Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!
I write this post after several days of truly enjoying myself here in Birigui, Brazil. I am meeting new people, making new friends, fumbling through little phrases, jumbled sentences, mispronounced words in a foreign but exciting new language. All of this has been tremendously life-giving...the only times that I am feeling kind of down or scared is when I begin to think about the transition back to the states! With the help of God and community, I pray I can re-aquaint myself with Chicago and school, make a temporary home there for my Spring semester.
My continued Christmas greeting and prayers are with all of you and your loved ones. I have been so busy just getting into the flow of things here and wanting to soak in all of this newness, that I haven´t posted in a few days. But this morning, as I woke and decided to take a break from my usual morning run, I figured I´d catch up on a little spiritual reading.
Today is the feast of the Holy Family in the Catholic church. This feast always falls on the Sunday following Christmas. There is a wonderful reflection written by a Jesuit priest named Larry Gillick on Creighton University Ministry´s Daily Reflection page about this day...why the church celebrates it and what it really means to be a Holy Family. I´ll admit, for me the word ´holy´is often intimidating and evokes thoughts of a stale, reserved, firm, but richly devout kind of spirituality or prayer life that centers around tradition and structure and ordinary-ness. I think sometimes of holiness as a straight, narrow path to God that is walked only through rigidness or rock-solid convictions. But Gillick, in his reflection, tries to shed a new kind of light on what holiness is in context of the holy family. He describes his childhood and his memory of family life as holy, but not in a rigid, expected kind of manner. He says his family rarely said prayer before eating (unless a priest was invited for dinner), didn´t begin long car rides with prayer, went to mass, but not always as a tight-knit family unit. It seems that Gillick´s childhood experience of holiness is random, is anything but what some might consider the straight, perfect way to understanding and appreciating God. But he says that his parents obeyed with certainty the Law of Love---he says they seemed to love each other very much. They would always kiss before parting, would cuddle on the couch and make their kids feel awkward through public displays of affection.
This type of love that is kind of random but nevertheless real---a neverending, exciting, but not totally structured kind of love, seems alright in a life that we know not fully how to react or respond to. That is, we are always kind of guessing, or interpreting the mysterious of our faith, our existence, our meaning. To treasure the gift of life without taking our life so seriously might be a way for us to better unlock the unexpected surprises that await us in the future. With the Spirit of a clown, but with the Heart of a saint, we can come to laugh and cry in a most Holy of ways. Here in Brazil, Rafael says there is a kind of saying (I can´t remember the exact wording) that it is always better to laught than to cry about things. Thinking in this positive way, we can bring hope and joy and love to others, and we can allow those same treasures to fill our own hearts.
Here is a prayer for your family (or you can use it for your friends or loved ones or anyone close to you). It is borrowed from the Creighton University Daily Reflection page. Realize that, in whatever family unit you might be living in, you have the opportunity to be holy. Trust in the power of faith to pull you through hard times and to give you joy in moments of gladness. PEACE
God of such faithfulness,we are a big and messy family;both as humans - and in my own family.
Help me today to be especially patient and loving,and to forgive those who have hurt me.
We may not look like "The Holy Family" I see in paintings,yet we are united with Jesus, Mary and Josephbecause in your great love for us you sent your son to live in this world and to share in our human experience.
Sometimes I forget the sacredness of our family lifeand the privilege it is to be together in this bond.
Help me not only love others as you love us,but to be more aware of those families in the worldwho struggle so much with poverty, war and disease.
Help me to pray with and for them todayand to carry an awareness of all families fleeing for safety, longing for the peace you offer to us all.
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
with love to my Network of Love FAMILY,
seu amigo bob.