One of the greatest women in my life was my paternal grandmother. We saw her frequently, even though she lived 3 hours away.
As all grandmas, she was pretty lenient. Except on two fronts - sloth and division.
Eat what you want, but you better not think you're sitting in front of the tv all day. Not at Grandma's.
Play any game from the piles of board games, but don't think for a second you're going to be allowed to bicker over which piece is yours and which is your brother's. Not happening at Grandma's.
Drilled into our brains - be productive - love your family.
Those were Grandma's requirements.
Absolutes. More than one of my eight siblings has mentioned the determination and force of Grandma's influence in how we view our family.
Fight the world if you must, but this is family. God gave you one of them and you will find a way to love each other. Even if you see no other common ground, your blood is all the common ground you need to have plenty of space to stand.
I grew up with this understanding so entrenched in my soul that it's a visceral response. My family is mine. We are a tribe unto ourselves. Cohesive by no belief greater than our determination to love each other.
My oldest brother married his high school sweetheart. It's hard to remember a time before she was a part of our lives. She came before several of my siblings.
But, I do remember the first entrance of new blood into our tribe as I was approaching adulthood. When my second brother proposed to his girlfriend, we were on a family trip to visit him at basic training.
I wasn't close with her, but, surrounded by my family in the days before cell phones, she took me on a walk with her and shared the news. My brother had proposed.
I can clearly remember my thoughts in that moment. I had some preconceptions about her and we hadn't become friends, but in that moment I thought, "my brother has found her worthy of the rest of his life, now she will be family."
And to me, that meant more than showing up at the same Thanksgiving. Over the years, she became one of my best friends.
A member of the tribe pledged his life to her, and from that moment, she was one of us. Fully, to the bone a part of us.
It's happened many times since as our family has continued to grow. Sometimes there has been strain or stress in a relationship, but always, at the center, is the understanding that we love each other. Even when it's hard to forgive words that have been spoken. Cutting ties is not an option. I hear Grandma's voice, this is your family, you only get one.
But, beyond this precious tribe, the parents, siblings, even the spouse and children, there is another family that binds our ties and unites us universally.
The universal, apostolic Church.
And there I find the need for the lesson God has been teaching me my whole life, over and over. Do not divide. My blood bonds you.
As I share the blood of my ancestors and pass it on to my children, I share the Blood of Christ physically consumed with all my fellow Catholics.
It is coursing through us all. The same Body and Blood poured out for all.
With those who attend Latin mass. With those singing along to Glory & Praise. The veiled. The unveiled. Roman. Eastern. Byzantine. Alexandrian. All traditions in our beautiful faith.
The charismatic, the contemplative, the homeschooled, the public or privately schooled.
I am reminded in the spirit of my grandmother that so many of the divisions I place around me to categorize and label are only constructs. They are so small in the bigger picture of who and what we are.
We are blood of the same Blood. Sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. We may disagree. We may feel displaced, alone or misunderstood. But, we are called to work towards unity in love for each other.
A love that does not compromise the truth, but holds unwaveringly to the conviction that we are tied together to the very blood that courses in our veins, by a family united in faith.
My sisters and brothers, you are loved. May God help us all live in the deep conviction that the fight back to each other is always worth the hard. This is our family. We stand on the common ground of the Body and Blood of Christ, and no foundation is more secure.