By Barb Arland-Fye
“In the family, we learn closeness, care and respect for others,” Pope Francis says in his Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” on the joy and beauty of familial love. “We break out of our fatal self-absorption and come to realize that we are living with and alongside others who are worthy of our concern, our kindness and our affection” (No. 276).
This paragraph remains on my mind as I think about my brother Pat, injured in a bicycle accident a week ago. The front wheel of his bike lodged inside a seam on the road and Pat flew over the handlebars, landing on the left side of his face. He was riding with our youngest brother, Brian, who was not injured and called his wife Jacque. She arrived quickly and drove them to the hospital.
Pat ended up with plenty of stitches, some chipped teeth and facial fractures. Fortunately, he was wearing a helmet and did not sustain a concussion, he said. Brian forwarded photos that Pat’s wife Danette took at the hospital, which made me wince. The next day I texted Pat to see how he was doing and to let him know that our family, friends and others were praying for him. He texted back that he was doing OK and appreciated the prayers and the care that people expressed.
As the oldest of four siblings, at times I felt protective of my three younger brothers. One time I treated Pat to ice cream at Bridgeman’s in St. Paul, Minnesota. I was in fifth grade and he was in first grade. My brothers and I were not saints. I remember times when the four of us argued about seating positions in the car or whose turn it was to do the dishes or fill the dishwasher. We argued about which of us was Mom and Dad’s favorite.
Pat and I recalled during a phone call last weekend that the four of us looked out for one another. Sometimes we teamed up walking home from our Catholic elementary school to avoid the bully who menaced us just a couple of blocks from home. Tim, the eldest brother, gets together with Pat and Brian for bicycling adventures in Colorado or Arizona, where the two younger brothers live. Tim and Pat bicycled with me on RAGBRAI in 2018 (Brian couldn’t make it), providing the encouragement I needed to finish the ride across Iowa just three months after completing chemo treatments.
Our social bond would not have happened without, as Pope Francis observed, “this primary, everyday, almost microscopic aspect of living side by side, crossing paths at different times of the day, being concerned about everything that affects us, helping one another with ordinary little things. Every family has to come up with new ways of appreciating and acknowledging its members” (Amoris Laetitia, No. 276).
We are in the midst of the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family,” which Pope Francis declared on March 19, 2021 (the Solemnity of St. Joseph). The year concludes on June 26, 2022, at the X World Meeting of Families in Rome. I am grateful for the reminder to appreciate the family.
And, I thank God that Pat survived a serious bicycle accident and for the bond that remains strong in my family of origin.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye firstname.lastname@example.org)