In less than a week, we will be hosting a parish dance at St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock, TX featuring L’Angelus. L’Angelus is a family band that has Cajun and Irish roots. The musicians are the Rees family’s four oldest children: Katie, 28; Paige, 27; John, 24; and Steve, 23 In addition to the 4 oldest, the Rees family has four younger children. They are a shining example of a family who is seeking to follow God’s plan for their lives.
For more information about the dance, click here.
My family first encountered L’Angelus at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference in Wichita, KS in August of 2010. Our family has been to many Catholic conferences and most of those conferences have a music related guest, we have seen Mr. Stinky feet, Tony Melendez and Toe Jam, Eric Genuis, John Michael Talbot, Michael John Porier, and The Glory Estate. While all these musicians provided some great music and some great testimonies to God’s love and providence, there is something different about L’Angelus. Their music is very good, the talent of the individual musicians is top notch, but there is something else. The teamwork of this family is inspiring, they work together to make beautiful music, you can’t help but see the joy in their performances. They are genuinely happy to be making music together and as a result, they present a beautiful example of God’s plan for family life. Unfortunately, in our society today, these example are few and far between.
The Breakdown of the Family
We have nine children in our family and my wife and I have been married for over twenty years. As our family has grown, we have explored many different opportunities to keep our family close knit. We have know many families, with far fewer kids, who seem fractured, all going in very different directions and not appearing to really like being with each other. There are several movies, which come to mind. depicting the obligatory family vacation or family party that everyone in the family has to attend, even though the members of the family can’t stand being around each other. We were determined that we would not be that family.
Blessed Pope John Paul II famously proclaimed in a 1986 homily in Perth Australia, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Our current society seems to be designed to break families apart, even in the most well intentioned families. It seems that the natural tendency is for the kids to dislike being around their parents and their siblings and many times the parents feel the same way. The desire to be your own person and do your own thing with people other than your relatives seems to be the highest achievement of freedom. Some say this is just a normal part of growing up, and I partially concur (See Gen 2:24) , but what is at the root of this strange phenomenon and why is it occurring in children as young as 8? What about being “family” makes being a part of your family so undesirable? Has family life become so mundane and painful that any outside activity appears to be more fulfilling and desirable to its members? If so, are we really living our family lives as God intended? God created mankind, male and female he created them to be fruitful and multiply and God himself said it was very good. After all, God does not make junk, he makes good things, perfect things, and in the case of the human family, he made us in his own image and likeness. I think the problem today is that our marriages and our families fall short of the glory of God (the understatement of the year maybe).
The Building up of the Kingdom within the Family
Building up a Holy Family is a vital work that we are called to do. Society may not assist us with this vital task, but the Church does. Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote much about the importance of the Human Family. He penned an Apostolic Exhortation entitled, “On the Christian Family in the Modern World” (Familiaris Consortio) a little over three years after being elected to the Papacy. In this document, he emphasizes that selfishness is rampant within the family and is the root cause of its breakdown. Blessed John Paul’s treatise on the Christian family proposes that we model our families after the image of God. The love between the Father and Son is given freely, completely, and is always faithful and fruitful, the visible fruit of this love is the Holy Spirit. We need to transform our families into Godly families, where the members of the family truly love each other and desire to be with each other and enjoy one another’s company. Sometimes it is hard for parents to see beyond the current struggles and tough times, but we owe it to our children to overcome the difficulties and challenges of life and maintain an atmosphere of Love within our families.
Fun Family Activities
As my wife and I began our own family, we made it a priority to do things as a family, it was pretty easy when the children were under the age of 10, but as they got older and we continued having more children, the struggle to continue to do things as family became more difficult. When you have kids of similar ages, you can pick one activity that everyone will enjoy, but if you have kids ranging from age 2 to 17, there are very few family activities that will entertain and please the whole family. But we are determined that we will find creative ways to keep our family together, the example we set for our kids in this area will be the bar they will use to measure their own family’s success or failure.
We have found some great activities that work very well. Given that we are Catholics, our faith is a central part of our lives. We are very involved with our parish community and have many catholic family friends. We are also committed to praying together as a family every day, and most days that prayer takes the form of the Rosary. I cannot emphasize how important the faith is to building up your holy family in God’s image. If you are not united in your faith, it will be very difficult to be united in everyday family life.
We take regular family trips, taking time out for family time away from everyday life is essential and allows the family to spend time away from all the usual commitments to sports, school and work. Family dances have proven to be an awesome opportunity for our children to not only interact with us, but also with each other. My wife has quite an extended family and thus we have the opportunity to attend many weddings and family events which usually have some good music and maybe even a live band. Dancing to good music (polkas, waltzes, two steps and even line dances) requires the two people to pay very close attention to each other and to even trust that the other person will not step on their toes. It is an activity that must be done in cooperation with another person, there is no success on your own, if only one person is committed to dancing the two step and the other is dancing a Waltz, even if both individuals are dancing their step perfectly, they will both look pretty silly. They must work together to bring forth a beautiful dance. I will be the first to admit this is not as easy as it sounds. We have found that the rewards of perseverance and even multiple failures are well worth the initial struggles.
Activities that the whole family can participate in vary greatly from family to family. Each family is different and has unique likes and dislikes. For our family, praying a rosary each evening, family dances and vacations have worked very well. As St. Padre Pio was quoted as saying, “Pray, Hope and don’t worry“, God wants you to have a happy holy family built in his image, and he will help you to accomplish this holy task, just ask.
We hope you will join us this coming Saturday, May 14th for the L’Angelus Concert and family Dance at our parish.