© Denise McGonigal. October 2015
Family meals have only become more chaotic. Our nightly events with four daughters have evolved into loud and crazy commotions, with three sons-in-law, a boyfriend, and four rambunctious grandchildren added to the mix. As we packed up to leave her home last Sunday night, securing crying babies in car seats, placating over-tired toddlers who pleaded for “just five more minutes, Mommy,” Meghan remarked in her usual irony-laden tone, “So, that was peaceful.”
Ha! Not so much! Yet, when I sounded a family dinner invitation the following Wednesday and again on Sunday, everyone came pouring back together and the whole raucous riot played out again.
You know the “stuff” of typical family dinners. A glass of milk invariably splatters across the table. Twin boys produce messy diapers and bombard the table with sweet potatoes as they practice their new spitting trick. An argument ensues among the girls about who-wore-whose-sweater-last-and-who-should-wash-it-before-returning-it. Mom’s “you look tired” comment gets blown all out of proportion. “Catch the stupid ball” erupts from the family room when a Colt’s receiver misses a pass. And a two-year-old tumbles down the steps – boom, boom, boom – throwing everyone into a panic.
Same scenarios. Different homes. Yours and mine. Every time.
So why do we keep coming back for more? Is there something imperceptible that happens deep down inside the fabric of our families while the symptoms of our brokenness, our humanness, play out when we’re together?
…the laughter we create that connects our joy with the heavenly chorus.
…the sadness we unload that deepens a bond that forever roots us.
…the forgiveness we extend that forges a trust that can’t be shaken.
…the dreams we weave together that give us courage to face the future.
…the hands we join in prayer that unite our hearts to a love beyond us.
…the story we create as family that connects our lives to the Great Story.
…the peace within our chaos that announces God’s kingdom within our midst.
During his visit to Philadelphia, Pope Francis offered a charming off-the-cuff tribute to the joys of marriage and parenthood, remarking, “Families have difficulties…in families, we quarrel. Sometimes plates can fly. Children bring headaches,” even adding, “I won’t speak about mothers-in-law.” But he also offered the profound prayer, “Holy Family of Nazareth, reawaken in our society the awareness of the sacred and inviolable character of the family, an inestimable and irreplaceable good.”
Let’s all pray that we keep sight of that “inestimable and irreplaceable good” of our families amidst the messiness of flying plates.