I’ve been having some good conversations with coworkers and close friends, many of whom have young families and are trying to adjust to the COVID-19-quarantine reality of working from home with the kids being there all day. While they point to the blessings of spending more time with their families, there are honest admissions of frustration and conflict. One of them admitted, “I thought I was a good person until I had to spend a week at home with my family.” While we love our families deeply, we are unaccustomed to the sustained intimate contact that bruises our egos and rubs off the polish we put on for our coworkers and classmates.
Yes, home is where the heart is, and that’s part of the problem. Jesus understood the hearts of human beings, and while he acknowledges the heart as the seat of love, he also recognizes its shadow side. In Matthew 15:19 he says, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.” In essence, if home is where the heart is, it also where our ugliness can most readily come out, and that seems like a problem.
However, that is actually the beauty of the family. Family is where people can be themselves, warts and all. It is also where we learn to bear with others’ faults, learn to forgive, and discover that love does indeed “cover a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Family is the school of virtue precisely because it the context that gives us the most opportunities to practice choosing love.
Respected Catholic thinker G.K. Chesterton says that “Family is the theatre of the spiritual drama, the place where things happen, especially the things that matter.” How true. Family is the place where things matter most; a truth that so many cultures espouse throughout the world. We need not shy away from the bumps and bruises of family life, but embrace them, knowing they will heal and make us stronger.
I pray for all families, especially now. I pray for those young people for whom being with family is more of a cross than a crown, who feel safer away from home. I pray that all of us will find ways to strengthen our familial bonds during this time and not revert to shallow family life after the virus passes. Finally, I pray that the Holy Family inspires us all to make our homes domestic churches of the highest quality, a place where saints are made and sinners are welcomed.