Persons, places and things: A celebration of family and faith

Barb Arland-Fye

Growing up as the first child and only girl in a family of six, I couldn’t have imagined someday longing to spend more time with my brothers! But with the passage of years I’ve come to realize the value of our connectedness even though we live in different states and have different points of view.
Our faith formation began in the same “domestic church,” as the Second Vatican Council calls the family of origin. That foundation of faith continues to shape my life and my relationship with my brothers, even if they don’t realize it.
When my brother Tim arranged a family reunion in northern Minnesota at our parents’ request for their 50th wedding anniversary five years ago and again this year, I signed up immediately. Each of us siblings is married and has children, with the youngest cousins now in their teens. Our families enjoyed each other’s company at the first reunion and I anticipated a good bonding experience again this summer.
Although not everyone could attend, at least one member of each family was present for this year’s reunion which kicked off the same week as the 2012 Summer Olympics.  We engaged in the requisite speed-boat/inner-tubing activity, tennis, walks, and smorgasbord in Mom and Dad’s hotel room.
My brothers Tim and Pat went off on long bicycle rides each morning. I hinted at an invitation to ride alongside them, but these guys didn’t want to be held back by their sister. A memory of childhood rejection surfaced, but I banished it.
Spontaneously, the whole group decided to visit Itasca State Park after Tim and Pat returned from one of their bike rides. My parents, siblings and I had visited the park on a family vacation years ago, when I was about 11, to view the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River.
As we walked from the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center to the Mississippi Headwaters, Pat recalled fondly that Mom and Dad had purchased a bag of polished rocks for him here. I had forgotten about his fascination with polished rocks, which developed into a hobby. It was fun to relive that memory with him, even for just a moment.
Minutes later we had arrived at the simple rock barrier that separates the Mississippi River from Lake Itasca. Water flowed over the rocks in a way that entices every kid and kid at heart to cross over to the other side. Signs warned that the rocks were slippery, but I remembered crossing the rocks at age 11. Surely I hadn’t lost my agility!? Think again.
Although I didn’t know it as I took a tumble, Pat and his son Blake had just bet that I would fall into the water. I got back up and gingerly made my way across the rock barrier with wounds to my pride and a couple of toes. Now I remember why my brothers drove me crazy when we were kids!
Some of the relatives had to leave before the end of the reunion, but the rest of us were able to attend Mass together at St. Agnes Church in Walker.
Even so, the sense of bonding with my family grew during our long weekend together, for which I’m grateful. It was a celebration of the domestic church within the universal Church.
Barb Arland-Fye

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