Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Family Reflections

The following article was first written by me in 2002. At the time we had one child and one on the way, and we had not yet lived outside of the United States. Today, with what is going on in the U.S. (which we watch from afar), I have been thinking a lot about the concepts I outlined here about the different types of family. So I am re-publishing it here in two parts, which will be followed by a connection to the United States and it's people.

Turning the Tables: Family on the Attack (part one)
My husband and I sat at the table discussing our over committed schedules, and the over committed lives of our friends. It seems that every family we know is “so busy” there is no time for the current worthy cause knocking on our calendars and certainly little time for just socializing. How do we as a family decide which projects are best suited to our talents and time? How do we judge whether or not current apostolic endeavors are the one’s we should be doing? We decided that what the Kennedy family needed was a mission statement--something that articulates our family goals and purpose. We could use such as statement as a gauge to tell us what projects or activities are good for the family and which are not so good.

Message in a Movie
As I lay in bed that night contemplating the future of the Kennedy family, I couldn’t help but think of a very depressing movie called Avalon that good friend had recommended. It is billed as a film about a family and the changes it endures over a generation. The movie begins post-war and pre-TV with a large extended family living close to each other and celebrating holidays. There is a repeated Thanksgiving scene that illustrates the demise of the family.

In the first Thanksgiving that you are shown the house is filled to the brim--adults at one huge table, kids at another. There are family squabbles, laughter, hugs, tears, conversation, and plenty of eating. The foibles of the different aunts and uncles are pointed out and laughed about. One uncle has a habit of being late and dinner is always postponed for his arrival. Then, one Thanksgiving, his brother opts not to wait for the delinquent one. An argument ensues, the offended brother storms out the door and the break up begins. By the end of the movie, Thanksgiving dinner is celebrated with one small family (parents, kids and a grandfather) in front of the TV. The scene is very depressing, especially in light of the family celebrations early in the movie.

Yet, these days this small gathering is average, or even very good, as far as family Thanksgivings go. What has happened to the large extended family with all the aunts and uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents, cousins, nieces and nephews? Where is the family these days?

Bombs Away: From "Happy Days" to "Friends"
It seems as if Al and Tipper Gore may be right (read their books for all the gory details), almost any gathering these days is called “family”—whether there are two daddies, no daddy, or whether you’re just simply a group of people eating at Olive Garden. In this modern family the individual is sacred and each person is responsible only to himself. If any member of the family is in need, well, there is a government program that will help them. In this way, the rest of the family is free to pursue their own needs and desires.

In today’s family you might have a TV and telephone (with a separate line) {can I add cell phones, computers, internet, etc?} in just about every bedroom; you might seldom see the family dinner table used; and family bonding means sharing a cell phone plan. This type of family has been called “atomistic” and it tends to be weak and easily broken up.

A stronger type of family is the Father Knows Best-Leave it to Beaver model. In the “domestic family”, the family is confined to one household with the father as the head. Relationships are strong between the immediate family, but are generally limited to the household. Relations with extended family are either non-existent or mostly social (i.e. seen on holidays). This is the family that plays soccer together on weekends, and perhaps enjoys a Saturday night video with popcorn. They eat together when possible, but family mealtime may not take precedence over many outside activities…except on holidays. In the domestic family, each individual’s independence is fostered by the family.

This Father Knows Best variety is the one many Christians idealize. Subsequently, we tend to interpret Scripture’s references to family in light of this domestic type. But is the “domestic family” the strongest family model? Not necessarily.

Men you can trust….? Mel Gibson, Joe Kennedy and Jacob
There is a type of family most common when a culture or society is at it’s peak. This kind of family is found in Brave Heart, in the legends of the Hatfields and McCoys, in the Kennedy Compound in Cape Cod, and even in the Bible. It is the family represented in the first Thanksgiving scene in the movie Avalon. Strong extended family relationships and a sort of inner governmental structure, as in a family council or influential patriarch/matriarch, characterize the “trustee family”.

