Beginning with Thanksgiving,
most families are going to be
spending a lot of time together
in the coming months—for
good and for bad. Let’s face it, families
can be tricky.
In fact, for the first five years of our
marriage—and sometimes still—my
husband, Mark, couldn’t figure out my
family. It wasn’t because they did anything
out of the ordinary, but mostly
because he couldn’t quite figure out
exactly who was in my family and who
For instance, my Aunt Ellie was not
my biological aunt. She was my mom’s
lifelong best friend. Same for my Uncle
Johnny. He was my dad’s best friend.
My kids call my best friend Aunt Teri.
But I guess it never struck me as out
of the ordinary because, for me, family
has always been more about relationships
and less about blood and biology.
Perhaps that comes from the fact
that my oldest sister, Beth, is adopted.
So while we may not share the exact
same genes, we certainly do share the
same memories and a whole lot of love.
Church as Family
Families can take on many different
shapes and sizes. In fact, as Catholics
we consider the Church as part of our family. And many of our rituals we celebrate
as family, such as the Eucharist
and gathering for Mass each week and
on holy days.
The concept of Church as family
became extremely clear to me this past
summer when the son of a parishioner
was seriously injured playing football.
The parish—especially his friends—immediately rallied around him and
his family. It was a beautiful experience
of family at its best. And it’s an
experience that I have witnessed time
and time again within my parish, my
workplace, my neighborhood, etc. Most
of the time we are not related by blood,
but “my family” certainly includes people
from these communities.
So as you gather for the holidays with
family (in both the most literal and
broadest sense of the word), celebrate
those surrounding you. Here are some
• Pull out the family tree. The holidays
are a perfect time to fill in the
holes in your family’s history. Pull out
old family photo albums and make
sure you know who the people in the
pictures are for posterity’s sake. Ask
family friends and relatives questions
or have them recall stories from their
• Capture the here-and-now. Take
lots of pictures, tell stories and even
pull out the video camera.
• Gather family around. If you
haven’t had a family reunion in a
while, why not plan one for next year?
Sure, they’re a lot of work, but it will
be worth it. Engage some other relatives
to help with the planning.
• Share the news. With the Christmas
season right around the corner,
you’ll be getting ready to send Christmas
cards. Many cards are sent to
people whom you don’t often see
throughout the year. So this year, why
not create a Christmas newsletter to
update people on what’s been going
on with your family? You might also
want to include some pictures.
• Pay a visit. Schedule a visit with
family members whom you haven’t
seen in a while.
• Count your blessings. With the
holidays upon us, take this opportunity
to celebrate your families—all of
them. And let them know what a blessing
to you they are.