Come in, come in and sit down,
you are a part of the family.
We are lost and we are found,
and we are a part of the family.
A few days ago Pope Francis announced an 18 month focus on the family with an invitation to revisit a document which explores what family means and how families might be strengthened.
It's an interesting and worthwhile choice, it seems to me, given that the "givens" of family life have been altered and at times shattered by the pandemic.
Far too many families experienced the loss of loved ones, particularly the elderly, without being able to provide in-person support in the final days and hours because of imposed isolation, and this was trragic.
Some families have chosen inter-generational living as a way of coping with the disruption and this has extended far beyond the original expectations for time together.
We are amongst those families whose primary loss in 2020 was contact with grandchildren, and while we had a few months of blissful "bubbling" with one household we've lamented the loss of physical contact with another. Christmas certainly accentuated this.
Many of us have figured out how to be family through FaceTime and Zoom and House Party and it has worked... kind of...sigh.
We're aware that the strain of the pandemic has brought the marriages of some we know to the brink of dissolution and pray that there will be mending in the broken places.
We've also seen that Christian congregational families have been stretched to the limit and many who rely on their friends at church are suffering.
It will be interesting to see where these 18 months take the Roman Catholic church. Will there be an honest discussion about same-gender relationships and blended families, given the traditional views of what constitutes a family?
We could all do well to ask ourselves what family means to us in these turbulent times, and how we can be intentional in nurturing and strengthening the "ties that bind." The painting above imagines the Holy Family as refugees on the move, and we can look beyond stereotypes of what family is as we enter a new year.
Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the unity of heart and mind
is like to that above.