real and experienced by everyone, but they don’t know what to do with it. Catholics do (or ought to). We acknowledge guilt and act on it. We seek forgiveness with those whom we offend and the Lord, who is the only one who can completely heal our troubled consciences.

When something is torn, we can try to repair it, but evidence of repair may remain for a while even if it can be well covered up in some cases. When we rend our relationships with one another, we need to mend the relationship with more than an expression of regret. For the Christian, the mending involves three parties. God, as the Divine Physician can bring a complete healing to any wound, leaving no trace of repair.

* From “Growing Kids God’s Way” by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo (video here)

Have you struggled with a proper sense of guilt or asking forgiveness? Do you have a perspective that I have not considered here? There’s a lot more here we could discuss, so please share your comments below. If you like our content, click “like” and share with your family and friends.

Who Wants to Be Human?

Lately, I’ve been disappointed in humanity. In particular, I’m disturbed by what’s happening to us politically. Something has gone terribly wrong and it seems to me that, every four years, we are getting larger and larger doses of ugliness and our elections portray less and less humanity. Were I an angel or an alien, I would seriously wonder who would even want to be human.

Our sorry state of political affairs is only a part of the many woes we have caused. As one rears its head, six others seen to rise with it. Dwelling on them is like a maelstrom that can suck us in and down with those around us. I know this is not our entire reality. I know there is so much good we do, but the water’s awfully murky right now, so today, I desperately need to focus on the One who, regardless of the indictments against us, wanted to be human.

This weekend, celebrating Christ the King Sunday, we read Jesus’ description of his second coming: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.” Son of Man is the title Christ preferred. Centuries before, the prophet Daniel prophesies, “As I watched, thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne [and] I saw one like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven . . . . [N]ations and peoples of every language serve him [and] his kingship shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:9-14).

There is no doubt that Christ was indicating to his audience that he was the fulfillment of this prophecy. What does this tell me? God had a plan and has a plan. A plan that was woven into the fabric of time from before the beginning.

There is nothing new under the sun. Men and women were no less evil in the years after the Fall from grace, in the time of Daniel, or that of Christ than they are today; and yet, knowing how absolutely awful we could be, knowing the worst of the worst about each and every one of us, God said from all eternity, “I WANT TO BE HUMAN!”


Because God never intended humanity to be what we made it. He intended it to be what HE made it: PERFECT; and he still intends it to be perfect, even if he respects our free will. As the Son of Man, Christ provides us the very model of humanity. He was the Template in eternity by which and for whom God made humans and all of creation in the first place. We are not most human when we sin; we are most human when we imitate Christ.

The Son of Man, then, is our only hope of knowing and advancing human perfection. That he is God means the work of human perfection is possible, for all good begins with God. That he is Man means God invites man be part of the perfection process. That he is God-Man means, despite foreknowing all the events of human history would be corrupted, God created anyway; and despite foreknowing all our immorality, injustice, and depravity, God still said, “I want to be human.”

As Christians, the temptation to pull away from the rest of the world is strong. When fallen humanity is at its worst, however, God invites us to be our human best, to even more fervently manifest what it really means to be human, to know and more genuinely follow the Son of Man with all of his perfections. The world needs us to be human – to want to be human. It’s not easy, it’s a sacrifice, and it’s heroic. It’s what he wanted – to be human. I want to be human, too.

What are your thoughts on the current state of humanity? How has the your experience of the best and worst of humanity affected you? Let me know by adding a comments below or send us a message on our contact page. Let us know you enjoy our content by clicking “like”, then share with friends and family.

One Moment More

This month marks the fifth anniversary of my mother’s passing. My father had passed six years earlier. For many, the death of a grandparent is the first grief inducing event of it’s kind. As I mentioned in my earlier post, my experience of grandparents was not like others. Though I had mourned the loss of my grandmother, my Aunt Ann, Ellen’s grandparents, and other relatives whom I loved, I cannot say I experienced the same level of grief in my life as when my parents died.

The severance of my earthly relationship with my parents blessed me with an elevation of subconscious memory to consciousness, as though a movie reel turned on in my mind. I began replaying clip after clip of our lives together. I saw scenes of a younger me in which I was just too young, selfish, ignorant, or foolish to understand what was going on or how my words and actions impacted my parents and family. The older me was able to look back on those moments with a new understanding of myself and my parents.

