There is so much to look forward to as we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas including the colors of fall and winter, the quality time with family and friends, and the wonderful meals that we share together, not to mention the spirit of gratitude and generosity that seems to envelop us all. But looking on the realistic side, it’s probably the case for many people that they dread the potential of family drama about anything from politics to religion to personal issues. Whether it’s because of your unruly relatives or whether you always find yourself in the thick of it, how do we avoid making these situations worse? Can we turn it into an opportunity for evangelization?
Recently on The Inner Life, Josh Raymond welcomed Father Sam Martin to discuss how we can transform potential problems into teaching moments. Instead of forming a rift in the family, we can bring each other closer together.
Josh began the conversation by asking Father Sam how one should broach these subjects with family members without causing anybody to get upset. He suggested that we first pray about whether we are the right ones to address this situation and then how to do it. Father Sam agreed and he offered the story of St. Monica as an example. “Ambrose, St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, she was chewing his ear one time and he said, ‘Monica, why don’t you spend more time talking to God about Augustine and less time talking to Augustine about God?’” While there may be things we want to say and do for a specific situation, we need to consult God before anything.
It may be that our best course of action is prayer. St. Monica prayed for Augustine every day for decades. Augustine was baptized when he was 33 years old, became a bishop, a brilliant theologian and philosopher, and is now a doctor of the Church for his writings and teachings. In concert with God’s will, there is nothing more powerful that we can do for somebody than pray. Like Mother Teresa said, we are the Lord’s instruments. If He wants to use us to send a message to those loved ones that need it, the Lord will take that initiative through us if we are open to it.
Then Josh asked if we do feel called to say or do something for one of our loved ones, how do we find the right moment to do it? Father Sam admitted that these details can be delicate and can make or break the result of a conversation. However, as long as we go into it with God behind our actions, we’ll know. We all have that little voice in our head that speaks to us when somebody opens up and is vulnerable to us.
Father Sam recalled a story of one of his friends who’d gotten to know one of his coworkers over the years that’s they’d worked together. He knew that she had been living with a man to who she was not married, and Father Sam’s friend wondered if he would ever be called to address that in a moment of personal vulnerability. One day, that moment came and he asked her if she’d ever considered marrying the man she was living with. She said she had, and he had actually proposed more than once. “And he’s like, ‘Well, what’s the hang-up?’ And she said, ‘I went through a terrible divorce…and I don’t think I could ever go through that again.’” It took all those years of friendly conversation, working side-by-side, and prayer to finally get this woman to open up about her life.
Father Sam said that the key to handling difficult confrontations is to turn to God, at every point in the process. We should pray about our decision to have the conversation, pray about how and when to do it, and pray to Him as we address it. Father even said that when we miss an opportunity or make a mistake, we should offer that as well because it reminds us that we need Him through everything. His guidance will provide us with the graces needed in teachable moments.
“I like to listen to Patrick Madrid sometimes and somebody was complimenting him about it. He handles a lot of these kinds of situations when people call in and they’re not always so easy to deal with over the phone, and it’s live radio, right? And somebody was complimenting him about how well he does and he said, ‘Well, thank you, but let’s thank God because I think I’ve made every mistake possible, and by God’s grace I’ve learned.’”
Listen to the full conversation below:
Tune in to The Inner Life weekdays at 11am CT