Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Community Life

Last night I read a story to my children, “The Holy Twins” by Kathleen Norris and Tomie dePaola. It is a story about Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. The story is very charming and my children were quite engaged by it. It tells the story of the saintly twins and their lessons about community living and Christian charity in two different ways.
Scholastica became a nun and her life was portrayed in the background pictures throughout the story. She feeds the poor, prays, and eventually becomes an Abbess. Benedict’s life is a much harder one. He leaves Rome due to corruption in the city and becomes a Hermit. After a time, he is made the Abbot of a monastery and due to his strict ways the monks try to poison him. He leaves the monastery and continues to struggle on his spiritual path. Eventually, those monks that want to live like him join him and form a new monastery.
By the end of the story Scholastica and Benedict meet again. Benedict tells Scholastica of his plans to write a rule to help his monks and others that want to live the Christian life. She teases him and remarks how funny it seems that he had to go out and live the rough life he has lived and travel all around the country to learn the same things she has learned by staying in one place! Both twins learned Christian charity while living amongst their respective communities. Benedict also learned by traveling and at times living on his own.
This morning as my children and I were having breakfast and we were going through our daily ritual (someone making someone else mad, one of them having a fit and everyone wanting something to eat or drink at the same time) with me there refereeing and calming everyone down while trying very hard to not lose my patience and yell, the thought occurred to me; family life is just like monastic community life. Here in the domestic church we learn from one another and hopefully, we learn true Christian charity. It is so tempting to not bother with disciplining the kids sometimes, to just keep the peace (and my sanity) at whatever cost. Even if that means not raising them and teaching them as I should all throughout the day.
This morning I was tempted to give in to some of the kid’s requests just to keep the peace and move on with my day, but then my 11 year old did something amazing. I asked her to get some milk for her brother and two sisters and cut their pancakes so that I could finish my breakfast. Now usually this type of request is greeted with a big sigh, rolling of the eyes and grumpiness oozing from my daughter as she begrudgingly fulfills my request. I braced myself for it, the attitude towards the little one’s whom she really didn’t want to help, but it never came. She quickly and without a thought did as I asked, and was even sweet towards her siblings! Wow! I couldn’t believe it! All of those little talks and lessons on treating one another with love and respect seemed to finally sink in. Just like that my daughter’s behavior changed. All the work of teaching her about this aspect of our life at home is bearing some fruit. And oh how sweet it is!
So we will see what tomorrows breakfast brings but for now I will learn from all of this myself and remember that making the effort (even when I don’t want to) and teaching the kids to have respect and love for one another is always good for them…and for me as well.