Family communion, 9/15/16: Freedom in the Routine

advent-communion

A wonderful communion celebration during this 3rd week of Advent. For the first time, when it came time to pray for loved ones, A. announced he wanted to pray for us. Then, taking our little vial of oil, he anointed each of us on our foreheads and said the following:

To Dad: The Lord loves you and is praying for you.

To Mama: God loves you soooo much.

To baby brother L.: God loves you because you are His people.

Himself: God loves me and I love you too, God.

It’s these unscripted moments in the midst of our (semi)scripted family communion liturgy that makes me see anew the power of liturgy: it provides a structure from which we can explore, grow, bloom, and thrive.

My late friend Fr. Gregory Elmer, OSB, once made an analogy between the monastic life and a person taking piano lessons: “I discipline myself so that I have the freedom to play Bach.” It is the structure, the form, and yes, sometimes even the boring repetition that allows us to enter into fuller, deeper expressions of our faith.

Liturgy can enliven in us a creativity we didn’t know we had— and once we find it there, we realize we have come one step closer to becoming who God has created us to be. There is freedom in the routine.

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Family communion, 9/8/16: Advent Edition

“There must be rhythm to life. One cannot feast continually; alleluia cannot always be our song while here below.” –Philip Pfatteicher

For starters, happy new year! It’s Advent, which means the start to a new year in the life of the Church. We mark time differently, and part of that process involves marking time differently often enough that it becomes familiar.

That’s part of the reason behind our weekly family communion time. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve been able to share this time together; there was Thanksgiving and the inevitable holiday busy-ness. But there was definitely a comfort in being back in that groove tonight. It’s a different way of marking time for our family, but it’s already beginning to have the feeling of a time-honored tradition for us.

We kept it simple tonight. We let A. choose a story from DePaola’s Miracles of Jesus storybook. A seems particularly fascinated with the story of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof to Jesus, and we read that story tonight and spent some time reflecting on it, spinning midrash as we went along. How might the man have become paralyzed? How might that have affected his ability to work, to provide for a family, to participate in a community? Is it his faith that saves him, or his friends’ faith? We came to a conclusion together that the story seems to be more about the friends’ faith than the man’s.

Then we spent a few moments praying for one another, and I asked the Lord specifically to make my sons like the paralytic’s friends: that they would have faith for others whose own faith (or strength) is faltering, and that their friendship might bring that person back to the Lord.

Then we shared the elements together and gave thanks, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer. That was it. As always, there were a number of interruptions along the way tonight: potty breaks, trips to the Christmas tree to examine ornaments or lights, wandering thoughts and conversational rabbit trails. Courtney and I are learning to relax… or better yet, to enjoy the diversions and distractions.

I was reminded tonight that the stories in the Gospels are true stories of real people who were just living their lives, trying to make decisions to the best of their ability. These people weren’t unlike any of us: the paralytic, the friends, the crowd gathered. So we find comfort that we, too, are just living life. There are messy moments. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Sometimes kids get distracted. Sometimes strangers rip a hole in your roof! Let’s keep living life rather than striving for some perfect ideal of holy living for our family/community that might not even necessarily reflect anyone in the Gospel stories anyway.

Bless the mess, Lord. Bless the mess.