In the trustee family marriage and children are sacred and essential to the structure of the family. The family is held together by the relationships between husband and wife and parent and child. The members of the family are caretakers of the family trust (it could be the family name, land, fortune, etc) and all work together for the sake of this trust. The individual is expected to sacrifice for the sake of the family. This is the family we find in the Scriptures—think of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

It is important to note that when the “trustee” family is strongest, the state is at it’s weakest or smallest. This is primarily because the family takes care of much of what the state would otherwise handle – care for the poor, widowed, orphaned, elderly, sick; marriage and divorce; even crime and punishment. Catholic social teaching has a similar principle called the “principle of subsidiarity”, which, simply put, means that the smallest possible body takes care of the problem. So, we start with the family, then the parish community, the town, the county, the state, etc. 

Part 2 of this article will follow in the next day or so. And then I want to make some further connections to the United States today. Stay tuned....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Me and My Dad

In memory of my Dad on Father's Day. 
We miss you Dad!
I think this was an annual trip there for awhile. That's me in the pink pants. 
He took us on a family vacation in San Francisco. I am wearing plaid pants and a baseball cap. 

He encouraged me to keep on working. 
Here we are after graduation from Cal State Long Beach. 
He helped me celebrate way more than 25 birthdays.

He walked me down the aisle. 

This is my last visit with Dad. 
I love you Dad!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Papa's Day!

The GI Kids here. Last night, at 0100 hours, wearing our camo-jammies, we snuck downstairs and hacked into Mama's computer to write this blog post. We wanted to find some of our favorite memories with our Papa, and here they are. These were taken in places as exotic as.... Caleeeforneeya.....(you know, that place far away that they keep telling us is home) and places as normal as Rome, Paris, England, and Scotland. Here is just a glimpse of our 
Life With Papa: 

We love you Papa!!!!
The GI Kids
codenames: M, D and A

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Bones of St Peter: Part 2

Rome , June 2007. Looking out onto St. Peter's Square. Look how young those kids are!!!!!

And now for the rest of the story.....

Then, after years of waiting, the report was given: the bones were definitely from the first century and they were the bones of two different men and one woman. Both men, however, died in their early thirties. The bones could not possibly belong to St. Peter. It seemed as if, somewhere along those 2000 years, Peter’s bones had been lost. I was crushed!

But, Father continued his story. The excavations had not stopped when the bones had been found in the monument. One of the scientists still working on the excavations was a young female doctor of ancient Greek who had been called in to decipher the writings on the retaining wall built against the ancient Roman monument. Working from a picture, she found the name Peter written in Greek and a picture of what looked like keys. The woman asked to see the real wall and was granted a visit to the excavations. A security guard took her to the spot under St. Peter’s and stood by, holding a lantern, while she looked. The lady doctor looked at the wall and inside the hole near where the writing was found. At one point she said, under her breath, “I wish I could see what was in here.” The guard said proudly, “You can.”

Father Landry explained that it just so happened that the guard was one of two men present when the items in the hole were discovered years earlier. At the time of the discovery, the original set of bones was being tested, and excavations were continuing in surrounding areas. However, a water main broke and caused all officials to leave the site of the wall immediately, leaving the guard and one official who noticed the contents of the hole. Inside the wall were some bones and a slab of rock, which the official and the guard carefully boxed and stored.

The guard recounted the story and took the doctor to the warehouse, where they tracked down the box, containing bones and a slab of rock. Upon looking at the rock, the doctor immediately saw the name Peter in Greek.  Closer inspection revealed the phrase: Peter is here.

Our little tour group stood in silence. The damp, musty walls surrounded us, holding on to their secrets. Father continued the story. In the meantime, Pope Pius XII had died and Pope Paul VI was given the responsibility to continue the search. After some discussion and deliberation, it was decided to call the doctor who had tested the first set of bones. Again, they had to wait for him to be free, but eventually the bones were tested. Father paused while I held my breath. Were the bones really those of St. Peter? I knew that it wouldn’t shake my faith if they weren’t. I believed that Peter was martyred and buried there and that the basilica was built on his grave. However, if the bones were really found under the altar of St. Peter’s, my trust in tradition (not Tradition) would be strengthened.