In some ways, this reflection added to my grief. In others, I felt like I knew and respected my parents even more. Much of what they had suffered for love of me, I was suffering for the love of my own family. Many times I spoke to my parents as I watched those reels. I asked them, “Please forgive me.” I told them, “I understand now. I love you. I miss you.” I still speak to them today and how I long to have had more time with them in the flesh.

Very shortly after my father and mother died, there were events that brought me to tears in the middle of the work day. For my father, it was the gift of a tree from my colleagues, a weeping cherry, which I planted in his memory. He was quite fond of the cherry tree in his own front yard, so I planted one in mine. For my mother, I encountered a song, “One Moment More” by Mindy Smith. Though I don’t listen to country music, I tripped over this song on a Spotify channel I was listening to.

I think it struck me pretty hard because I had missed an opportunity to speak to my mom on the night before she died. She called me on the feast day of Saint Gregory the Great and left me a message. She said that she called to wish me a “happy feast day” (a custom among Catholics) and to tell me, “You are my ‘Gregory the Great’.” I didn’t call her back right away, and when I remembered, it was late. She didn’t stay up late anymore, so I decided not to bother her that night. I wish I had. The next day, the moment was gone and she passed.

The good news: As a Christian, I know my relationship with my parents persists in and through the person of Jesus Christ, who incorporated us into His Body, the Church. I have faith that as members of that Mystical Body, my parents hear me and, though I cannot hear them, they respond. For a time we are physically separated, but the promises of Christ give me assurance and hope that our relationship continues. Though I do not take for granted the graces of heaven, I trust that He who began a good work in me with be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). I am eager for that day. I have many moments I want to redeem.

Do you have memories of parents and grandparents like mine? I’d like to read about them in the comments. If you liked this post, click like and share this content with your friends and family.

The Gift of Grandparents

Growing up, I knew only one of my grandparents. By the time I was born, my mother’s parents and my father’s father were all deceased. I was the fourth and last child in my immediate family. My parents were in their early forties when I was born. My Father was the second to the youngest of 9 children and my mother the youngest of four. Each of us was born later in the chain of events for our families. My parents’ parents were the first generation to immigrate from their families, so both my parents were first-generation Americans and they did not know their grandparents back in the “old country”.

Knowing my grandmother was quite different from many of my peers. The typical experience of grandparents portrayed on television and in other families showed a greater degree of involvement than my own. My interaction with my grandmother, also known as “Nunny”, was also limited by our greater distance from the geographical heart of the family. My grandmother was significantly advanced in years when I knew her. Of the first 17 years of my life, she was in her nineties for ten of them. I remember her gentleness and sweetness with us (although she was less so with my Aunt or my father on occasion), how she would speak to us in Italian without realizing it, how her wrinkled skin felt when we embraced, and the sound of her words due to the loss of her teeth. She would always give us grandchildren a couple dollars each when our visit was over. This donation caused a stir with my father who knew how limited her income was. I remember how saddened she was that we once put it back on her dresser before departing. It’s good to remember and, regardless of the limits of that relationship, she was a gift.

Akin to a grandmother, literally and figuratively, was my Aunt Ann. The eldest child in the family, she lived with and cared for my grandmother. She was my father’s elder by 21 years. She raised my father and some of her other siblings. She had three of her own children who were not all that much younger than my own parents, relatively speaking. Aunt Ann’s grandchildren were older than me and a few of the youngest were my age. She was not one of those permissive auntie types. Aunt Ann knew discipline, but she also knew love, which she knew by wisdom were one and the same. She would knit slippers for us, tell us the family history, and she enjoyed a good laugh. I recall the sound of that laughter, the silent moments she kept in her rocking chair praying and knitting, and how she would say each of our names. She was a gift.

Ellen’s experience of grandparents stands at the opposite extreme of mine. Not only were Ellen’s grandparents involved, she saw them at least once a week and talked to them practically every day as a child, if not in person, over ham radio (which saved on phone charges). She spent many weekends with them. Even after Ellen was older and moved into my area, her grandparents followed. When I started dating Ellen, certainly my experience and understanding of grandparents changed. I was introduced to the weekly Sunday meals at “Nannie and Grandpa’s”. They were quite generous to me as a newcomer and if they had an ounce suspicion about me they didn’t let on. I remember those many Sunday meals, each of us in our places, Grandpa’s exuberance and Nannie’s balance to it, the genuine interest each had in the others, and their love and support of all their grand- and great-grandchildren. Vicariously, they became my grandparents. I’m so glad my own children had a chance to know them. They were a gift.

