Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Two weeks ago my friend Sarah and I loaded our four kids into the van and drove twelve hours to Atlanta to attend the Catholic New Media Celebration… and to meet an extraordinary group of writers face-to-face for the first time, strangers who felt like old friends because of the connections we had made in cyberspace. The trip down was not without its challenges. My six-year-old and Sarah’s three-year-old alternately adored and irritated each other. They were also firmly united in vexing Christopher, my eight-year-old. His scrappy sister and her sidekick quickly reduced him to whining and wheedling, or playing with the baby and pointedly ignoring the girls. Deprived of the uniting force of their common “enemy,” the girls usually started picking at each other.

At one point on the trip, Sarah gave me a brilliant tip from Dr. Ray Guarendi. When the bickering became insufferable, she made my son and daughter join hands and simply look at each other. For five minutes. When they started squirming or talking, she made them start over. Five more minutes. It took twenty minutes, but in the end it worked. My kids needed to be reminded that they loved one another… that they needed to be kind to one another. From that point on, I had only to threaten them with handholding, and the bickering evaporated like a puddle on a sunny day.

Saturday evening we rushed to rendezvous with a group of CE and Canticle writers at an Italian restaurant near the convention center. We managed to snag a group of tables in a side room, and let the girls squeal and frolic with greater abandon than the other patrons might have preferred… but it was a small price to pay for dinner with friends.

A few tables over, another group of conference participants were discussing a recent message from the Holy Father, who urged Catholics to work together in our common work of evangelization. “Why don’t more Catholic groups do that?” one person exclaimed. “We do… all the time!” another pointed out. She was right, of course. Catholic Exchange, for example, regularly promotes a variety of ministries and apostolates as partners in evangelization. I recently encountered another great example of this kind of spiritual partnership when Faith and Family ran an article about Women of Grace®, which produces Canticle magazine. At a time when many magazine publishers are finding it increasingly difficult to stay afloat, I was touched by their generosity in running even a short piece about the “competition.”

Similarly, both Canticle magazine and Women of Grace/LHLA® regularly provide opportunities for other ministries and apostolates to share their message. Recent examples include Michaelene Fredenburg, founder of Abortion Changes You and Lynn Cassella-Kapusinski, founder of Faith Journeys Foundation.

Unfortunately, this kind of “co-laboring” is not always practiced. Consumer resources, both in terms of time and money, are limited, and many worthwhile ministries are struggling just to survive. With the constant barrage of media, old and new – blogs and podcasts and e-zines, radio and television programming and publishing in all its forms – people must often make hard decisions about how to spend their discretionary time and income. In a virtual world where “content is king,” orthodoxy alone is not a high enough standard of communication. The message must also be engaging and personally relevant in order to attract and grow an audience. Consequently, those who are first and/or best at filling a particular niche do well… while others may go by the wayside.

Happily, a solution does exist: While the “pool” of articulate, technologically savvy Catholics has been somewhat saturated, other audiences exist if we are willing to do what is necessary to reach outside the existing “market.” We need to bring the message of the love and mercy of God to those who have forgotten it… and to those who never heard it in the first place.

holding handsHow? Like the two girls in the back seat, we first need to stop picking on our brothers and unite against a common enemy. Instead of endlessly debating fine points of the liturgy — extraordinary vs. ordinary rite, receiving on the hand vs. tongue, covered vs. uncovered heads — we need to receive the Eucharistic graces with a humble, reverent hearts and share them with the world that is starving and blind, in a language they can understand.

My brothers and sisters, the enemy is real… and he is only too happy to see us turn on each another, knowing that this is the best way to distract ourselves from the real work at hand. But how great is the joy of our Father when He sees us working and playing side by side, forgiving and loving each other. After all, this is how Our Lord said that the world would know we belong to Him: “If you have love one for another” (John 13:35).

Now, I’m not suggesting that all of us join a big, happy handholding circle (especially since hand-holding can be such a loaded issue in some camps…). What I’m suggesting is that we need to practice approaching each other with grace rather than suspicion, mercy instead of criticism. Whenever correction is needed, we must first pray for humility, and the ability to approach the other person as a brother, instead of the enemy.

This is easier said than done. I confess that there are one or two individuals I struggle not to judge, not to begrudge their success. Like most people, these individuals have certain weaknesses and chinks in their armor… and yet, the last time I checked, the Lord does not choose only perfect specimens to do His bidding. Thank God.

So, I’d like to invite you to do something with me. This week, pick one person you find impossible to like. The neighbor whose dog keeps messing your lawn. The brother-in-law who keeps messing up your family dinners. The brother or sister who is far less likeable in real life than the public persona he or she projects. If you can’t narrow it down to one, pick two.

Now comes the hard part. Tape that person’s name to your bathroom mirror, computer screen, kitchen sink, or some other place you will see regularly. And every time your eyes fall on that piece of paper, ask God to bless that person. If you need reinforcements, ask Mary to pray for you, too. Then, at the end of the week, go to confession and hand that slip of paper to your priest when you make your confession.

Every time you find yourself getting riled up by something this person says, does, or is, stop. Remember how it felt to look into that priest’s eyes, and to give him that paper. Remember how many other things you confessed that day, and how often you need forgiveness extended to you. Then say another prayer of blessing. So that one day when you get to heaven, you’ll be able to hold that person’s hand with nothing but gratitude.

