“It is worthwhile to live as a family, that a society grows strong, grows in goodness, grows in beauty and truly grows if it is built on the foundation of the family.”
– Pope Francis
Twenty years ago, I studied abroad in Italy and was able to meet my grandmother’s first cousin and her daughter. Though my grandmother never met her cousin, it was as if they were identical twins separated at birth – their face, their voice, their mannerisms were all similar. Since then, both women have passed, but I stayed in touch with the daughter, my “Aunt Clarita,” until 2017, when she retired and moved to the family’s original town on the Adriatic Sea. The email address I had for her no longer worked, and between a pandemic and our son’s illness, six years had gone by without a connection. Knowing I was planning a trip back to Italy this fall, I spent the summer determined to find her. After going down several rabbit holes on Google, I found a contact that might possibly know her and - low and behold - Zia Clarita and I were emailing again. I offered to come to her town while in Italy, but she said she needed to come to Rome, and we agreed to have dinner at her sister’s apartment.
When I arrived, to my surprise, the tiny apartment was full of family I never knew. Another uncle and an aunt, several cousins, even some cats they swore were related. As we laughed, told stories, and traded updates and explanations of life, I remarked how lovely it was that they were all so close. Zia Clarita shared that while they loved each other very much, it was actually the first time they had all been together in more than a year. “It took our long-lost American nephew to bring us together,” my new uncle chuckled.
As we said our goodbyes, traded photos, and contact info, and promised to keep in touch more frequently, I couldn’t help but think about the communities we take for granted and how quickly we can drift apart. Whether it’s my family, good friends, or my parish, how hard am I working to maintain and strengthen the ties that bind us together? Where could a quick email or unexpected phone call reignite a spark for a relationship that has been important to who I have become and who I seek to be? Which relationships can I cultivate that will bring me closer in my relationship with Christ?
My only goal was to find my aunt, but in my search, the blessings overflowed for me and for them. May all of us be moved to seek out each other in order to bring ourselves, and perhaps those we don’t even know yet, into the home of our Father.
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