In Times Like This, Structure is Especially Essential

In this time where the schools are shut down, business is shut down, we are living off of government handouts, Churches are closed indefinitely, we are excluded from the Holy Mass, told by the State that we can’t socialize and are wondering what will come next or when will this end, it is the role and obligation of the father to provide a structure in the family.

This hit home today when we sat down together to read the passage in John about the Good Shepherd. We were sitting on the carpet in the living room, somewhere lounging on the couch and one of my children even fell asleep while we were reading through the account.  It wasn’t till later in the evening as I was reflecting on the day that it hit me:  the Holy Mass provides us with a structure for reverence.  When we lose this, we very quickly slide into lackadaisicalness.  Our Gospel reading family time is case in point.  If we were at Mass, we would be standing in reverence as the Gospel was being read.  Remove this structure and we are lounging on the floor and falling asleep on couches.

The passage we were reading was timely.  A good shepherd knows his sheep and provides a boundary wherein they can graze.  He protects them at night and in the day, keeps them from straying alone into the forest.

The father is called to be that good shepherd in his domestic church and to be so must provide a structure for his family.

Structure and routine are key for success.  There are many books written that discuss the need for structure and routine (See Grit by Angela Duckworth). In a family, the children thrive when there is structure.  Here is an example:  many moons ago, I worked in the area of social work in two different group homes for troubled youth. The one group home, an assessment centre, was highly structured, had mandatory chores, bed times, rewards and consequences and locked units.  The second group home ran under a different philosophy – they believed in trusting the child to become intrinsically motivated and want to do chores and go to bed at a decent hour so they could work well in school the next day and so forth.  The rate of success with the youth was night and day between the two.  The youth with the high amount of structure, once they learned the system, they thrived and were happy.  In the second group home, well … the door was constantly swinging because they went AWOL so much.

In the family, the father as the priest of the home is responsible to provide a structure for prayer and reverence and to work with his wife to enforce her home structure and routines.  This’ll look different for each family.  In our family, we pray the rosary in the morning together and now that we have a bit more time, I lead the children in Lectio Divina, seasonal liturgical songs and of course, blessing them with holy water before I leave for work.  Now, that we are excluded from the Holy Mass, I’ve been leading the family in a dry Mass and spiritual communion.

Let’s jump back to my original point: here I am, the priest of the home, lounging around as I lead my family in a most poignant Gospel reading of the Easter Season.  This has to change.

Now, we all dress up in our Mass clothes, tie, and Mass shoes.  We stand at the Gospel reading.  We kneel, we have a time of silence to acknowledge our sinfulness and we reverently pray spiritual communion.

If I kept up the previous week’s slovenliness, the reverence for spiritual matters would continue to decrease.  Eventually, we’d choose the road of least difficulty and just say a spiritual communion while on the toilet so as to be more efficient with our time.

I, as a father, must keep up the structure and the reverence at a higher level in my small domestic church and watch that we don’t slip into presumption, ease, comfort and weakness.

Blessed Easter Season,

Semper Fidelis