Holidays with the Family

I suspect there are few whose family plans were not in one way another changed for Thanksgiving, Christmas or both. Travel restrictions are not something we want to hear about.  Many are coping using the now ubiquitous Zoom platform. This is better than nothing but leaves much to be desired. We no longer take for granted to being together for a festive meal.

I know much of my focus has been on the growing number of family celebrations I have not been able to attend due to the limitations of my mobility. It was not too long ago that I would think nothing of traveling for hours to be with at least some part of my ever-expanding family of great grand nephews and nieces.

Becoming aware of an even wider circle of family

In recent years, I realize my concept of family has continually expanded and challenges me.

I have always missed the experience of knowing my grandfather and grandmother on either side of the family in Germany. With two exceptions all my aunts,  uncles and cousins were names I only heard of in conversations. In 1949 my father took my mother, sister, and me to Germany. I got to meet many of them during a wonderful month visiting them. Names have faces and I have memories. I experienced that I was part of a family much wider than I realized.

Decades later my family horizons expanded further when a cousin in Germany shared his research into my mother’s family history back to the late 18th century. Then, on the occasion of my 50th anniversary of priesthood came the gift, via a cousin in Germany, of my father’s ancestors back to 1493! Needless to say, this 16-foot-wide scroll gave me a new historical sense of family identity. No memories but at least names

Each of these discoveries challenged me to expand my awareness of family.

Discovering the horizons my Vincentian Family

There is another family I am still discovering. My Vincentian Family!

When I was in high school, I only knew the few Vincentians who taught there. What I knew of St. Vincent was that he was important to these men I deeply respected. In the seminary of those days I learned a bit more of St. Vincent and his “Double Family” … the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity. In the last quarter of a century, I have been amazed that his family much broader than I had dreamed.

This wider family is itself coming to consciousness of itself.

I was moved to tears watching 11,000 plus Vincentian relatives gather with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square to celebrate our family heritage in the presence of the relic of Vincent’s heart. 

Each of the more than 4 million people walking in the footsteps of St. Vincent and Louise face a common challenge. Every member of this family is committed to searching out and serving the most abandoned of our brothers and sisters.

If I truly believe that “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me” then I can understand Jesus’ washing the feet of disciples at the last supper. It is the logical expression and understanding that no matter what we are all family, God’s family, each and every one of us. And we are called to celebrate who we are.

Accepting the challenges of  discovering an expanding family

  • Where am I in my discovery and acceptance of all my brothers and sisters?
  • Would my marginalized sisters and brothers be able to see in me a loving brother or sister?

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

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