Re-Establishment of Traditions


by Emerson Hynes St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota

+J. H. Schlarman Bishop of Peoria President NCRLC

Sacramental Protection of the Family

(Notes from a talk by Emerson Hynes to the Rural Life Summer School, St. Bede College, June 25, 1945.)

We need instruction because we Americans came to this country in a violent way. Most of the home ties were broken. We came to a strange land where there were no traditions of Catholicity. We left home and village and nation where traditions may have been strong, but in this new land all was new.

Some of the nationalities, of course, settled as units and thus some of the traditions were transplanted. But often they died with the first or second generation. Thus we find our country in many ways barren of the solid religious spirit and practices that characterize the homes of our ancestors in Europe.

Those traditions have to be rebuilt. We are often simply ignorant of how to make our home a place worthy of a religious vocation. We know how to wash floors and operate vacuum cleaners and electric stoves, but we do not know how to sanctify our baking, our meals, our action.

We need confidence because the traditions have been lost. We Catholics without embarrassment walk into church, attend Mass, and abstain from meat on Friday. But in the intimacy of our own homes we are often self-conscious about the countless practices, symbols, and words which are needed to make our homes fitting places for a continuous sacrament.

You may know of many exceptions, but as a general rule, and increasingly as the rest of the nation becomes more secular and as the radio competes, religious life within the family itself becomes more foreign.

So we need much instruction and much bolstering. The instruction cannot be merely by sermon and handing out pamphlets. The priest must enter the very homes themselves and instruct.

The mothers, in their guilds or societies, must be instructed and encouraged to start a few of the practices. The children in school must come to accept it as ordinary practice of the Catholic family.

Blessings by the father before meals and thanksgiving afterwards, the family rosary, the crucifix on the wall and a picture of the Sacred Heart: these are starting points, but they are not enough. There is a wealth of possibilities over and beyond.

Then there are the blessings for the home: for the house, the barn, the parental bedroom, and others. The priest, for example, might perform these blessings as he is taking the census.

It is scarcely necessary to add what advantage the rural pastor has in building family life. For the rural family still has the unity and the privacy and the authority. The chief need is instruction.

The urban pastor has far greater obstacles. He is dealing with families where the whole family is rarely together, once the children start to school, and where the father is away from home much of the day. He is dealing with family life that goes on under ceaseless environmental difficulties and distractions, and where the competition of the secular attractions is almost insurmountable.

We can place his work in the power of the Holy Spirit and practice the supernatural virtue of hope.

“There is also the question of time. Where do we find the time to participate in the Church’s liturgical year with our children? Like these other questions, the answer is, we can find it if we plan for it. We can find it quite easily by looking to see where we waste it. Not wasting it is not easy, because the habits of time-wasting, although they are harmless, are hard to break – as I know from experience. Mothers have this struggle all to themselves. It involves such things as the radio (now internet) habit, coffee breaks, long telephone conversations, chatting with neighbors, a heavy involvement in outside activities. Somewhere most American women CAN “find time” to devote to the enriching of their families’ spiritual life. The joyous discovery is that once we have struggled and found the time, tasted and seen how sweet are these pursuits together, we begin to gauge all our doings so that there will be time – because we are convinced there must be.” -Mary Reed Newland

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