The month of June has been on my mind a lot lately. Whatever else we can say about it, June can be a time of change in people’s lives. Students become Graduates. Fiance/ees become Spouses. People who had been in school up to that point get jobs and join the workforce. Civilians become members of the Military. Those transitions obviously aren’t limited to just June; but, perhaps, they happen with greater frequency in that month.
May’s Mothers’ Day and June’s Fathers’ Day gave me opportunities to reflect on some of what those changes of identities and relationships ask of us. As you may remember, my mother was from Northern Kentucky, and my Dad was born and raised in Northern Louisiana. They met, dated and got engaged at the hospital where my mother worked as a Nurse, and my father did some of his training to be a Doctor. When my parents married, my mother did what was expected of wives then and, frequently, now. She left the faces and places that were familiar to her to make a home in the area in which my Dad was raised. I don’t think that I ever understood what that move asked of her. All of my parents’ generation is gone now, so there’s no one that I can ask about how she handled the adjustment. I’ve wondered whether she was considered a “Yankee” when she came South. After all, Kentucky is North of Louisiana!
There are worse things one could be called or considered in the South of my childhood, but “Yankee” was about as bad as it got. “Catholic” was another characteristic of concern. A great-great-great-great aunt of mine mentioned in a letter which she wrote that “there could be no greater shame on our family than having a Catholic in it.” As an aside, I must admit that I have wondered a “time or two” what that great-great-great-great aunt would think about having a Catholic priest in the family. Whatever the case might be in that regard, my father’s conversion to Catholicism meant there was one of “us” in the family. His marriage to my mother meant there were two of “us” in the family. My birth made it three, and my brother’s arrival brought the number to four. The transitions required of my mother when she married were more than geographical.
I need to be clear. I’m not encouraging, nor am I discouraging, changes in the customs which accompany marriage. My point isn’t whether wives take or don’t take their husband’s name or whether they move to where their husbands are from. My hope and prayer is just that we can be more sensitive and supportive to anyone who finds themselves in transition, whether that new identity is a marriage, a move, a new job, the Military, whatever. My grandmother had died by the time that I could notice such things, but I watched my mother write my grandfather a letter every day without ever realizing how much she missed him.
Life asks a great deal of us, and we expect a great deal of each other. Each of us needs to make more of an effort to notice when, where and how what Life and we expect has become a burden for someone else and do what we can to help them carry it. We’ve been told often enough that it doesn’t take much. Someone doesn’t have to be a “June bride or groom” to need, want or appreciate a smile, an encouraging word, a visit, a phone call or some of our time. Those are gifts we’ve all received and gifts which each of us can easily, and need, to give.
Peace and everything good,
Fr. William Spencer, O.F.M.