Though we had been away in another state for four years after our marriage, Ellen and I found support from our local church. When we had two babes under a year old, Ellen’s mom was there for us at each birth, using up her time off work (plus some FMLA) to care for all of us. In her wake, my mother would arrive, but given the distance, we had to rely on others. I don’t know what we would have done without adoptive Aunt Darlene and Uncle Don as people we could count on in the absence of our immediate families. They were a true example of what the church family is meant to be. Though we would make frequent trips north to visit our families over those years, we couldn’t have done it without the Church, that family of families instituted by Christ. They were a gift.

As the Body of Christ, I think we still struggle to understand what it means to be family to one another. Many are sitting just a pew away from each other on Sunday and remain practical strangers. We are called to be more to one another. Brother and sister are not terms we should use lightly as Christians, but we do – or we don’t use them at all anymore. There’s something for us to live up to in that Christ has designated us part of his family, for each other’s sake. I am reminded of a fellow parishioner who said that he sat behind the same mother and children for many Sundays. One day the mother was having difficulty with the older children and she needed a hand because hers were occupied by her newborn. My friend, knowing her barely well enough from those many Sundays said. Do you need me to hold him for you? Her response: “Would you? Please!” She was relieved, and he was blessed. This is what a family does. They are a gift.

Eventually, we moved back to my hometown. Both my parents and Ellen’s were nearby and an integral part of their grandchildren’s lives. Having these relationships was important to us, and so good and helpful for us as a developing family. I realize that many have very different experiences with and without grandparent involvement. What I do know is that my parents mostly did it on their own without the rest of their families nearby while Ellen’s family had the involvement of relatives, most especially grandparents. Because of proximity, my parents were able to give to their children’s children something they did not have, a grand-relationship. Though my parents have passed, Ellen’s parents are still with us – next door! Though hampered by a pandemic, they are still part of my children’s and grandchildren’s lives, even if for the sake of their health it’s limited. They are a gift.

Looking back, I don’t know where we would be without such grand people in our lives in any degree. Though true grandparent relationships are unique, I would encourage all of us as brothers and sisters in the Lord to break out of our pews to help those families that may be far from their own. In the church or elsewhere, it’s awkward and difficult to forge those kind of relationships, but we are a family. Are we willing and able to open the doors of our homes to those who could a mentor or just a friend? I can attest to the serious difficulty so many couples have finding a suitable godparent for their children because their families have none to offer. Perhaps you could be that godparent when the time comes because of your own efforts to be for them the family they needed. What a gift that would be.

What is your experience of grandparents? What do you remember of those “grand” people in your life? How are you helping to make the church a family of families? Let us know in the comments section. Click like and share on content that appeals to you and let us know what you’d like to see covered here.

My Favorite Person

God created us in relationship. From the day we’re conceived, we live in relationship. Until we’re born, our most direct relationship aside for our creator is with our mother. Though there are other relationships indirectly, with our father, siblings, grandparents, doctors, etc., our relationship with our mother takes priority. When we’re born, we enter into a seemingly endless sequence of relationships, all of differing degrees. Some we give greater priority and, as we grow, we have our favorites: a favorite cousin, a best friend, we get along better with one sibling than another – and we tell them in one way or another, “you’re my favorite”.

Inevitably, we find ourselves with some fellow Christians, perhaps playing a question-answer game, in which we’re asked about our best friend. As others name some childhood friend or relative, there’s always that one person who trumps the list by naming “Jesus”. We laugh or groan a little, but according to the diagram, yes Jesus should be our best friend, right? Among Christians, it really should be implied, that’s why others don’t name him, right? We hope.