Father Landry continued: The doctor’s report came back to the Vatican. The bones found in the retaining wall indeed dated to the first century and were all from one man, who died in his 60’s. In addition, the bones had purple die in them, indicating that they had been wrapped in very expensive royal cloth usually used to wrap the bodies of kings or emperors. If the body had been wrapped, the die would not have sunk into the bones, but would have disintegrated with the cloth and the flesh. It must have been the bones themselves that were wrapped, perhaps by Constantine as he prepared to build his large monument on the site.

My heart, which was at that point still in my throat, began to beat even harder as I realized that I was at that point standing just a few feet away from the bones of St. Peter. As Father had told us early in our tour, we were like those first century Christians who secretly visited the Roman grave yard on Vatican Hill, just to be near the great Peter.

In 1964, Pope Paul VI announced that the bones of St. Peter had been discovered. It was his job to decide whether the relics should be put on display for the veneration of the faithful, or left in their original spot—in the wall, under the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Pope decided that when Christ said, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church” (Mt. 16:18), He meant that spiritually (since the Vicar of Christ is the foundation on which the Church stands) AND he meant it physically—the Mother Church of all Churches stands on the bones of St. Peter himself. And there, to this day, those bones remain.

The Basilica of Peter is not just a beautiful building, though it is very definitely beautiful. It is, in fact, a visible, tangible symbol intended by God to point us to the deeper realities of our Faith. Christ founded His Church on the institution of the Papacy, beginning with the man Peter. That institution stands in tact, having been protected by the Holy Spirit for two millennia, as a means of protecting and passing on Divine Revelation. And the building built on Peter’s bones stands as a visible sign of Christ’s intentions for His Church.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


(This picture was taken in June 2007 on our second family trip to Rome)

Just a few months ago our last chance to visit one of my favorite places on earth, Rome, was lost to an Icelandic Volcano. Don't feel too sorry for us though, since we have been three times before (not including the times both Jim and I went before we met). 
However, ten years ago this month I made my first trip to that city. I was single (that state of being was soon to end....a story for another day) and traveled alone, though a friend was in Rome that same week. 
And just a few days from now, my brother-in-law John and his son Callum will take their first trip to Rome. In honor of all these events, I am posting something I wrote shortly after my first trip. This story is in large part why Rome is my favorite place on earth. 
Since it is long I will post it in two parts. 

In the summer of 2000, the great year of Jubilee, I had the privilege of taking a pilgrimage to Rome. Before I left, many more experienced pilgrims gave me their advice for my trip. Though I didn’t know it at the time, the best advice I received was to “go on the Scavi tour”.

At first, I didn’t know what a Scavi tour was. My friend graciously informed me that it was a tour of the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica and then gave me the e-mail address for that office. I e-mailed and received my reservation for a tour. This was the extent of my preparation for what would be the highlight of my pilgrimage.

On that day, my friend and I arrived at St. Peter’s Basilica and proceeded to walk up to the Swiss Guards, as we were told. They stopped us with a raised hand and a stern look. I merely uttered the words: “Scavi Tour” and we were beckoned forward and directed to a small office where we waited for our guide and the rest of our group.

The guide was a young American priest, Fr. Roger Landry, who was just three days away from the first anniversary of his ordination. This would be one of the last tours he would give for a long time, since he was returning to the states.

The tour began and Fr. Roger set the stage. We were to imagine ourselves as first century Christians. He pointed his finger to a barely noticeable square of concrete in the center of the asphalt driveway on which we were standing. Father told us that this square marked the spot where the ancient obelisk was located in the center of the circus. He emphasized that this was the location of martyrdom for many of the early Christians. In fact, one very famous Christian was crucified upside down there a little less than 2000 years ago. Due to this person’s fame among Christians, a Roman guard saved his body from cremation and secretly buried it on Vatican Hill, the spot on which now sits St. Peter’s Basilica. I knew when I heard that the mysterious martyr had been crucified upside down that Fr. Roger was referring to St. Peter, the first pope. This was my first clue that the tour had anything to do with this famous early Christian.

