Nurturing love through family ties

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Home for the holidays as college students


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Family calls us to community in the most complete sense of the word. Family, at its best, is a reflection and expression of love. As Fr. Benjamin J. Urmston reflects in the Xavier University publication “Peace and Justice- Theological Reflection,” “Made in the image and likeness of the Trinity, the family is a community of love and support. There is no true person without true donation. Whatever is opposed to donation, selfishness, exploitation, oppression, depersonalizes us in the trinitarian sense of the word.” As the personhood of the three Persons of the Trinity consist in their mutual reception of one another, so too does our own personhood find its substance and sustenance in human community, which is first and most foundationally expressed in the family.

This time of year, it can be hard to see what being with family may entail. We’ve just gotten back from Thanksgiving break and it seems that in no time we’ll be back home for another month–right on the heels of finals week. With all that family time, we can get lost in the little things and day-to-day struggles that separate us from each other.

But if we give ourselves the time to be still for a moment and reflect on the family, we’ll see love’s constancy expressed every day. It is that love that persists despite Aunt Ann’s meatloaf, and it’s the reason we keep going back home.

The holiday season can be a strange one for the college student. We’re our parents’ children, but we’re not their children anymore. We are young adults living again in our childhood bedrooms.

Maybe we’re remembering what exactly it was that we found so difficult about living with our parents in high school. We might be struck with a sort of nostalgic sense of childhood and feel a little overcome with emotion; we are not who we were a few short years ago. The family dynamic has shifted in so many little and indefinable ways that there exists a sense of division that we can’t quite identify or place.

When family ties get a little knotted, it’s worth remembering that the family is a little church. Man is relational and is called to love. Through the family we are called to love as Christ loved the Church and to express divine love renewed in act. It’s not static. In fact, it can’t be or it would not be itself. As 1 John 4:16- 17 states, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world.” The very being of God, in whose image man has been created, is Love. The trinitarian act of love is expressed in human community, and fundamentally in the family.

Family and the roles that we serve in our families are ever changing, growing and evolving. As children, our position and relation to the family is quite distinct from the role we play as teenagers and now as college-age adults. Things aren’t as they were and, that’s a beautiful thing. The mutability of love’s familial expression reveals to us the dynamism of God’s eternal love. It is by and through our family ties that we are called to express the essence of our being in love. In all the love’s expressional alterations, not only is this constancy steadfast but made vital.

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