Like barnacles…

He was a young, fit, articulate teenager and he was very, very angry.

“I had a massive row with my Mum,” he said. “That’s it, I’ve had it. I’m moving out. I may end up homeless, but I am never, ever going back to that woman.”

In homes up and down the land similar scenes are played out. “Where did I get you?” a despairing mother cries as her adolescent daughter causes yet more mayhem.

Like barnacles, the hurts of the years attach themselves to the heart and how difficult it is to be rid of them! The hard-shelled suckers will become part of their identity and unless strong steps are taken recover the blessings of family life, great unhappiness will follow.

Every day we hear of or read the stories of family breakdown. The endless rows take their toll. “If your bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal 5:15).

But, we must not despair, we must never lose hope. “The Christian ideal, especially in families, is a love that never gives up,” (Amoris Laetitia). Pope Francis’s letter, ‘The Joy of Love’ spells it out. This is no easy challenge.

How to keep on loving in a dire situation. How to keep going when the odds are so stacked against us. How to believe that peace is possible in my home. How to forgive and forgive and forgive. We do not have to be the one in the wrong to say, “I’m sorry.” Will I have the courage to be the first to reach out?

“If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me” (WH Auden).

In his great hymn on love St Paul begins by saying, “Love is patient,” (1 Cor 13). A patience that is stretched to breaking point in many families. A patience that must be renewed every day. It is almost impossible to do this without help. We turn to a good friend or wise adviser or our pastor or someone in our local community.

Above all, now is the time to turn to the Father of all families, our Father, and ask him, and expect him, to send us the Spirit, the Advocate Jesus promised, to help and strengthen us in the turbulent times we endure.

“We should not,” Pope Francis wrote, “be trapped into wasting our energy in doleful laments, but rather seek new forms of missionary creativity.”

Love, St Paul continues, is kind. Little words and tokens of kindness can over time defuse the hardest heart. Good words offer hope and healing.

In this year of the family, let us be generous with these kindnesses, these building-up words and gestures that radiate peace and love and will, in time, transform even the most difficult situations into loving homes.

Sr Redempta Twomey