Friday July 10th 2015 – Thinking outside the box!

No doubt we’re all familiar more or less with this phrase which apparently was conjured up by management consultants in the 1970s and 80s. According to one definition, it is creative thinking which acknowledges and rejects the accepted paradigm to come up with new ideas. I’m sure many of us will have either experienced it as children ourselves or as parents when often the box or packaging the toy, or birthday or Christmas present came in, was actually more fun to play with than the actual present itself. Just recently my own children had great fun mucking around for almost a week, with a large box that had contained an item for the garden which, after my deft handling with a Stanley knife, was roughly converted in to a pretend fire engine. To hear their laughter and see the delight on their faces as they energetically entered their own make-believe world inside this box (yet outside the ‘box’ of the norm) brought a whole new sense of Presence of the Holy Spirit in to our home as it helped us as parents be present to our children in a way that was far more wholesome than simply watching them play with their toys or be passively entertained by a kids programme on TV.

When finally the elements and playful wear and tear had worn out this makeshift cardboard fire engine, the transition occurred back to an over dependence on the customary toys. Not that there’s anything wrong with toys, indeed some of them are great fun compared to my childhood, though I have noticed that they tend not to last as long; but what becomes clearer from such experiences, despite knowing it instinctually already, is that we occasionally need epiphany moments in family life to help us continually find ways to enter in to ‘godly play’ with the younger members of our families. The secret is often to have as few props as possible so that the imagination is really fired up. It’s probably an under-valued, under-cherished source of the renewal of family life and the re-evangelisation of the family amidst the predominantly ‘tecchy’ digital environment our homes can be at times.

So it’s great to see things like the Good Shepherd Catechesis beginning to become more widely known especially in Britain ( and which I think ought to have a presence in every parish. And why brilliant ‘out of the box’ creative thinking like The Jesse Box, an interactive learning tool for parents and grandparents to explore Bible stories with children in the home, will, I believe, add momentum to what ought to be the miraculous rediscovery of the family home as the ‘primary agent of evangelisation.’  The Team have even created a new jigsaw version of Scripture stories for families to do together. The same goes for the innovative work of The Wednesday Word.

Our individual and ecclesial affirmation of the beauty of family life is going to have to engage more and more with this vision for a paradigm shift back towards, not just seeing the parent as the first educator but actively empowering them to be the ‘best of teachers’ in the faith too (Rite of Baptism). Pope Francis recently said that it’s time for parents to ‘come out of exile’ as evangelisers in the home.

Perhaps he is reinforcing this when during a homily in his visit to Ecuador this week, he stated;  “Shortly before the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Church will celebrate the Ordinary Synod devoted to the family, deepen her spiritual discernment and consider concrete solutions and help to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families today. I ask you to pray fervently for this intention, so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, like the water in the jars scandalising or threatening us, and turn it – by making it part of his ‘hour’ – into a miracle. The family today needs this miracle.”

I would venture to suggest that the ‘miracle’ of which the Holy Father speaks (for what other solution to family dysfunctions, hurts, wounds and pain is there?) must be the miracle of conversion, beginning with those who are parents.  Families must be ‘called back to Christ’ as Pope St John Paul II taught in 1981. It is only in conformity to His will in all things that families, wherever and whoever they are, can ‘become what they are.’ (Familaris Conosrtio) And the great thing is, it’s never too late to start – after all, there’s always grandchildren, and suggesting ideas to new and younger parents.

Conversion of course, must always begin with me – who I really am and want to be; as a spouse, parent, grandparent, son, daughter, sister, brother, uncle or aunt and indeed godparent. Yes, it’s always time to seriously think outside the box and during the summer holidays one place we might begin that process, especially with our younger fellow disciples, is to spend time before THE “box” where Christ is really Present – the Tabernacle.

– Edmund Adamus
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster

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