First, I would like to commend a few people to your prayers. Yesterday, was the feast of St Mother Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Those sisters built our school and served this parish for many years and their work continues today. So we hold them in prayer. And today is the feast day of St. Francis, so let’s pray for Fr. Francis and the Franciscan Sisters who serve our parish now. We’ll even pray for those folks at that other parish in town. And let’s pray also for the Confirmation students will make their confirmation on Wednesday.
A week ago today, the Pope spoke in Philadelphia. My nephew is still talking about him. He keeps asking when the “poke” is coming back. In my favorite of his speeches, the pope set aside his prepared remarks and spoke from the heart a message about family life, a message which emerges beautifully from all three of our readings today. The pope spoke about the beauty of creation, the majesty of the world. But then he said that of all the glorious stuff God has made and done, “the most beautiful thing God did was the family.” God so exalted the family that he chose to come into the world, not into a palace or some powerful kingdom, but into a family.
The family, he said, is a like a factory. I want to consider some ways how, considering our readings tonight and the pope’s words. Let’s think most of all about the blood family, but also about the family of the church.
First, factories are always producing something. It would be hard for us to imagine life now without factories. Cars, pencils, mugs, glasses, furniture—you name it, it comes from a factory. But the most important things in the world, our faith and gut tell us, are not things. Faith, hope and love, and the greatest is love. That is what the family produces, says Pope Francis. And out of the factory of the family comes clouds and clouds of love, of hope, of life. Without the family, there is no doubt we’d be even more lost than we would be without cars and pencils. Because they are always producing something, there is always life, always activity in a factory. Same for our families. Band to soccer to football to gymnastics to scouts to church to school. We’ve got a busy parish family, too. Most nights I have three places to be. That’s good! Our families and parishes are meant to be centers of production, centers of activity. And what we’re producing, in spades, is love, hope, faith. The family is the source of it all.
Second, factories are big and beautiful. Especially when they were first built, they were mighty indeed, massive and shiny fortresses. So is the family supposed to be. In our first reading, we see that God realized right after making man, on the same day he realized that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. A factory with only one part, or a machine with only one cog, isn’t so effective. There’s a reason we Catholics have always loved big families, and it’s because we know that, if the family is a powerhouse and production center of love and hope and all that good stuff, the bigger the better. We Catholics have traditionally loved big families for that very reason. I just went to a Hispanic conference yesterday and we were talking about the gifts the growing Hispanic population in the US Church brings to the rest of us. There are many gifts, and we see them in this parish! One of them is that the Hispanic culture has not lost the sense that big families are good, that if one child is good, two is better and three even better and why stop there? We don’t have to have to have storehouses of money in the bank to pay for every potential need of every potential child. We simply have children and God provides. That isnt’ a platitude. It is truth. God always provides. Jim Gaffigan, a Catholic comedian, has a huge family. He was asked why. He said, “the reasons for having more children always outweigh the reasons for not having more children.” AMEN! Factories are big and the bigger the more beautiful, and so it is with our families and parishes. If a small factory can produce a great deal of love,imagine how much more a big factory can produce! A final note about this. Msgr. is mentioning in his homily this weekend that if you want to get married, do it! Don’t wait till you have all your ducks in the row, till every potential argument has been resolved. Your ducks will never be all in a row. You might never feel like you have enough money or enough patience or strength to get married or to have another child. Do it anyway. The factory of the family is too important a thing, too beautiful a thing, too necessary a thing to put off for another day.
Third, in a factory, all the parts work together and transform each other. We should all be transformed by our spouses, by our children, by our siblings. It is a good practice to look for ways to be transformed by them. God made us for community because community, family life makes us better. The sisters here, they are transformed by one another. I was sent here to OLG to transform Msgr. (joke). One thing I loved about seminary was that there was this great sense of positive peer pressure, where my friends and brothers made me want to be a better me each and every day. We are always transforming each other. Here at OLG, the food pantry works with the school and the school works with the athletic programs and the adoration chapel works with the Daughters of Mary. Everybody is working together. That is a good thing. Our families require the same. And when we do, we are transformed, and so is the larger community.
Fourth, factories sometimes get rusty. They break down. The pope acknowledged that there are problems in families just the same. He said, I know I’ve spoken very nicely about the family, and you’re probably thinking, “You speak this way because you are not married.” But, he said, I know what happens in your homes. Children cry. Husbands and wives sometimes fight. Plates fly. Children bring headaches, and I won’t even start with mother-in-laws. Families break down sometimes. You know that.
But that leads to the happy fifth point: factories–and families–are fixable. The pope ended his speech with this: “Never let the day end without making peace in your families.”