It was a beautiful Sunday in October, NOT in May. I didn't know I had any cause for concern. So I go to Mass and what do I find? The diocese is celebrating a year on marriage and the family, and you may have heard that the bishops have a synod going on. A whole Mass about marriage and the family, and my tamer thoughts included, "Oh, hell."
Sad, isn't it? And this is coming from me feeling in general like I'm in a good place in life! I think maybe I'll move out of the diocese for a year. And find a particular church where they don't really think about or mention current events like synods on families. Too much, you think? If you have any other- less drastic- ideas about how to avoid having almost as much fun as Mother's Day on multiple occasions throughout the year, to be staged without warning, please let me know!
Don't get me wrong, marriage and family is of the utmost importance. I'm all for anything that we can do to uplift and strengthen that. But. It sucks to go to church and have it highlighted and magnified that you are alone in that pew, and that you are forgotten. If not forgotten, no one knows quite what to do with you. There is no meaningful place for talking about singleness, but if you're really, really lucky, someone will remember to tack on something about "singles" or "other callings/situations" at the very end. Not enough to actually be included in the real conversation, but I guess better than being forgotten completely. I think we got left out completely at this Mass, but I'm not really sure. I was kind of a mess by somewhere in the middle of the homily. Good times and great sneak attacks.
However, while I needed a moment to vent, I'm not writing this post to get stuck in the "woe is me" place. I still go there sometimes, but I try not to spend very long there anymore. While I was there, I got to thinking. There are SO many people that are going to feel left out and isolated in their pain when the subject of marriage and family is brought up. We all have an idea of what family is and should mean, but most of us have some sort of wounds or pain surrounding what actually is in our lives. Parents that never loved the way a parent should, children who have turned away from their parents, marriages that are not perfect, losses of parents/children, struggles with infertility and subfertility, having many children and finding yourself feeling alone and overwhelmed, divorces, struggles with homosexuality, children born out of wedlock, histories in so many ways do not match up to ideals, such as past partners, history of abortion, and so forth, feeling alone in the midst of a crowd of family, trying to do everything right only to still not have all of it work out the way that it should. What else, guys? What are some of the other things that belong on this list, that are leaving people in the pews feeling left out of the conversation because they don't fit the perfect mold? There are so many wounds surrounding the family, and if we don't make it less invisible, we can't start to address it.
In my opinion, as great as it is to have discussions and synods and focus on catechesis, it gets us nowhere if we don't figure out how to BE family to each other. As long as someone is sitting in the pew feeling invisible and isolated in the midst of their struggle, we aren't going to get anywhere. We all long for family in our lives. For that support, for knowing that we are not alone, and for knowing that we matter in someone's lives. We can't make every family an ideal situation. We can't make a support group for each individual category of suffering. But we can offer support to each individual in our life that is suffering. It really doesn't have to be much; having someone say, "I see you. You matter. I care" is often worth so much more than anyone could imagine.