Fr. Roger led our group through a hallway and into a small rock-walled room. It felt much like a museum in this room. There were several glass boxes with models of different buildings. We gathered around one such glass box and Father continued the story. St. Peter’s gravesite became an instant pilgrimage site and was secretly visited by many Christians who risked their lives to be near him. They would bring pieces of cloth to touch to his grave and bring back to their sick relatives. These were some of the first relics.

Eventually, Father explained, these Christians began to secretly bury their dead in the abandoned Roman graves of this graveyard in an effort to lay their loved ones close to St. Peter. At one point, Peter’s grave was disguised as a Roman grave with a small monument that usually indicated a military hero. Fr. Roger showed us a detailed model of this small monument.

The story says that when Christianity was legalized, Constantine built a large monument on the spot. Later the Basilica, which is the mother church of the worldwide Catholic Church, would be built. Apparently, this story of St. Peter’s bones had been passed on from generation to generation, but not since the third century had anyone actually seen the bones. I wondered what was the likelihood of Peter’s bones actually being under the basilica. Then Father Roger caught my attention with the next key to the story.

In 1939, while burying Pope Pius XI in the crypt under St. Peter’s, Vatican officials uncovered an ancient Roman wall. This was all the impetus they needed to begin excavations and see if they could possibly discover the bones of St. Peter somewhere under the Basilica.

Now I was fascinated. The story had become a great mystery since I had no idea that there had been any attempt to uncover the actual whereabouts of Peter’s bones. I couldn’t help but think of the incredible sign given by Christ Himself, if those bones were actually under the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. When Christ said “On this rock I will build my Church”, maybe He meant it both figuratively and physically!

My attention went back to Fr. Roger. He was explaining about the publicity surrounding these great archeological possibilities. Though the search for Peter’s bones was originally widely publicized, during World War II there was some fear of Hitler attempting to steal the bones-- if they were found. So, Pope Pius XII decided to take his project underground, so to speak. He staged a mock closing of the excavations, and secretly continued them throughout the war.

I followed Fr. Roger down dusty hallways with many twists and turns. The air was humid and an occasional rope blocked off an area where archeologists were still working on restoring a tomb. As I said above, this Roman graveyard had been slowly taken over by Christians some time in those early centuries. There were small rooms in which we could see ancient urns and early Christian mosaics intermingled with the Roman symbols. Fr. Roger commented on the fact that certain hallways that were open last week, were closed this week, and visa versa. All of these facts contributed to the excitement that was building in my chest. I felt as if I were there in the 1940’s, digging with archeologists and wondering if St. Peter’s bones would be found.

Father stopped our group in certain spots to continue the story. I stood as close as possible because I wanted to hear every word. The suspense kept building and I am sure that my mouth gaped open as my heart jumped to my throat.

He told us that eventually, the archeologists uncovered what looked like an ancient Roman monument and it was located directly beneath the altar of St. Peter’s, just as the tradition told them it would be. Reminding us of the model we saw at the beginning of our tour, he showed us that beyond a roped off pathway, through a small hole on the wall, we could see parts of that monument. I could see the edge of a small column.

He told us that some time in the forties, bones were found in the center of that monument, just where they should be. Excitement filled the little room in which we stood, much as it must have filled that same room some sixty years earlier. The Vatican quickly found a world-renowned doctor to test the bones and see if indeed they belonged to a first century man who died in his 60’s, as Peter would have. However, the doctor needed time to clear his schedule and set aside the many months it would take.

