Dear Brothers and Sisters

By Clark, Meghan J. | U.S. Catholic, July 2015 | Go to article overview

Dear Brothers and Sisters


Clark, Meghan J., U.S. Catholic


I can still feel the anticipation. I was getting a sister, or so I told everyone. Anxiously, my parents urged it might be a baby boy, but I would hear nothing of it. Somehow as a small child I just knew, and, sure enough, my sister Kaitlin arrived shortly before my fourth birthday. Four years later my brother Chip was born, and our nuclear family was complete.

Growing up we had our share of annoyances and fights. To this day my sister jokes about smashing together her carrots and potatoes on pot roast night and how neither of us knows why that drove me so crazy, but it did. Over time age differences shrink, and a shared history and identity binds us as we transition into adult siblings. What does it mean to be adult brothers and sisters? This is a question that has long interested me and one that, as Catholics, we tend to gloss over.

The family is a hot topic in Catholic circles these days. In September Pope Francis will visit the United States for the World Meeting of Families, and many eagerly await the outcome of the Synod on the Family in Rome. How can the church support, minister to, and accompany families more effectively? These are urgent questions.

Yet in these discussions the family is limited to a discussion of marriage and parenthood. Catholic theology places strong emphasis on the family as the domestic church, yet our discussions on the family tend to mimic Western culture's focus on marriage and parenting. An ironic byproduct of this emphasis is the rhetoric of "having a family," as if upon adulthood one ceases to have a family until he or she chooses to start a new one.

In contrast, the primary image of the liturgy is brothers and sisters. Throughout the Mass we emphasize that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, united in one human family. This is the focus of Catholic social teaching. On its website, here's what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says about solidarity: "We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. …

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