In my family - is it this way in yours? - there are PLENTY of things that could divide us, like political differences. But there's so much more that UNITES us. And stories are often the way we enjoy that unity. Whether in person or on facebook, it delights me to hear what my grandson said yesterday or what my inventive cousins did for their "theme nights" while on vacation last week (they really should publish a book!). I love not only seeing family photos but also hearing the related tales. I appreciate being told when a loved one is in distress so I can reach out. In my life, these are the things that cement family ties.
Today, in the unimaginable but real setting of the Vatican Embassy, I was among my bigger family. It was delightful to see the twinkle in Archbishop Vigano's eyes and his happy smile as he remembered his explorations of Nigeria, in a jeep with missionaries, while he was Nuncio there. It was charming to find that one of our group had gone to the same college as one of the Sisters who take care of the Embassy, and to hear their shared fondness for that lovely place.
I think of the Sant'Egidio Society's insight that helped to bring an end to the terrible civil war in Mozambique. For a year, members of the society brought the opposing leaders together for weekly dinners. They shared photos of their children. They laughed at jokes together. And only after that foundation time did they begin the work of peace. And they succeeded.
Eucharist is our shared meal. But during liturgy, we don't tell personal stories and swap jokes. And our bishops (even some of our priests) are almost never part of the parish potlucks and Breakfasts with Santa and small-faith-community soul-searching that have been so much a part of my own experience of Church "family." They hear few of our stories, and we hear few of theirs.
How could we smile together more often?