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Father Muench Says...

Musings on family on a warm summer day

Aug. 24, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

So, what to write about on this warm summer day?

Actually, my principal distraction these weeks of August has been the Olympic Games.  I continue to enjoy watching the various events no matter what the sport is.  I also enjoy the stories about the athletes, stories that are often filled with many surprises.  I feel like I have come to know many of these young American athletes rather well.  As a matter of fact, I have come to know many from other countries, also.  It is fun to watch them win a medal and I am disappointed when one of my favorites fails to win.  It is so enjoyable watching all of these sports that I only watch every four years at Olympic time.

I often think about the athletes who do not win a medal.  Have you ever thought about how they feel?  Consider the many who have dedicated so much to train and work hard for a rather long time – and then be eliminated in the first heat.  I will admit that this dedication and preparation have been a good formation for them, making these women and men very outstanding people.  It certainly helped them to move into excellent careers.  I suppose they might still be a bit disappointed not to win a medal.

One of the other things I appreciate is when the television people focus on the athlete’s family.  I like that.  I believe that much of the Olympic adventure is a family affair.  From the athlete’s earliest years, there have been sacrifices by their parents and the constant support of their whole family.  These family stories are truly fascinating.

At the same time, I have learned that many parents, many families, simply will not accept the challenges. 
I remember a friend of mine telling me such a story.  His daughter – in eighth grade – was a talented gymnast.  He wondered about Olympics so he investigated.  He talked with coaches and parents of elite athletes. 

After considering everything, he and his wife decided that the stress on their daughter would be too much.  They also realized that their daughter would have to go into special programs.  They thought that would be too much.  This helped me realize something of the challenges that the Olympians do accept as they develop.

All of this makes me think for a while about the importance of family – in Olympics and in life.  One of my joys in being a pastor has been the many, many wonderful families I have known and worked with over the years. 

I am constantly impressed with families, with the love and the support that flows through them.  I noticed early on that there is something special that come across quickly when you are with a close, loving, happy family.

At this moment, I think of so many beautiful families. There was the one I joined often for Sunday evening supper – a family of ten children.  Each moment with them was a learning experience for me.  And then there was the family of twelve children. I was always so pleased when an invitation came from them to join them for a celebration.  Again, it was a fabulous experience for me.

I am certain you remember the constant emphasis that Pope Francis has made about family.  He called his first special synod to consider family – what can and should the Catholic Church do for families.  Pope Francis then summarized the findings of the synod in his magnificent letter, “Amoris Laetitia”.  It is a wonderful document that makes it clear that the Catholic Church will do all that is necessary to support and help families.

So, I ask you to join me in praying for all families – for happy families, for close families – but also for broken families, for unhappy families, for poor families – and we must pray always for the very idea of family.

May our Catholic Church always be united and alive as a family. 

May each parish pray and act together as a family.

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