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  • Doris Rodriguez

    Dear Heidi, I loved this article, especially the hint about how to handle the difficult people in our lives. I am really going to take your suggestion to heart as of this moment! God bless you in your work!

  • CherylDickow

    Excellent! I’m in.

  • deirdrew

    I am always suprised at how infrequently CE articles mention God, His plan, the Bible…it’s often name dropping, clique-y, homey stuff. Nice for some women’s magazine – but isn’t your best better?

  • Ken.Jones

    I am always surprised at how frequently CE articles address my current state of being. Only yesterday I could have made a material change in the outcome of an unhappy customer interchange had I held his hand while we talked. I would have been unable to sustain my anger at what I saw as his recalcitrance had I been closer to his humanity — his essence as a child of God. While I, in all likelihood, will not find it culturally permissible to hold hands with another customer as we converse, nevertheless the change in mental attitude the consideration of such an action engenders has much the same effect. Thank you for showing us another way to open ourselves to His grace.

  • mkochan

    deirdrew, You must have accidentally misread our tag line. You thought it said, God, His Plan, The Bible. But if you look up at the top left of the page, you will see it says, Your Faith, Your Life, Your World. I’m sorry you made this mistake. I’m sure that out there somewhere, there is another Catholic website you would actually enjoy.

  • Lucky Mom of 7

    Mary, I think you and deirdrew need to join hands for five minutes.

    Nice article, Heidi. I’m glad you talked about praying for people we don’t like. I completely agree with your approach. I come from an abusive family of origin and, while forgiveness is always possible, sometimes “restoration” of a relationship just isn’t prudent. So many so-called Catholic/Christian resources miss this concept. Kudos to you for “getting it”.


  • mkochan

    Not really; deirdrew needs to go where she can be pleased with what she reads. I don’t bear her any ill will at all. But no website can be all things to all people. To hang around here day after day for no other purpose than to find somethng to criticize cannot possibly be pleasant for her. She apparently wants to visit a website that concentrates on faith and Scripture instead of having that be only one part of the offering as it is here. So I am encouraging her to spend her time where she will be happier.

  • Lucky Mom of 7

    Ironically I find your commentary offensive, but not deirdrew’s.

    Wanna hold hands?


  • mkochan

    Sure, Lucky, anytime. I don’t know how long you’ve been on this site exactly, but every now and then we get somebody who hangs around week after week making derogatory comments about the writers or the content of the site in general. It does not happen often — thank God — and generally we are blessed with a wonderful bunch of members who really strive to be upbuilding and charitable. And I am not quick to jump in on disagreements, either. Ask anyone who has been a regular here for a long time and they will tell you that I do not squash differences of opinion around here. But at the same time I have a responsiblity to the writers I have invited here and who have trusted me to present their work and quite frankly I am not obligated to host anyone who constantly nips at their heels.

  • Ken: I especially appreciated your comment about the “hand holding” not needing to be taken literally — it’s the inner attitude that is important.

    For those who would like a verse, try this one: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear… and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:29-32).

    Last weekend when I took my slip of paper to Father (I wrote this article earlier that week), he told me something I thought was very wise: “Heidi, the Bible tells us that ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions…’ There is a reason for that. Even in heaven, we may want to seek out the company of some individuals more than others. Sometimes the best we can hope for is simply to stay out of each other’s way.” I took that to heart — and I hope it helps you, too!

    Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to mention that I recently started something called the “Extraordinary Moms Network” for mothers who are raising extraordinary kids — foster and adoptive parents as well as parents of special needs children. For more information, go to God bless you!

  • gk

    The beauty of Christ and our wonderful church is unstoppable. We just are very talented at screwing it up ourselves. But, when we do find a way to hold onto God’s grace … we can bring that beauty to the world. And when that beauty bursts onto the scene it changes the world, one small act at a time.

    I have a few people that I need to work through. I will attempt to love them more through your suggestion … though I cannot hang their names in my house without my teen agers asking what the deal is. So, I’ll try and keep their names and faces in my mind or put their names in my pocket.


    -God is good!

  • bluepaintbrushes

    Dear Heidi, thank you for writing this lovely article! Your “kids-in-the-car” scenario was a perfect illustration of what we adults sometimes do to other adults, and it helps to be reminded sometimes that mercy is the answer. Thank you! 🙂

  • Claire

    Having been a frequent viewer of CE for several years, I have to agree with Mary regarding the issue with Deirdrew. Mary does encourage healthy dialogue including respectful exchanges of differences of opinions. However, Deirdrew over the past year or so has posted many negative comments, and I don’t remember ever seeing a positive comment from her (I’m assuming she’s female). When her comments are challenged, she has never responded. I don’t understand people who post a negative comment and then don’t hang around to respond to the answers. It makes it seem like they just want to be negative and then leave. As Mary says, since all her comments are negative, it seems strange that she continues to frequent a website that she feels so negatively about.

    By the way, Heidi, I loved the article, and I completely agree with you about praying for people that we have issues with.

  • Cooky642

    I have to say that Deirdrew often ticks me off, too. However, living in a family of very negative people, I know only too well that such negativity comes from deep hurt. Perhaps she’s doing the best she can with what she’s got.

    To Deirdrew: please, come and take my hand. It doesn’t have to be for 5 minutes if that’s too long for you. Just touch my hand. Please?