On Easter Sunday my family and I shared a traditional Italian dinner with my wife’s family at the home of her parents, Gerald and Ines Davino. I love spending time with my in-laws. Their brand of food, fellowship, and fun has taught me so much about what it means to be part of an extended family. Their love, generosity, and welcoming spirit have shown me what it means to be a member of the Church as well.
Catholics too belong to a family – one that breaks bread, offers fellowship, and seeks the joy of righteous living. There is a sense of peace and a presence that we experience as members of the Body of Christ. Recently, as I read a homily by Pope Francis on the family, I was reminded how our unity as a Church helps us to build memories and move forward on our common journey of faith.
The Family that Prays Together…
I have been inspired by the prayers of my wife’s parents. Pope Francis tells us that families need to pray together in humility, like the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14, acknowledging our need for God:
As the tax collector does, it is clear: humbly, before God. Each one, with humility, allowing themselves to be gazed upon by the Lord and imploring his goodness, that he may visit us. (Paragraph 3)
I have been blessed many times to hear my father-in-law pronounce the blessing over our meal, thanking God for the food and the presence of his family around him. He is certainly a man of means, but he has taught me that his greatest riches are in those seated around the table, the family he has reared in godliness and love. His children and grandchildren are the legacies of his grace-filled, humble approach to parenting. He is the loveable, wise, and gracious father and grandpa who loves his family with passion and unrestrained joy!
My mother-in-law is a living example of one who prays without ceasing. She prays not just with words but with her whole life. I have even seen her worshipping God on her knees in her vegetable garden. Her commitment to cultivating and weeding the soil is no different than her commitment to growing her godly family. Her life is a beautiful illustration of servanthood and sacrifice. She has often taken my children for a weekend and instilled godly values into their hearts over hearty breakfasts and evening games of dominos. Her gentle love and maternal discipline have produced a harvest in her children and grandchildren that have allowed the Gospel to shine forth.
Like these two exceptional examples of strength and stability, I have experienced that same humble, loving, and strong presence of Christ within the Church through my time’s prayer and fellowship, sacrament and saintly example. The teachings and traditions of my faith have sustained me with stories of salvation and times around the table of the Lord. My brothers and sisters in the faith who have weathered the storms of this journey with humility and confidence have left a lasting impression on my life.
Keeping the Faith…
Pope Francis tells us that families keep the faith by spreading the faith. Like Paul who told Timothy, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7, RSVCE), we too are responsible for maintaining our faith by living it out:
Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith as a family? Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness? We all know that families, especially young families, are often “racing” from one place to another, with lots to do. But did you ever think that this “racing” could also be the race of faith? Christian families are missionary families. (Paragraph 5)
The one rock-steady principle that I know I can always count on from my in-laws is the godly example they have set for their family. Their values, their traditions, and their untiring efforts on behalf of their family have been founded on their unshakable faith in Christ. They have taught us that the journey of life and the journey of faith are inseparable realities to be lived out with fullness, day by precious day. Our trials and our triumphs, our struggles and our strengths fill a storehouse of glory that not only enriches our faith journeys but calls us to engage the world with a hunger for growth and a passion for the lost.
Unspeakable, Perfect Joy…
Perhaps the greatest benefit I have received from these holiday dinners with the Davinos is the incredible joy that comes from basking in the love these wonderful people share with one another. The old stories retold, the lighthearted sparring among siblings and the new memories made in these magical moments create a shelter of love and contentment so profound that I am transported away from the worries of the world and lifted to a place where I experience God’s presence most fully.
The Holy Father spoke of this kind of experience as well:
True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey. But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. (Paragraph 7)
The Church too is a place where our stories sustain us through the trials, our fellowship enriches the beauty of Christian living, and our journeys transform us into the people God has made us to be. Our common faith, lived out together in love, shapes who we are and defines what it means to belong to the family of those who call Jesus their Lord. As we share our gifts and our lives, we are strengthened for whatever lies ahead. Through our joyful communion, we are brought to that heavenly place where we experience the perfect love of God.
The Table that Unites…
I look forward to each and every dinner with the Davinos in the days to come. I know that, as the years go by, family members will go to be with the Lord or move farther away; yet, we will always have the table that unites us as we share our stories and build new memories together in love. Our prayers will lift us before heaven, our faith will form a lasting legacy for those who will come after us, and our joy will forever be the glue that binds us together in Christ.
As you come before your own family tables and the table of the Lord each Sunday, I pray that you remember how blessed we are to come humbly before the throne of grace with brothers and sisters who share our common Catholic faith. May the message of the resurrection that has united us all as a family in Christ, empower us to work out our salvation in unity and peace. God bless!