This week the priests of the Archdiocese of St. Louis were invited to participate in a Convocation. It is a gathering that took place from Monday afternoon thru Friday morning down at the Lake of the Ozarks that we have every four years. While the topics presented and discussed vary as do the presenters, this year’s title was “An Intimate Sacramental Brotherhood”, addressing the importance of having those fellow priests in our lives and having close relationships especially during difficult times or times of stress.
I mention this not just to let you know where I was last week, but also in an awareness that all of our lives can be stressful at times and we need to consider how we address it. We know there will be conflict in all of our lives and it provides the situation or the excuse to allow further division. We’ve had a fairly good public example of this in the US Senate over the last month regarding the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Unfortunately, the process was not taken as an opportunity to address the stated concern of the suitability of this judge for the Supreme Court, but rather, as I read expressed by both Democrats and Republicans talking about themselves and the other, was taken as a political opportunity by many to drive the parties further apart based on the political perception of this judge. Too often challenges and conflicts, like deciding to affirm or deny a Supreme Court Justice nominee, are seen as only having a possible result of further division, instead of realizing that they actually provide an opportunity of unity and growing closer together.
Consider important decisions which include some conflict that need to be made in a marriage or an important relationship. They can be looked at as who is going to win and who is going to lose, setting up an adversarial situation, or as how are we going to make the best decision. The more serious the decision, the greater impact it can have on the relationship, but it doesn’t have to be a division, it can actually strengthen and bring the parties closer if we value the relationship enough. Consider difficult situations and decisions you have gone through with someone. Even if you don’t consider that you ‘won’ according to what you were thinking when you started, the fact that you were able to achieve this decision, to work together in an important and challenging situation, gives you confidence that you will be able to do it for future situations. That you have also developed some of the skills and trust in working together that will only help in the future. And the realization that you both value the relationship enough to endure the process needed to resolve the issue.
These challenging situations can be in our government, our families, even our church. Depending on how we value that relationship, depends on what we will be willing to do to resolve the situation. And after having gone through that challenge together the relationship may not only have avoided division, but have even grown stronger.