Pope Pius XII believed the bones of St. Peter had been found and had brought some small fragments to his chamber in a reliquary. He and all the archeologists and the few Vatican officials in on the search awaited the doctor's word. Then, after years of waiting, the report was given: 


Were these the bones of St. Peter?
Think you know the rest of the story?
Stay tuned to find out....same blog-time, same blog-channel......

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Works for Us: The Family Rosary

Thanks to Jim's persistence, we have been doing a nightly rosary with our kids (8,6,4) for two years now. Now, there are nights when one or more kids gets sent to the stairs, usually in tears, over some sort of inappropriate behavior or other. The tears, however, are as much about missing the rosary as they are about "being in trouble". So, in spite of me (I am much quicker to give up than Jim is), we have persevered. And we are very glad we have. 

This picture was taken in the little Chapel dedicated to St. Margaret of Scotland at Edinburgh Castle. 

One thing we had to get our heads around at first was that when we do the rosary with little ones we have to roll back our expectations for our own meditation and remember that the kids are learning how to say the prayers, to remember the names of the mysteries, and to be quiet through prayer time. That being said, we do a short rosary---each mystery we say one Our Father, one Hail Mary, one Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer (O Jesus). Now we do all five mysteries this way each night, but at the beginning we would do three (or even one) along with all the beginning and ending prayers (we have added prayers to the end like a litany of all of our family saints). 

Another factor that made the family rosary work so well for us in the end was that we do this at bedtime, with the kids in bed and lights out. In the beginning they all fell asleep during some part of the rosary. Now, they mostly stay awake and they take turns leading each mystery. Four year old A. can say all the prayers by heart including the Creed (though you my have trouble recognizing it...she tends to skip words :)) and that is ONLY from saying the rosary together each night! In other words, I didn't spend any time teaching her the prayers outside of our actual prayer time. Eight year old M. can lead the entire rosary, saying all the prayers and remembering each of the mysteries in order. Six year old D. can do it almost as well as his big sister.

Our nightly rosary routine really works for us!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Economics Storytime

The Story of the Broken Window and The Invisible Tailor

Once upon a time there was a Baker who lived in a town filled with happy philosophers. One day a vandal came through the town and threw a rock through the window of the baker's shop. The Baker came out to survey the damage and a crowd of Happy Philosophers gathered. They began to philosophize about the damage done to the Baker. Then one cheerful fellow pointed out that this broken window would really help the community. "Because, you see, the Baker must now hire the Glazier to put a new window into his shop." And this, of course, is good for the Glazier, who will then take this money earned and spend it in another business. This chain of events will stimulate the economy of the happy town, and make everyone happier.

But the Happy Philosophers could not see the one who would be hurt by the broken window. You see, the Baker had planned on using his money to buy a new suit. He was going to employ the Invisible Tailor to make it for him, who in turn would take this money earned and spend it in another business. This chain of events would have stimulated the economy of the happy town. But no one could see the Tailor or the suit he made...since it never was produced due to the Baker's lack of funds.

MORAL of the STORY: If the Government claims that they can stimulate the economy by spending 780 billion dollars to build bridges, don't forget all of the Invisible Shopkeepers, who won't be employed by all of the Taxpayers, who must be taxed to pay the Builders to build the bridge.

Bloggers Note: This story is not mine, just the retelling of it. I heard it first from Walter E Williams on the Rush Limbaugh show, but you can find it on the internet. Just google "The Broken Window Fallacy".

Friday, June 4, 2010


I shoed a horse this morning. Just part of my motherly duties. The horse's name was Spirit, and she had pink toenails (courtesy of her babysitter) and she had her shirt on backwards (courtesy of her four year old self). I was informed that I was really helping her since putting shoes on a horse doesn't hurt and Spirit was really "bixcited" to get them. Glad I could be of service. Of course this same little horsey will scream at the top of her lungs when I put her hair in ponytails. Guess that isn't as "bixciting" as horseshoes. Who knew that motherhood would require such a wide range of skills?

If you knew anything about horses you would know that this white horse is called Bob. 
In fact, all white horses are called Bob.