Do you ever dream of days gone by, when life was simpler than it is today — no cars, no phones, no television — time to just be with people, and enjoy the simple things of life?
Yeah, me too. The only problem is that when you actually think about all the time that was spent on cleaning clothes, maintaining a house, and cooking meals — you realize that those who have gone before us might have actually had less time to just be than we have.
Sure, we can choose to get distracted by our phones, our televisions, and the things that don’t really matter — but we can also choose not to be distracted by those things. And that brings me to this past weekend and our trip to Mackinac Island.
Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw), meaning “place of the great turtle” was named for it’s hump-backed shape, which reminded the Native Americans of a turtle rising out of the pristine Lake Huron.
It was one of the first missions of Father Jacques Marquette and it passed through the hands of the French, the English, and eventually, the Americans. In the early 1900’s, it became a favorite summer escape from the pollution and heat of the big cities — and it remains so, to this day.
It has managed to retain the charm of days gone by. There are no cars on the island — which leaves the choice of walking, biking, or riding in horse-drawn carriages.
It’s a bit like stepping back in time.
It’s a beautiful place to get away for a weekend, to leave distractions behind, and to regain focus on the important things in life.
This past weekend, we were part of a “Catholic Family Retreat” on Mackinac. It was organized by a family who know a lot about traveling, being Catholic, and the importance of community.
Though we were the newcomers to the group, everybody went out of their way to make us feel welcome. It was such a great reminder to me of the importance of reaching out and befriending others.
Sometimes it’s hard for an introvert like myself to admit that I need community, but I know that I do. Getting to know new people takes time and a lot of effort — it’s always a bit of a stretch for me — but it’s worth the effort.
I have learned over the years, that I can’t use my “shyness” as an excuse for failing to build relationships that are important for myself and my family. I just can’t.
Which leads me back to the point about building community. You’ve probably heard the term, “No man is an island”, but I’m beginning to realize that no family is an island either.
We are called to go out into the world and share the good news, and we were never meant to accomplish this mission on our own. Even in Jesus’ time, he sent His disciples out in two’s.
And eventually those two’s became part of little communities that supported each other in living out the Christian life. The faith quickly spread from the seed of these little communities of faithful people.
And if that doesn’t convince you of the importance of community, just look at the Mass, the highest form of prayer. The mass is always in the context of the community, and this simple fact points to the importance of community in the life of a Christian.
Community is the place where friendships grow, and these friendships are not frivolous — they are essential. They can actually propel us closer to Christ, far more effectively than if we try to on our own.
Throughout the history of the church, we see the power of holy friendships. There are many examples of Saints who were friends with other Saints: Saint Francis and St. Clare, St. Scholastica and St. Benedict, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine, and St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, to name a few.
It’s no accident that these holy men and women knew each other, loved each other and strengthened each other to go farther than they could go possibly go on their own.
And that knowledge of the importance of community motivated us to pack up our kids and join a dozen other families and a priest on a family retreat. It was a perfect mix of faith, family, friends, and fun.
There was daily Mass, the Rosary, time outdoors, and lots of laughter. It was everything that being Catholic is supposed to be. It was a gift.
Here’s a little taste of our time:
It was a beautiful weekend. It convicted me of the importance of building community. Witnessing other families trying to live this crazy Catholic life encouraged me to keep going and to try to serve God with gladness.
It is important to know we’re not alone, and it’s important to see how other families are facing the challenges of our times.
And it was good for our kids to see John and I and the other parents’ love for each other. It was good for them to see their parents praying, laughing, dancing and discovering fun new drinks — hello, Cosmopolitan — because this life of being Catholic is a very good life.
We can’t do it alone. We weren’t meant to do it alone. We are going to need each other’s help if we’re going to make it through to the end.
Hoping that by sharing this, maybe you’ll be inspired to pray for good community, seek out good community, and build good community in your own neck of the woods.
Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself and to take the time to make it happen. You won’t regret it.
Have a great weekend!
Linking up with Kelly.