January 25, 2019

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Life in a family home gives insight about immigration

Sean GallagherLiving in a modest home with five sons and my wife Cindy often means that boundaries are crossed without permission being asked.

Three of my sons share a room. And you have to walk through another son’s room to get to their room. Thankfully, they aren’t so possessive of their space that they’ve put tape on the floor to mark what’s theirs. But they are understandably defensive at times when one of their brothers disturbs their space without permission.

Cindy and I try to address these moments of tension among the boys in a couple of ways.

In the short term, we make sure that each of the boys is respectful of the space of the others. And if that respect is lacking, then there are consequences of varying degrees for the violator.

Perhaps more importantly, though, in the long term we try—with the help of God’s grace—to steer our sons away from the kind of possessiveness that would lead them to make defensiveness their default attitude when it comes to their space.

Having one’s own space is part of the human condition created and redeemed by God. But so is the call to welcome others.

Ultimately, we want them to seek happiness in God and in his divine qualities of truth, beauty and goodness, and then to share that happiness with others.

I know well that this is a lifelong project because I still struggle at it today. Hopefully, my daily struggle to place my hope and happiness in God alone and to shrug my shoulders at the things of this world—as good, true and beautiful as they may be—will help my sons be content and composed as they grow and are faced with the stresses that come with managing boundaries in daily life with other people.

What Cindy and I try to instill in our sons in respect for boundaries and detachment from material things, however imperfectly (at least on my part) would serve our nation well as we continue to be divided about how we should treat people from other countries who want to come and live here.

Cindy and I are doing nothing extraordinary or new. It’s merely the practical application in a family home of the age-old Catholic understanding about aspects of the human condition.

The Church teaches that nations have a legitimate right to regulate immigration for the common good. At the same time, it recognizes the obligation of nations to welcome immigrants when they cannot find adequate security and the means of a livelihood for themselves and their families in their home countries. (See Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2241).

This is a rather nuanced approach to the question of immigration that doesn’t satisfy the hunger for quick soundbites that seems to be the diet of our contemporary culture.

It’s actually fairly easy to understand, though. At its base, it’s like siblings respecting each other’s boundaries in their small bedrooms. It’s like siblings welcoming each other in an attitude where defensiveness gives way to love.

Unfortunately, too many of our politicians—and a good many of those who elect them—act like children when discussing immigration reform.

Hopefully, we Catholics can lead them to maturity by giving them a good example, like Cindy and I are trying to do with our boys, in following the Church’s teaching on this important topic in the life of our nation. †

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