The Family Dynamic of a Dynamic Family

December 30, 2018

On this Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we are invited to reflect on the joy that radiates within the holiness of a family.  Every family starts out in love.  It is the attraction between a man and woman who respond to the divine plan of God. When children are a gift given to the family, a period of waiting and anticipation becomes an opportunity for wonder.  Names are thought of, rooms are painted.  In society at the present time some of the excitement of knowing is shortened by the joy of wanting to tell everyone what to expect.  It is a joyous time, an exciting time, but also a time of real awakening to the responsibility of caring for this life.

There is much said and even more studies that link the breakdown of the family to the struggles of our society.  At its core, the dynamic of the family is found in the listening of one another’s souls.  It is found in parents sharing the same space and air, taking in the whole being of the other.  This to me is the greatest absence from some present day families.  Of course, I am a priest observing this and my credibility of raising a family knows no real experience.  But what I have observed in families who are dynamic are those that breathe in the same air.  They listen intently not just to the words of the other, but also to the soul of the other.  It is real and it is possible.  When we look to the Holy Family, to Mary the Blessed Virgin, we observe that she is afraid at the sight of an angel, she questions not only what the greeting meant but how all of this was to take place.  That conversation with her soul and the messenger of God, the Angel Gabriel, reminds us that to be dynamic, one does not have to understand or know all of the answers.  What a relief!  We don’t have to fully understand and have all of the answers, nor do we need an internet search to find them either.  Joseph is also another who lives a journey of question.  He listens in a dream to get up and change direction and leave where they are staying.  Once again the dynamic of the holy and sacred tells us our lives will change direction and go to places foreign to our comfort level.  Teens take parents to places they never thought and these places are constantly changing.  What made this dynamic family holy was the ability to follow and lead, trust and listen.

When I think of dynamic families that live holiness, I think of my parents in the kitchen washing the dishes night after night, sharing the same air and time spent together discussing their days.  I think of the conversation I had with my niece and her husband about Catholic education and the things they remember from previous conversations years back.  Not only had they remembered what I said years before, but they had talked through things with love and understanding.  Watching how they interact and have each other’s backs in raising their two girls is inspiring to me.  I remember sitting down with my nephew and his wife at a kitchen table at the rectory at a time when they had come to attend Mass with my mom, his grandmother, and we were to share a meal afterwards.  His wife was pregnant with their first child at the time.  As we sat at the table I asked them about what name they were thinking about for their child. The two of them looked at each other and said, if it is a girl, they were going to name her Julia, just like my mom because of the influence she had on him.  That filled us all up with tears.  But what I remember most was the way the two of them looked at each other before telling my mom.  They had shared a lot of heartfelt conversation to get to that place.  When their baby was born, it was a girl and Julia is a great kid who will forever connect us back to my mom now that she is gone.  While some turn away from difficult situations, my other nephew has stayed focused in providing his daughter with stability, especially when things got rocky.  His sensitivity to seeing the bigger picture, making the sacrifices in scheduling and trying to always be there as best he can, makes an impression when things are not perfect.  Holiness in the family happens even and especially when things break down.  God never abandons us in these moments.

Family dynamics must begin with conversation and deep listening.  Too often schedules get hectic, parents are on the move and when the lights go out in the children’s bedrooms, exhaustion and preparation for the next day takes over.  There has to be room created for sharing in the same air, breathing in each other’s soul.  I realize all of this sounds too good to be true, I realize it seems too simple, yet if we long for holiness and we want that for our family, it takes a commitment to carve time for each other out of the busyness of life.  Mary and Joseph were faith-filled people who prayed.  They knew God had a plan.  It would change the direction of their lives and they would not understand it completely or how it was going to work, yet that didn’t stop them.

Holiness in the family comes when the depth of communication reaches to the soul of the other.  May God bless our families as we strive for holiness.

Reverend  John J. Ouper