That’s the point of the diagram above which depicts this “priority of relationships”, and though it doesn’t capture all the nuances of our relationships, we get the idea. Yes, God must be the #1 priority of our lives, but I would warn against making the circle around our relationship with God a boundary independent of the relationships that surround it. In Sacred Scripture, Jesus inextricably links the two greatest commandments to love God and to love your neighbor. As 1 John 4:20 tells us, you cannot love God whom you have not seen if you do not love your brother whom you have seen. The apostle James adds that our words of love must be accompanied by action (James 2:16). We not only demonstrate our love of God through faith, church, worship, prayer, and Bible reading (to name a few), but through our love of neighbor. Such love must be expressed in word and action. Every parent with more than one child grasps what God is telling us because discord among children hurts us as parents. We likely have told (or will tell) our children something similar, “If you love me, you will be kind to your sister.” Perhaps someone can design a graphic that better captures this part of the relationship reality, where love of God is first and central, but also encompassing all other loves.

Which brings me to my favorite person (in the non-divine category). There’s a little routine I have with Ellen. I’d like to say I stick to it every day, but every now and then I fall out of it. Eventually, it comes to me again and I tell her, “You’re my favorite person.” I’d like to think I show it on most days, but that’s something she and others will have to confirm by observation.

What little things do you say to those you love. What actions are meaningful to them? Let me know in the comments below. Let us know you like this content by clicking like, then share with friends and family.

Honoring Our Children

I remember when I had that list of things my parents did that I said I would never do to my kids. Yeah, well, what goes around comes around, right?

Our children and their spouses have different parenting styles from us and each other, partly because of who they are, partly because of who their children are, and partly because of who we are. One might say the basics should be the same and I might agree to some degree, but going about the basics of feeding or nap time, e.g, can play out quite differently than I think they should. How do I react to that? Are choices they make a commentary on or rejection of how we raised or children?

Honoring our children as parents posed new challenges for me. Last year, my daughter spent a few weeks with us after the birth of her daughter. Our tolerances for her daughter’s nap time fussing were indeed different. I might think, “If she would do this, then she’d save herself aggravation.” That’s partly (mostly?) an opinion and perhaps a weakness of novice grandparenting. Watching my child experience a common frustration with her own child was hard. As a father, I found it harder to shelve my years of indisputable sagacity (*cough*) and not offer a remedy. (I failed.) Though difficult in the moment, my daughter was committed to her ways which were indeed full of love and neglected nothing for my granddaughter. I remember taking care of our granddaughter and committing to do things the way my daughter would, but not without some internal reflection and personal admonition. I needed her to know she could trust me and I dare not let my pride change this baby’s experience of parenting in an intrusive, unexpected way. That would be harmful.

When our children are visiting, sometimes (continuing with my example) our grandchild isn’t falling asleep, or won’t eat, I am tempted to think I offer an objective third-person perspective. It would be shallow to say it’s because they’re novice parents, but I see that my desire to help sometimes comes from a sense of having superior knowledge. Although I do have more experience, my son and daughter and their spouses may tell you, “Dad doesn’t know my child like I do.” The reality is there’s not always a simple answer. I may try something and it will work, once. Try it again, it doesn’t. Realizing such difficulties are often the result of a different environment or some confusion on the part of my grandchild should be enough to prevent me from thinking I could provide an easy solution; nonetheless, it’s hard to watch your children and grandchildren endure the common growing pains of being a family. My job is to avoid making it more painful, so I have to take my cues from them.

To better honor my children, I have to continue moving beyond the functional cause-and-effect logic that betrays the greater complexity of our humanness. I had draw on a beautiful truth which I had meditated and preached on a number of times before. We often say a child is an unrepeatable gift, but more than that, a child is a unique encounter from which a unique, unrepeatable relationship develops. No other person can have the relationship we have with each of our children or they have with each of theirs. These singularities are part of the mystery of being made Imago Dei, in the image of God; therefore, when we encounter another person, we encounter all the potential and actual God-likeness that is bound up in them. When we enter into relationship with them, we open ourselves up to God’s marvelous work in their lives such that we might see God in a new way, which is wonderful blessing, but one that comes with some friction. The wonder and the blessing grow even more profound when we invite others into the relationship, as will the friction. That friction is what moves us forward and remains a necessary part of a growing relationship.

As I once vowed, I will not be an interfering grandparent who doesn’t respect my children’s wishes. I, therefore, have come to respect that special and unique intimacy my children have with their children as much as I wanted my own relationship with them to be respected. Truly, to witness it is a privilege. For them to invite me into it is a humbling honor.

What do you find wonderful about the gift of relationship? How have you honored others in your family? Please let us know in the comments below. If you like what your reading, please click “like” and share.