Life in the Wider Family

Submitted by Deacon Jim Krupka

Much of our faith history centers on the extended family. The Twelve Tribes of Israel were family as sons of Jacob. We hear the extensive genealogy of Jesus read at the Christmas Vigil (Mt 1:1-25). The Ten Commandments establish the obligation to honor father and mother. Scripture extends that obligation far beyond youth. Care for a parent and admonition to not abandon family in their old age is a sacred obligation (Ps 71:9).
Yet many of us are far from our parents, or our parents have moved far from us. Oceans separate siblings. In many families, aunts, uncles, and cousins are rarely seen. True, the nuclear family of man, woman and children form a blessed unit. That family unit gives a foundation for growing the faith (the domestic church) and security. But there is so much more beyond that domestic unit. Practically, the extended family gives assistance, companionship and love. When a family becomes an isolated island, they lose the net of consolation in bad times and companionship in good. The separation from parents, uncles, aunts, cousins takes away treasures of life over the ages.
We never quit being a son or daughter. Pope Francis reminds us that we did not earn or give ourselves life. We received it. He describes a “virtuous bond” between generations that is a guarantee of the future of society. In his message on Love in the Family, the Pope says, “A society with children that do not honor their parents is a society without honor.” Then he expresses a wish. He says how he would like a Church that is filled with “overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old.”
That is our challenge. In this season of renewal with summer ahead, find ways to reconnect with distant family. Make a conscious effort to plan for visits. Commit to visiting parents regularly before it is too late. Make some long-delayed phone calls that make that extended family embrace real. Give your children the chance to discover distant cousins who likely will become friends. These connections won’t happen without effort. With limited vacation time and busy schedules, the whole household must work together to connect with extended family more deeply. In the long term, time and memories with the family will far surpass any attraction or theme park visit.