A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Our Spiritual Family Tree

Posted on: May 4, 2015

IMG_1029Maybe it’s because I was an air force brat with no hometown. Maybe it’s because my extended family hasn’t always been close. Or maybe it’s because, like so many North Americans, I’m the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants. In any case, I’ve always enjoyed researching my family tree.

More than just names and dates, I like to learn about the family: which relatives parents named their children after, what everyone did for a living, where they migrated (or emigrated). I’m saddened when I see how many children never reached adulthood or how young my female ancestors were when widowed but happy to discover stories of relatives who succeeded in building new lives for themselves—and I’m always eager to learn more. Because this is my story and my son’s, too.

I wonder whether we Catholics are curious about our spiritual family tree.

On Sunday, we heard Jesus’ words in the Gospel reading:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

~ John 15:5*

We know that God is at the root of our spiritual family tree, which continues to grow because it is nourished by his love. But what do we know about the other branches of the tree?

I’m not talking only about our relatives who are or were people of faith. I mean our family tree in a broader sense—our brothers and sisters in the faith, including these:

  • our spiritual ancestors in the Bible
  • the saints, blesseds and martyrs of the Church
  • the fathers and doctors of the Church
  • those who have led the Church, from St. Peter to Pope Francis

How much do we know about them? And what could their faith journeys teach us?

Yes, we have the list of Adam’s descendants in Genesis 5, the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, the examples of the faithful in Hebrews 11. But in actually reading the scriptures we learn how they came to and lived out their faith. In reading the works of St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and more, we learn how they grew in faith. Through books such as Pope Benedict’s collected catecheses on the fathers and doctors of the Church, we learn more about how these men and women helped the Church to grow. By searching in books such as Voices of the Saints or on websites such as CatholicSaints.info, we learn about how the faith of the saints and blesseds was tested and bore fruit. And through the website for the Holy See, we can learn about the lives and the writings of the popes and the ways the Holy Fathers affected the Church.

I pray that we would take the time to learn more about our spiritual family tree—our story as Catholics.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us….

~ Hebrews 12:1

(*Scripture quotes and references taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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