This past Memorial Weekend we hosted three families for the whole weekend. We had a total of eight adults, ten kids, ages 2 to 12 and a Great Pyrenees dog. It was exhausting, but it was a blast.
Our friendship with these families runs both deep and wide. We met them three years ago when we moved to Wisconsin. They all attend the same church and participate in many activities, such as Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME), Christian Experience Weekend (CEW) and Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). They are the kind of friends we want to be associated with; people of faith who believe in marriage and family. We have shared with them many meals, birthdays, picnics, prayers, laughter and tears. Each one of my fourteen guests has a special place in my life.
Our weekend together was dubbed Love Fest, because some time ago we participated together in an exercise called Love Circle. It’s a series of six meetings designed to build faith-centered friendships among married couples. Love Circle allowed us to get to know each other at a deeper level and build an environment of trust among us. We had some difficulty with bad weather forcing the kids to be indoors more than we expected. However, they all found something to do and someone to play with. The food was awesome! It was a three-day potluck experience. We played family games like Guesstures and dominoes, watched movies and watched the kids run through the slipping slide. We had a costume party and face painting on Saturday and we attended church together on Sunday.
On Sunday night we went around the table saying what we are thankful for and what we liked the most. The best answer came from one of the older boys, “I’m thankful for Love Fest!”
Here are the lessons I learned about family, friendship and faith:
- When you open your heart and your home to those who love you, you will receive many more blessings than you can give.
- It is true that it takes a village to raise a child. Be thankful for friends who you can trust to be a positive influence on your children.
- You know you have close friendships when your guests make themselves at home… And help you do your dishes!
- Relationships can be as simple or as complicated as we want them to be. If you cherish the time you spend with your friends, regardless of what you are doing, be thankful for that moment.
- Teach your kids that marriage and family are a blessing and that they are worth fighting for.
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I should post a disclaimer. This post has not been well thought, edited or revised. It was generated out of sadness and anger. I just received news that a dear friend and mentor, Father Jenaro Aviña, a Catholic priest, was beaten to death when some burglars broke into his church. He was about 63 years old and he will be dearly missed by many. I remember the day I met him. I was 18 years old. My parents and brother and I were very involved in our parish through many activities like faith formation and choir, and pretty much any other ministry that was needed. My dad had been studying theology and philosophy to be ordained as a deacon in the Catholic church. Father Aviña was the replacement for another dear priest and it took a while for us to get used to him. When he walked in, he definitely not fit the stereotype of a Roman Catholic priest. He looked more like a European scholar. He transformed this little suburban congregation into a group of people that truly desired to know more about our faith. He was a teacher at heart. His homilies were profound and moving, and yet always pointed to a very simple truth: the love of God and neighbor are the most important guidelines in our life.
My dad was ordained deacon in 1990, and became Father Aviña’s right hand man until his passing in 2007. They used to have long conversations on politics, theology and religion. Once a year we got together with some other friends for a great meal and long conversation. Father was well versed in music, history, art, politics and science. He was a very interesting person to talk to about just anything. I don´t think they ever said it out loud, but he and my dad had a profound affection and respect for each other.
They ministered to one another and to our community. Father Jenaro preached many times against corruption, injustice and violence that plague our beloved Mexico. Our land of hard-working families striving to provide for their children has been attacked by the cancer of rampant violence and nonsense. And that nonsense is what killed him. He was an innocent victim of evil actions.
In spite of the very violent and inexplicable way he got to Heaven, I am certain he heard: ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’
May he rest in peace.