Rocking the Cradle Catholic:
That old Familia Feeling
Common ground is better when it’s rock solid.
Don’t tell anybody. . . but my family and I fellowshipped this morning. Shhhhhhh!
I feel a little strange saying it, because I’m told that Catholics tend not to do that sort of thing. But I’m pretty sure we fellowshipped. We must have. There were even donuts and bad coffee available.
As a matter of fact, we’ve experienced two different types of fellowship — I mean, fellowshipping — in recent months. One was parish-based . . . the other was faith-based.
There’s a difference. You’ll see what I mean.
Our first fellowshipping came in the form of a progressive dinner. A term that upset me at first, as I thought it meant sitting around listening to people tell me what a great president Ralph Nader would make.
Fortunately, it was something else entirely: a parish fundraiser. For $35 dollars per person, you were entitled to cocktails at one parishioner’s house, and dinner at another.
Nights like that are great, as long as you go in ready to deal with the fact that there are people in your parish who live a whole lot better than you do. At least when it comes to things like square footage, fancy furniture, and a separate bathroom for everyone on the guest list.
Not that I snooped or anything.
By the way . . . why are we, as a nation, so fascinated with bathrooms?
I grew up in an apartment, with one bathroom that was shared by five people, and never thought twice about it. And it was a genuine “bathroom” — no shower. I now have a house with two bathrooms, one of which I never even go into. Both of them have showers, and I still want a third bathroom, so visitors don’t have to walk upstairs to do the inevitable.
Anyway, the $35-dollar-per-person price tag on this dinner was a big night out for us. But we wanted to meet some people, and the money was going to the parish, so we figured it was a good investment. As it turned out, most of the people we met during the course of the evening didn’t seem to be missing their $35-per as much as we were.
This means the conversation left something to be desired for lack of common ground. We heard a lot about the sort of remodeling plans and vacations that won’t be on our itinerary any time prior to achieving our glorified bodies.
We also spent a good portion of the evening missing our son, which no one else seemed to be doing. Of course, nobody else there knew our son, so they had an excuse. But that didn’t stop at least one person from being taken aback at the way we’re raising him. When one woman heard that my wife stays at home with Michael, and doesn’t put him in daycare for at least one day a week, she reacted as if Mary Ann were from another planet.
“What about Mom’s day out?” she blustered.
Mary Ann gently reminded her that the day will come all too soon when Michael won’t be around for a large part of the day, and that Mom will then have all the out time she can handle. She then excused herself to look for me.
She found me staring forlornly at a dining level half-bath that was the same size as one of our full baths.
In addition to discovering vast caverns of plumbing that night, I also discovered something important about myself. I’ve come to prefer Catholic get-togethers that put the spiritual above the social.
Until very recently, that wasn’t the case. Just last year, I volunteered to help coordinate a parish pub crawl.
Now, the fellowshipping we did today — on a beautiful May morning, with our son accompanying us — was of another sort entirely.
We belong to a wonderful study group called FAMILIA (Family Life In America). It’s a program in which husbands and wives study papal documents pertaining to the family.
Suburban nightlife this is not.
In fact, the husbands’ group meets at 7:30 on Saturday mornings, so we don’t take the larger part of the day away from our families. The wives’ group — full of women who, like my wife, know all too well that the future holds plenty of free time for them — meets with the children in tow.
How they do that, I don’t know.
As someone who wishes Good Night, Moon came with Cliff Notes, I can’t imagine wading through Familiaris Consortio while trying to keep an eye on my son as well. I got daring one morning and tried going to the husbands’ meeting without coffee and might as well not have been there.
But there was no dense reading to be considered today, as all the husbands, wives, and children gathered for Mass, the Rosary, and a May Crowning.
I hadn’t been to a May Crowning since grammar school.
In the third grade, Mrs. Driscoll used to make a girl and boy process around the classroom once a week during May, while the rest of the class sang “Immaculate Mary.”
The boy would then hold a chair for the girl, who placed a crown of plastic flowers on a statue of Our Lady.
I’m sure we had May Crownings aplenty throughout my grammar school years, but those third grade crownings stand out for me. Probably because I once got to hold the chair for Robyn Venner — the closest I ever got to her during a massive K-thru-8 crush.
Today’s May Crowning was even better than that one. The love of my life was beside me, as was our son. Who needs Robyn Venner? We led a decade of the Rosary, then spent a couple of hours chasing after Michael and whoever else’s kid needed chasing after, while grabbing little snatches of conversation with people who live and think the way we do.
Of course, it took awhile for the guys from my study group to recognize each other. We were all clean. We usually see each other unshaven, unbathed, and generally unfit for public display first thing on a Saturday morning.
Now, here’s the thing. The parish fundraiser was important, but it was an end in and of itself. It wasn’t about Christians gathering. It was about people hanging out, eating and drinking — fellow-sipping, as opposed to fellow-shipping.
I love eating. I love drinking. And I love socializing. But looking at that night in light of today made me understand for the first time that there can be an important difference between parish life and one’s faith life, and that we should be careful not to confuse the two. Supporting a parish through fundraising events isn’t the same as practicing our faith.
The chatting and child chasing we did today took on far more significance than our conversations at the dinner, because we did it in the afterglow of having celebrated the Eucharist, and after honoring Our Lady as a group of families united by the practice of our faith . . . united by belief, and by a well articulated set of values.
For instance, I know how a conversation about abortion would have gone with the Catholics at that May Crowning. I’m not at all sure how it would have gone at the progressive dinner.