It is in the family that people learn to become disciples of Christ, develop a relationship with Him, and reveal their God-given talents and gifts.
This was the view of Debera De Cranie Pierre during her January 9 talk at the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) 23rd National Conference.
The January 9–10 conference had as its theme: Let Us Rebuild (Acts 2: 42–47).
De Cranie Pierre’s talk was pre-recorded as much of the conference was held virtually over the two days, livestreamed on Facebook, and Zoom.
The title of her talk was ‘How to behave in the family’.
The Sangre Grande parishioner began by examining Luke 14:25–26 in which Jesus urges the people to forsake parents, children, and family. The message of the text “seems contradictory” as the Second Commandment states to honour thy father and thy mother, and Jesus Himself said He came to fulfil the law.
She said one minute “you’re hearing love, and the next seems to be about hate”. She said Jesus’ point, being made through “exaggeration and dramatic unforgettable language”, is to “love me above your mom, your dad” and other family.
De Cranie Pierre reiterated that Jesus was calling each member of the family to put Him first “to walk with Him, to talk with Him, daily. Jesus is calling us to be His disciples, His students”.
She went on to define a family as a group of persons consisting of two parents and children “but in Trinidad and Tobago, it’s parents, children, tantie, nennen, pappie, uncle, maybe a few cousins”.
In the family, parents are called to be the first teachers but, she added, “every single family member is a student of Christ…must sit at the feet of Christ”.
She said ‘family discipleship’ is defined as the act of training and teaching family members to come to Christ.
Of her own experience of family, De Cranie Pierre said her parents were Agnes Nelson-Hudlin and Henderson Hudlin who had 11 children of which she was the sixth. She learnt in her family not to be afraid to profess her Catholicism, and to call on one another for prayer. “Families must know what another family member is going through spiritually, and temporally,” she asserted. “Listen to one another.”
She stated, “Each family member must remain faithful to the teachings of Church (Acts 2:42), the breaking of bread, the brotherhood, and we must all remain faithful to our prayer.” If the family does not pray, it will fall, and so only through prayer the individuals in the family will “fall more in love with Jesus”.
How does a family keep alive the presence of God? Through the sacraments, she said, quoting the definition of a sacrament from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1131).
She gave as an example, a member of the family preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation. While the member is being prepared directly for the sacrament, the entire family is involved as “every sacrament calls the family to holiness…. It’s not a ‘big stick’ moment but a moment of grace”.
Lessons from a grandmother
How to live the sacraments? She learned this through her grandmother Laura Nelson, who lived “a ‘normel’ life in Christ” using the slang term. She taught her children and grandchildren by her actions about the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy: counselling others, teaching catechism, comforting those in sorrow, was “kind, loving and forgiving”, praying daily, and serving the poor. “That is her legacy. She embodied the sacraments, she lived for Christ and with Christ. These are the lessons she taught us: her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren.”
De Cranie Pierre also thanked her grandmother for lessons in gratitude, saying, “Gratitude can change your life. You appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t have. You appreciate people and pay attention to the simplistic [sic] beauty of life.” Speaking to parents, she said their responsibility is “to teach your children to live in gratitude”.
Focusing on gifts and talents in the family, she related the Old Testament siblings of Moses and Aaron, and their older sister Miriam. She said each helped the other to define their calling.
“Take note of the gifts God has bestowed on your household,” she remarked, advising families to work, study and pray for the gifts received “…for the building up of the family”.
“Your purpose has to unfold, and we are called to prayer, to listen, and pay attention to what God is saying through the family and the Church.”
De Cranie Pierre urged families to spend quality time in prayer with God and with each other, sharing that the dynamic in large families like her own was different as it allowed for “free therapy grounded in Christ”.
Towards the end of her hour-long presentation, she shared on the murder of her eldest son, John Paul, and the importance of explaining to children the spiritual significance of their name.
The murder of her son at his workplace a few years ago was still “difficult to speak about”, but she recalled her siblings surrounding her family “like the mountains surround Jerusalem” and telling her two other sons who were not coping well with the death that “when calamity comes, when drama comes, to remember: ‘Our strength comes from the name of the Lord’ and to pray, ‘Jesus, I trust in you’.”
De Cranie Pierre ended calling on families to “Wake up family…wake up domestic Church, wake up!” as she invited families to find their gifts and talents through prayer to serve God.