After more than a year of only going places alone, or possibly with one child in tow, our family started traveling again this summer. It’s taking some re-learning for all of us. Returning to taking out five kids, ages three to fourteen, as a group feels like a bit of a production. When we stop at the gas station and pile out of the van, it takes some concentration to steer everyone to the right bathrooms without accidentally going down the candy aisle.
And then there are the looks we get. People clearly notice our crowd.
My instinct as an introvert is to shy away from the attention, but I also know that if we have turned someone’s head, there is a chance we have reached their heart as well. Pope Francis says, “The Lord’s presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes” (Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 9, #315).
In other words, just by going out into the world and being the family God made us to be, we are spreading his message. We are showing the goodness of life, the joy of children, and the beauty of family. (On a side note, it’s good to know God’s presence is with us during the “struggle” of that eight-hour car ride!)
Besides the highway rest stops, another time I’ve recently noticed us “ministering” is when we visit our extended family, especially my or my husband’s aunts and uncles. They’re all of retirement age now, and the joy (and patience) with which they greet our brood always amazes me. I tend to focus on the noise and chaos we bring, and let those blind me to the joy that comes with all my kids’ energy and enthusiasm.
While I’m worrying about whether my kids remembered to say “please” and “thank you,” my relatives are reveling in how much the little ones are enjoying the ice cream. While I’m whispering, “Stop climbing the pew,” the people behind me are thinking, “It’s so nice to see young families at Mass.”
Of course, sometimes people aren’t enthusiastic to see all of us show up together, but the Gospel won’t be accepted everywhere it is preached. Just because someone makes a snide comment or gives me a dirty look doesn’t mean I need to stop sharing my family with the world. It just means I need to offer up a quick prayer for that person.
I often feel like I’m not doing enough to evangelize, but this is one thing we mamas do all the time without any extra effort. As we go through our daily lives with our children, our very presence shouts: Families are good! Children are good! Our good God is still lavishing his blessings on our broken world, and each one of our families, whatever its size, is living, skipping, somersaulting proof of it.