Family Dreams, Part I


Here is Part One of some thoughts I wrote a few months ago while I was waiting on my car repair. It was a long wait, and I needed an alternative to the TV soaps…

I am very fond of dreams in families. For nine months every mother and father dreams about their baby. Am I right? [Yes!] They dream about what kind of child he or she will be… You can’t have a family without dreams. Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies. So I ask you each evening, when you make your examination of conscience, to also ask yourselves this question: Today did I dream about my children’s future? Today did I dream about the love of my husband, my wife? Did I dream about my parents and grandparents who have gone before me? Dreaming is very important. Especially dreaming in families. Do not lose this ability to dream! –– Pope Francis. Mall of Asia Arena, Manila. Friday, 16 January 2015

I love these poetic words that Pope Francis spoke while he was in the Philippines! They help me to think of my reflection on the nature of the family as an act of theological imagination, i.e. the “ability to dream!” I always remind the seminarians I teach, “To pray well, to preach well and to love well, you have to purify and develop your imagination. You’re made in God’s image to imagine God!” To dream theologically about the family requires me to open both my mind and my heart in awestruck wonder – in prayer! – to all that life-creating Trinity has wrought in fashioning us in the divine image, and re-fashioning us after we had fallen into the ruin of sin. What a thrill! Artists and lovers dream, and so theologians — who are really iconographers painting in words the Word-made-flesh whom they love — must be able to dream big. I’ve long thought of theologians as “master dreamers,” called to mediate God’s lovely Word to the world – like Joseph (cf. Genesis 37:19; Matthew 1:20-21).

Dreaming is also, as the Pope says, an act of loving, and loving is dedicating one’s whole being to the divine conspiracy that “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). I am convinced that to capture righty the deepest nature of reality – which is so beautiful! – one must, with mind and heart united, look at all things first through the eyes of love. A counselor I know once said to me of her marriage, “Our marriage stands or falls on my daily reaffirming the choice I once made to love this imperfect man to the very end. Only when I see my husband through eyes of love, the way God looks on me, am I able to see a charming beauty even in all his faults and warts. I only hope he sees me the same way!” St. Paul similarly described God’s “charmed” manner of seeing us: “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Theologizing about family requires that I am able to read the inscriptions left by God in creation, to see beyond the clay of empirical data into the vast celestial vaults of human and divine love. As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said, “Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean…turning the prose of biology into the poetry of the human spirit, redeeming the darkness of the world by the radiance of love.”

John chapter 17, where Jesus speaks with unspeakable intimacy to the Father of their love “before the world began,” gives us a privileged window into what God dreams about in eternity. There we discover that God’s dream is his people; and the family, caught up in the unity of Triune love, is at the heart of that dream.

This entry was posted in Family.

8 comments on “Family Dreams, Part I

  1. Jennifer says:


  2. n.o.s. says:

    Young JESUS reminds me of my youth …… peace out baby . Pretty Cool ,. groovy man . Who knew the hippies stole the peace sign from the SON.

  3. samiam72113 says:

    Dreams bring hope. Hope is a wonderful part of the picture. Thanks as always for your words. P.S. This is James Smith in Tallahassee!

  4. Once upon a time I, too, waited on my car’s repair. My children accompanied me – a field trip of sorts for them, served with donuts and orange juice to boot. The Today Show was airing on the shop’s TV and the guests of the segment were a men’s duo from Britain doing Cirque du Soleil like muscular moves. I was impressed, my children were entertained, and two of the mechanics even stopped to watch with us as they passed by from the office to the garage. Then everything turned sour, quick. Think Chippendale-ish (as if you or I would know, right?!). Talk about awkward, uncomfortable, AND unforgettable. I’ve never seen mechanics move so fast to get back to work. And I moved rather quickly myself, trying to redirect my children’s and my eyes to something … anything … else. What excitement for 9AM on basic television in the car repair shop.

    All of this is to say to you – GET OUT! All that holiness came out of you while waiting for your car repairs? I want to start doing business there. 🙂 I love it. Thank you.

    • I LOVE your description, Lisa! Hilarious. The difference for me is (1) I had no children with me, (2) I am a guy so am able to tune out absolutely everything save one thing, and (3) I so detest 98% of all TV shows that tuning them out now comes naturally to me. The funny part was when the mechanic came to get me and it took me 10 or 15 seconds to emerge from my celestial haze. A “Where am I?” moment. It was embarrassing. Thanks for the comment and for making me smile. I think of you and Dcn. Joel often, and love your writing. In case anyone has missed out:

      • Lisa Schmidt says:

        Thank you! Kara and Adam filled us in on their visit to N.O. and their dinner with you. How fun. Sounds like exciting projects are on the horizon in terms of your writing. Prayers for you!

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