National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly

Archives  | 

Send This Page to a Friend

 Writer's Desk:  NCR's Web column
In this column, a member of the NCR staff or a contributor offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news. It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

July 6, 2004
Vol. 2, No. 13




Sister Rita Larivee Celebrating community

Sister Rita Larivee, SSA, NCR associate publisher

Summertime gatherings often include family reunions. But unlike other parties, which usually recognize the achievements of an individual or a couple celebrating a wedding, family reunions are celebrations of community and our interdependence upon one another as we journey through life. Reunions are not about who is first or who did the best work. Rather, they mark the wealth of wisdom and gifts within the various members of the family, emphasizing how each makes a contribution to the whole.

Attending a family reunion is not for the faint of heart. Though there are no membership cards, lifetime membership is assumed and the dues often get collected when least expected.
This doesn't mean to imply that everything is perfect -- far from it. Families are microcosms of society and reflect similar struggles and shortcomings. Most of us have experienced the raised eyebrows of others if a family reunion ensues for more than a couple of days. Success for such events is oftentimes measured by the frequency of conflicts or perhaps said more correctly -- the lack of such conflicts.

But family reunions aren't primarily about having a good time or opportunities for new vacation experiences. These are important related happenings, and certainly not inconsequential, but at the core of a family reunion is the affirmation of our relationship as a community bonded through deep experiences that often include births, weddings and deaths.

Just think about that for a moment. Who gets invited to a family reunion?

Not everyone we know receives an invitation. For many, blood and genes is the determining factor. But there are also invitees with little or no blood connection. Yet, most will agree that family reunions do not typically include work peers or jogging partners or the neighbors in the area as qualifying criteria.

So who gets invited? What is it that puts the group together in such a way that makes a community out of what could on many days seem like disparate individuals?

It's a commitment to each other that extends far beyond work relationships and church relationships and even friendships. That's part of the answer. It's also the acceptance of a responsibility for the well being of each other that reaches far beyond what employers do for us and the generosity of good neighbors. This too is part of the answer. But membership in a family is mostly about unconditional love for the duration of a lifetime. It doesn't necessarily have a great deal of fanfare and oftentimes very little is said. Yet, just try sustaining a family without it; the unfortunately reality is that many blood relations aren't family at all.

Family reunions are a celebration of unconditional love until the day we die and everything that comes with it. It's an affirmation of a commitment so great that we'd jeopardize our own well being rather than fail in our responsibility. Tough love? You'd better believe it.

Other Today's Takes by Rita Larivee
March 12, 04 Spring is in the air
March 11, 04 Can you hear me now?
March 10, 04 Fighting for the corporate soul
March 9, 04 What's worse than ignorance?
March 8, 04 Disposable words
Jan. 30, 04 Integral reality
Jan. 29, 04 The spiral of existence
Jan. 28, 04 Eight groups of consciousness
Jan. 27, 04 Not new solutions, new questions
June 25, 03 Use closed sessions with caution
June 23, 03 Baseball's best kept secret
Attending a family reunion is not for the faint of heart and you might want to think twice before accepting the invitation. Though there are no membership cards, lifetime membership is assumed and the dues often get collected when least expected.

But should you choose to withhold your participation, you might first want to consider the benefits. What other group will be there to cry with you, laugh with you, listen to your fears, or encourage you upon new ventures, regardless of how much sense any of it makes? What other group will risk giving you life, patiently teaching you to walk, talk and every other social skill to get you through life? What other group will sit by your side should you get sick and need extensive care? What other group will stand by your bed the day you die and mark your passing as part of a greater mystery to be played out?

If there is a sadness in our world that needs notice, it's the heartrending reality that not everyone has a family or a reunion to attend. We all know the horror stories of abandonment and abuse, as well as suicides and those who are lost on the streets. What is it that causes so many to be depressed or to sink into drug or alcohol addiction?

Summer is a time for many celebrations and social gatherings. But I think it's also a time to reflect on those whom we call family. Vacations are important and traveling to a new place is always a great adventure, but family reunions lead them all when it comes to harvesting for the future. Whether we are celebrating our own family or our national family or the global family, the membership criteria might be well worth reconsidering. The world could certainly use a dose of unconditional love for a lifetime.

Rita Larivee is NCR associate publisher. She can be reached at

Top of Page   | Home
Copyright © 2003 The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64111 
TEL:  1-816-531-0538   FAX:  1-816-968-2280