Family Life as Sacrament

June 28, 2011

The article, “Family Life as Sacrament” was written by Ron Rolheiser, author of one of my favorite books Holy Longing.  Here is a piece of one of his reflections on family life and how in the middle of both the joy and muck of life in our families God is present.  As I read it, I am moved deeply by looking at our little family of four as a “sacrament”, but that is what it is, a place that points me to a deeper understanding of God’s life within me.  

To read the entire article click here

“Inside of God there is a kind of family life going on and Jesus has assured us that when we give and receive from each other within a family, when we break open our lives and hearts and joys and frustrations and egos and agendas and finances and share these with each other, we are letting the life of God flow through us and we are giving skin to the inner life of the Trinity. In that sense, family life is a sacrament and, for many of us, the most important sacrament of all because it is the one that in fact touches our lives and transforms us the most deeply.
But all of this should not to be unduly romanticized. To say that family life is a sacrament is not to say that it will not be fraught with pettiness, frustration, anger, jealousies, selfish concern, pathology, and even at times real sin. Our families are never the holy family! I remember my mother, a truly pious and good woman, occasionally lamenting how in her idealism she dreamed of being the mother of the holy family – and she ended up getting stuck with us! Our families are never the romanticized stuff of our adolescent or pious dreams. Nor are they ever the idealized families of literature and movies, where people are still attractive, interesting, and worthy of our understanding and sympathy even when they are petty, selfish, jealous, unfaithful, and sinful. 

As we know, understanding and sympathy in the midst of the muck and grime of real family life is considerably harder to crank up. All of that notwithstanding, however, unless there is present the kind of abuse that violates the soul, family life remains a sacrament – sometimes indeed because of its imperfections rather than simply in spite of them.

It is in forming hearts that are big enough to love and forgive within imperfection that we ready ourselves for heaven.

For many of us, coming home from the hospital to join a family will be our first baptism, our family dwelling will be our primary church, our family table our primary place of Eucharist, our living room our first sanctuary, our marriage bed our deepest experience of Eucharist, and our reconciliation with each other after the pettiness and hurts of family life our ongoing sacrament of reconciliation. It is there that the flow of the life that originates within God, and finds its perfection there, will flow through us.”
How have you experienced family life as sacrament?

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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1 Comment

  1. Kate Wicker

    This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing this.


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