By Barbara Golder, Special To The Editor | Published May 28, 2009
I’ve never been a fan of family reunions. They were not a habit in my family—it was too small. The only time we managed was shortly after my father’s death. It was not an unalloyed success.
We booked rooms in a small motel on the beach in Florida on the hottest weekend of the summer, when there was an algae bloom in the water so ferocious that anyone who dared to venture in came out looking like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. There was little to do in the tiny seaside town except shop in a few outlet stores, and so we were forced indoors, spending long stretches isolated in our rooms watching dreadful daytime TV. My mother, still raw from grief, wandered aimlessly around the motel, unable even to reliably find her room.
When we assembled together for meals, however, it all changed. We told stories of my father and our lives together: of my much-older brothers dragging me to baseball games in a wagon, of my father’s creative discipline, of Christmases and holidays and family tragedies, minor and major. We remembered why we are family, not just an accident of birth but a bond of love, commitment, shared experience and the life of a strong, dependable man who guided us through all our troublesome childhoods to a productive and rewarding adulthood.
Stories were all we had. My family has never been good about taking pictures, and most of us are pathologically camera-shy in the bargain. Dad didn’t leave behind journals. He died before the days of obsessive videography. No one ever recorded his gruff but loving voice. Stories are good, but I found myself then and now, wishing I had more that helped me remember him, stay in touch.
One of the things I give particular thanks for since coming home to the Catholic faith is that the Church gives me so many ways to remember my Savior. I’m not locked in a solitary hotel room with only memories, relying on an interior me-and-Jesus life. I have reunions with my family on a regular basis, minus the seaweed and the bugs, and nobody needs to remember the camera because I can be with Christ just for the asking.
The Church gives me so many ways to relate to Jesus and to allow him into my life. I know him by the brothers and sisters I meet in my daily walk in faith. Coming from a tiny family, a dwindling branch on a family tree that gets smaller every year, and belonging to a small parish at the very outskirts of the archdiocese, I am thrilled to discover how may relatives in faith I have.
I am overjoyed when I go to a large parish or a conclave and find here are so many of us! I am humbled when I find out that we are so different in our daily lives and habits and so solid and alike in our faith. I am energized, thrilled, fortified, and reassured to know how large, how accepting and how truly universal my family is.
I encounter Christ in Scripture and teachings. I have relatives I’ve never met, but whose talks I’ve heard on disc and video that have enlightened me and brought me deeper into the faith. They are the brains in the family, and I am happy to know them.
I meet Him in prayer and adoration. I never knew before how good it is just to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It is time alone but united, time by myself with a Friend, but shared with the family around me. Like all good families, we need not always talk; it is enough to share the gift of time.
I meet Jesus in confession, and know His loving grace when I admit that I have let Him down. I know Him in His priests and His religious who make clear that He loves me and who impart His strength to me when I need it most.
Most of all, I can meet Christ in the Mass, in the Eucharist, where He truly enters my life to change it and to guide it. One thing about meeting family like this—if I am truly open to Him, my life will never be the same.
The Eucharistic Congress is my family reunion, and this reunion I am looking forward to with unadulterated pleasure. I’ll get together with 30,000 or so of my closest relatives, and we’ll share family stories and the faith in all the ways we can. And like all family reunions, it will leave us closer, stronger and looking forward to the time when we will gather again.
Barbara Golder is a parishioner at Our Lady of the Mount Church, Lookout Mountain.