A very special kind of family vacation
“The family is the wellspring of all fraternity, and as such it is the foundation and the first pathway to peace, since, by its vocation, it is meant to spread its love to the world around it” (Pope Francis, Message for the 47th World Day of Peace, 1 January 2014).
One of the families who organize Family Rural Projects in different parts of Mexico
Lucy and her family are Mexican. For the past 15 years, they have spent every Holy Week participating in a Family Rural Project. They have discovered that vacations are primarily family activities and therefore an ideal opportunity to grow together as a family, or in other words, that after their vacations they should each be a slightly better person.
What are “Family Rural Projects”?
They are social projects that the whole family takes part in, joining up with other families. The aim is to spend some days of our vacations working together, and also sharing the religious services and celebrations of Holy Week and Easter with people in need.
The idea is for everyone in the family to pitch in, from the youngest to the grandparents if they want to. We’ve had 4-month-old babies with us, because when you’ve got 100 people there are always some arms to look after them. Grandparents have a lot they can contribute. The first year, a lovely grandmother took charge of giving a homely touch to the camp, and she organised the cooking, the housework, tidying up, all of that. Another year, a grandfather brought fruit-tree saplings and went round all the houses in the village with his spade, planting the young trees, with his grandchildren. Everyone has a skill to offer, and teams are quickly formed: painters, bricklayers, hairdressers, dressmakers, teachers, family counsellors, doctors and more.
Why do you and your family choose to spend Holy Week “on the peripheries”, as Pope Francis puts it?
We realised that in the city, the Holy Week vacation was turning into yet another time of entertainment in unchristian surroundings, and that the religious meaning and practice of Holy Week and Easter were being ignored. So we thought of going to the countryside, so that we could take part in the religious ceremonies and celebrate together with friends. Generally speaking, in Mexican country villages the Holy Week ceremonies are beautifully done and each has its own local tradition. Then we saw a way of making the best of them, and if we also find that the poorest people are living in those little villages, then we could do something to help and not just ignore them.
Vacations are primarily family activities, and therefore an ideal opportunity to grow together as a family
Pope Francis has given a new impetus to all of this, because he keeps shaking us up with his teachings on charity and setting us an example himself on how to overcome our indifference and go out to people who are lonely, sick, and in need – to get out of ourselves.
Some of the 350 people who came from Guadalajara in Mexico to work in 20 rural communities
What difference has this project made to your family?
It’s a way of teaching virtue without saying a single word. Virtues like sobriety, resilience, generosity, piety, etc. The kids see that their dads and moms can sleep in tents, and repair the roof her house for an old lady, make up a sick person’s bed for them, eat the food that has been cooked for 100 people without any rude remarks or asking for anything special for themselves, look after someone else’s children to give them a chance to rest or pray or take part in some other activity. So there are very many ways of putting into practice all the virtues involved in living together and getting on with others, in charity.
When the children are young they quickly get interested in coming on the project, and they always come home saying it was the best vacation ever. When they get a bit older, you need to find other ways to persuade them to come – by inviting some of their friends, or their boyfriend or girlfriend, to come too. Like that the number of people taking part keeps going up, because then those friends get their own families to start going. This year Tomas, 13, invited several of his classmates along, and their moms called us saying that they wanted to come with the whole family because of Tomas’s invitation.
Everyone has a skill to offer and teams are quickly formed: painters, bricklayers, hairdressers, dressmakers, teachers, family counsellors, doctors and more
What do St Josemaria’s teachings add to your family life?
His teachings are like the compass that orientates my spiritual life, and they provide the drive for my family, social and professional life. In St Josemaria’s life and work I find an answer to every situation I go through, a helpful suggestion in times of success or failure – plenty of those for me! – and a word of timely advice whenever I have to take a decision.
Many of St Josemaria’s teachings are about helping those in need, and teaching catechism, which is exactly what we are doing in these Family Rural Projects. From the time when he was a very young man, St Josemaria used to visit the poorest districts of Madrid to teach catechism classes and visit the poor and the sick. He would often take a group of university students and pass on to them his own experience: what sort of services they could offer on the material plane, what advice and consolation they could give, etc. All of that is contained in his teachings.
Pope Francis talks about how the Church needs happy families, and he is asking all Christians to pray for the upcoming Synod on the Family. What can families do to build their own happiness?
You build happiness in the family by filling the ordinary everyday things with love, so that things that look insignificant actually become unique, marking the lives of every family member. Vacations and trips can be filled with love and affection. And if you take them together with other families, each contributing their own uniqueness, then you’ve got stories and memories to laugh over for the rest of the year.
List of Contents
- The real meaning of a pilgrimage
- Because of two friends
- “There’s something of a grandfather about God”
- “Be faithful, be an apostle,” John Paul II told me
- My Home is My New Catwalk
- Thanks to St Josemaria’s Intercession, My Back Pain was Cured
- My Life Opened to the Beauty of Life Itself
- "Never Stop Working on Making Your Marriage Better"
- St. Josemaria Taught Me How to Work with Love
- Our Family isn’t a Fairy-Tale, it’s for Real
- A very special kind of family vacation
- St. Josemaria helps me as a seminarian