Tradition – the word always reminds me of “The Fiddler on the Roof” with Tevye stomping around the stage bemoaning the loss of respect for Russian marriage and family customs in his daughters and the new generation.
Traditions form a part of many aspects of our lives – family, religious, social, even personal. Children and grandchildren like to try new ideas, sometimes take chances or “live on the edge,” but the memories they recall often are associated with family customs.
We dismissed the obvious emergence of the “me” philosophy in the ’60s and beyond until we realized the adverse affects generated on family life. If something doesn’t suit us, we move on to another or replace it with a more up-to-date object or lifestyle.
Those of us who are parents, grandparents and great-grandparents may have bought into the current style by trying to keep up with everything in our family and the world around us.
One day we wake up and find we are all too busy and are losing close contact with family members. Some days there is no room in our schedule for family, even to spend time on the phone or computer to say a quick hello.
Facebook helps stay in touch, but it also has too many distractions, games and time-wasting diversions. A designated 15-minute session can easily stretch to an hour if one isn’t watchful.
Other phone diversions like texting and Twitter might help but they are not on my radar. My son and others have warned that once my cell phone battery dies, it cannot be replaced. It’s so old they don’t make them any more.
Some family and friends still believe in the old fashioned letter in hand.
One daughter could see that maintaining family ties was getting more difficult as the grandchildren moved into the teens and 20s with outside interests occupying more of their time. Early this year, she initiated a family day a month for everyone to make an effort to show up for a potluck meal and quality family conversation and activities. So far we have had anywhere from 14 to 25, but the total could be 38.
When the teens and 20-somethings show up, it’s great. With that large a group, someone is always having a birthday, anniversary or there’s a holiday to celebrate. There was a time we could take a reasonable family portrait without Photoshopping too many people into the picture, but now we just go with whoever is willing to stop and pose in order to capture the memory.
Religion has taken a hit in many ways and it’s up to us to get it back into the picture.
Too many see religion as out of date, but it’s still in our hearts. We have to find a way to inform and inspire our children. They have to want to participate.
The old rules are gone. Insisting on church attendance doesn’t work. We attend Mass on visits to family out of town and invite the hosts to join us, but that doesn’t always happen. Too often, athletics or other activities on weekends replace Mass. Too much of this and soon that family is no longer attending Mass.
What is a viable modern twist? How can we bring them back or move them forward in accepting and practicing the Catholic faith?
I revisited the first article I wrote for the Catholic Herald in 1999, interviewing several older people for their views on why our children are drifting away from their religious heritage. Like Tevye, the bottom line is still the same: “Stay close, if only in heart. Love them for who they are, not who you want them to be. Praise the loving acts they perform to friends, family and strangers. Most of all, keep reminding them of the importance of putting God first in their lives and in their children’s lives.”
In this year of evangelization and the Archdiocesan Synod, we can pray and hope for more family ideas and support for those who will be open to them.
When babysitting, I often take Catholic Heralds, especially the myFaith and Family sections to read, and then leave behind.
Most importantly, pray daily. I remind one child that St. Monica prayed for her wayward son Augustine for 40 years and look how God blessed him and answered her prayers. Sometimes we just have to put all our family in God’s hands and wait for the result that will happen in his good time.
(King, a member of Blessed Teresa Parish, North Lake, is married to Thomas. They have seven children, 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.)