October 27, 2023

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Christ is present in all the seasons of family life

Sean GallagherLeaves adorning our trees with a spectrum of colors then blowing through the air and falling to the ground in the past couple of weeks show us that autumn has arrived—even if it started more than a month ago.

With All Saints Day just a few days away, I realize that the life of my family has entered a new season.

About 15 years ago, my wife Cindy crafted what looks like a child-sized Franciscan friar’s habit. Through the years, my first four sons have all worn it for All Saints Day programs in parishes, at their school and for neighborhood Halloween trick-or-treating.

Each of the boys has portrayed various Franciscan saints: St. Francis of Assisi himself, of course, but also St. Anthony of Padua and Padre Pio.

This year, it’s time for our youngest son Colin to don the costume. He’s chosen to play the part of St. Francis Solano, a Spanish missionary to South America who died in 1610.

With Cindy and I both now north of 50, we understandably expect that the time in which God might bless us with more children has passed. Colin getting ready to wear the Franciscan costume worn by all of his older brothers before him is a reminder of that.

While the life of a family goes through various seasons, sometimes parents live in multiple seasons at the same time.

That’s the case with Cindy and me. While we’re learning how to be parents for our oldest son, Michael, who is now living on his own, we’re also caring for Colin, who is a fourth-grader.

And at our ages, Cindy and I are also part of the “sandwich generation.” While taking care of our children, we’re also affected by our aging parents. During the past eight years, we accompanied my parents at the end of their lives. We are also enjoying with our sons spending time with Cindy’s parents, who, while still active, are in their golden years.

The great variety that God in his providence places in our lives in these seasons—ranging from caring for 10-year-old Colin to being mindful of the health of my in-laws in their 70s—fills our days with a wealth of hues much like the beauty of autumn leaves.

Being pulled in so many different directions at the same time is challenging. Sometimes we can feel like falling leaves tossed this way and that in the autumn winds blowing through our life.

But Christ is present in all seasons of a family, even those that happen at the same time for spouses and parents. All times are one for him. And his infinite love extends to all people in our often-complex lives. Spouses and parents like Cindy and I are channels of Christ’s love going out to many others when we, with the help of his grace, care for people from multiple generations.

In addition to our Lord, we have the loving presence of our Blessed Mother. She reached out “in haste” (Lk 1:39) to visit her aged kinswoman Elizabeth immediately after learning that she was to be the mother of Christ, when she might have understandably focused more on her own needs. She is with us in our need, too.

Having Christ and Mary at our sides in the busy seasons of our lives doesn’t make them easier. But they can transfigure them with a divine beauty that can make autumn leaves look dingy by comparison. †

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