Persons, places and things: All in the family

Barb Arland-Fye

My 17-year-old son Patrick made arrangements for a campus visit to the University of Northern Iowa, a demonstration of independence that makes me feel blessed. Growing up with an older brother with autism seems to have helped Patrick develop a growing sense of responsibility in all aspects of his life.
That growth has not come easily, but only through the grace of God and the lived experience of being part of a family whose members are committed to one another for the long haul.
Blessed John Paul II, in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Christian Family in the Modern World, observed:
“Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation. There is no family that does not know how selfishness, discord, tension and conflict violently attack and at times mortally wound its own communion.  … But, at the same time, every family is called by the God of peace to have the joyous and renewing experience of ‘reconciliation,’ that is, communion re-established, unity restored. …”
John Paul went on to say that participating in the sacrament of reconciliation and in the “banquet of the one body of Christ offers the Christian family the grace and responsibility” in moving toward “the fullness of communion willed by God.…”
Sometimes in the day to day living, we find it hard to see the forest from the trees. But with the passage of time we discover how God focuses our vision.
“We might be wondering why God is not answering our prayer, but the thing is, God might be waiting for us to be ready,” observes Sister JonFe de Torres, O.C.D., in a reflection printed in the Spring 2012 issue of “Journey and the Joy!” The spiritual quarterly is published by the Carmelite nuns of Eldridge, of which Sr. Torres is a member. “God is waiting for the right time to answer our prayer, and God knows when we are ready….”
Patrick loved the UNI campus, which seemed just the right size for him. He appreciated the sense of warmth conveyed by the admissions counselor who gave an hour-long presentation about UNI and the student who provided an extensive tour of the campus afterwards.
On our drive home, Patrick talked about his college options and the need to give more thought to what path he should take, including whether he should begin his post-secondary education at a community college, like his uncle Tim did. Since the college visit last week, Patrick has emailed the UNI admissions counselor with questions that could help him in the decision-making process.
All of this discussion about what happens after high school has raised the anxiety level of Colin, Patrick’s 25-year-old brother who was sad to see his own academic years conclude seven years ago.  Several times in the last few weeks Colin has asked me a question, out of a need for reassurance: “He’ll still be the same Patrick, won’t he Mom?”
As Patrick grows in independence, he’s gaining greater insight into the obligations of what it means to be family. “The family finds in the plan of God the creator and redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission, what it can and should do,” Blessed John Paul said in his Apostolic Exhortation on the Christian Family.
I reassure Colin, “Don’t worry. Patrick will be the same Patrick who loves you very much.”
Barb Arland-Fye 

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