When Virtual Solidarity Is Not Enough
by Robb Klucik
used with permission
The first time I surfed the internet for things Catholic I was instantly excited. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that so much good information was available free of charge. And the thought of so many good people working so hard to make this good information available lifted my spirits. My miserly pack-rat instincts had me book-marking every orthodox sight I found.
Of course I soon focused my visits to several favorite web sites. The solidarity I felt with others in my virtual Roman Catholic community was very comforting. I took advantage of the opportunity to further develop my existing solid foundation in our faith - this time with a focus on family life. I experienced tremendous elation, enlightenment, wonder and joy. Discovering the details of God's plan was amazing - Familiaris Consortio was a gift from God. My virtual community helped me realize that my strong religious convictions and my peculiar notion of family life might place me in the minority, but by no means was I alone.
I did suffer from a common malady though - I spent too much time in my virtual world forsaking in no small way some of my real-world family responsibilities. Wake up call number one. I also quickly hungered for the sort of family-to-family solidarity afforded only by conversation over a home-cooked meal or receiving a hug from a toddler who mistakes the first available leg for Daddy. It was nice to know about other like-minded families but this could not substitute for actually knowing other like-minded families. Wake up call number two. And I began to wonder what good it was doing to merely read the commentary of those who vindicated my own sentiments. Was I being "salt and light" or selfishly looking for comfort? Wake up call number three.
Putting priorities back in perspective, I set out to somehow make useful the mother-lode of good stuff I found on the internet. My wife and I spent many hours talking and felt God calling us to boldly reach out to other families already present in our life. Knowing our own weaknesses we felt that we needed other families who shared our convictions to help us grow and swim against the tide of our secular society. We had experienced the benefits of meeting in small "accountability" groups like those found in Cursillo and other movements. We would need to reach out and work to forge a sort of family-to-family solidarity with some of the other families in our parish.
What started out as a few gutsy invitations and an evening meal shared by three families turned into what is now called Holy Families! a group of families meeting on a regular basis for friendship, teaching and solidarity. While the adults study and discuss together, the children play and work on activities. Later we all share a meal. It has been such a success that a second group has started.
Where: Homes in the parish
When: One Sunday each month
Why: Family-to-Family Solidarity
How: Informal structure offered by Holy Families!
The Holy Families! web site is not intended to offer the best list of resources or links like all the sites I bookmarked in my early web surfing days. What you will find is an informal, flexible and effective framework (outlined in detail) for like-minded families to start their own Holy Families! group, to join together and share the Faith. It is a framework around which families can put into practice all the good things gleaned from Church documents, the Catholic internet and other good resources. It is a framework in which each family learns how to establish and nurture it's own domestic church by sharing their journey with other families.
In addition to suggesting timelines and important logistical details (which help things go smoothly), this framework allows all parents involved to agree up front on matters of orthodoxy. This can eliminate surprises down the road because everyone knows what to expect from the beginning. This can be done without undue emphasis, yet also without any ambiguity (see the mission statement our group adopted). Holy Families! is not an organization and has no membership. It is a concept available for all families interested in making the domestic church a reality in their own life while growing in faith with other like-minded families.
For parents, Holy Families! is a chance to expose their family to other Christian role models. Children learn important things they might not learn in CCD, put what they learn into practice, and discover Catholic traditions and Traditions. Parents also have the chance to study, pray and grow with other parents. Children develop the sense that our faith in Christ can be present in every part of life - especially when we join with friends for celebration and recreation.
We really do stick to the format on our web page. Our latest project for the adults has been to study Familiaris Consortio. We found a condensed and simplified version of it with study questions. It is not as thorough as JPII's original, but it is easier to read and has good study questions. (The study guide will be published in Domestic-Church. Com soon.)
We of course feel such a close connection to 5 other families now. We also have developed a network of trust in this time of such odd-ball diversity as to what is and is not Catholic. We have people to count on for prayer and during time of need. All the families moved here from other places and I think we have a surrogate family network now. We also feel so good at Mass because we sense that we are truly there with "family". We also have shared and learned so many great things about how to live our spiritual lives. One family is from Mexico and they share great traditions of our faith that we had never heard of. One family is Filipino and they also share great insights. We also have found that we circulate good books and tapes and other info which helps us all in our lives. Our prayer together has been powerful - as well. Especially the prayers to the angel's for protection and to ward off the devil and his angels. This prayer had a great impact upon us all.
I cannot explain the joy I experience each week when my kids eagerly ask again and again "Do we have Holy Families! this weekend?" During our monthly gatherings such great hope swells in the heart of each parent every time...a parade of kids comes down the stairs from the playroom ready to stage an impromptu bible story for us parents... someone asks to see the St. Francis video again...the children share the prayers in their heart when we gather for our meal...they smile and sing along with the Rosary for Little Children video. We are filled with a peaceful joy, confident and grateful that the seeds of faith we have planted in our children are forming such strong roots. Once again we praise God for His bountiful blessings.
You might be thinking that starting up a Holy Families! group sounds interesting but feel that you could never pull off. Those in our group would recommend you pray about it. After completing one year of monthly gatherings, our group decided to share our good fortune with other families. We prayed for weeks to discern the best way to share our joy with other local families, and then we reached out with a half-dozen invitations. Two months later three of these families started a second Holy Families! group. This fact alone should bolster your confidence. All six Holy Families! families are enthusiastic witnesses to the power of family-to-family solidarity - both virtual and real. We are happy to be discovering - together with friends - God's blueprint for family life.
Robb and Laurie Klucik are the parents of Matthew Alexander (7), Milina Therese (4), Mary Magali (2). The family eagerly awaits the birth of child number four in the Spring of 1999.They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org