“We have a good… 15… ish… 10-15 minutes where everyone’s sitting and calm and eating and having conversation… when you try to get past that with a three-year-old and a one-year-old, that’s when it gets really difficult.”
These words resonate with many couples with small children trying to establish the “family table.” Craig Rapp is speaking, as his wife Stephanie chuckles in the background in this excerpt from the USCCB’s podcast, Made for Love. Made for Love uses techniques for audio storytelling learned from listening to hours of public radio, reading books and articles, and taking a free class at the D.C. Public Library.
“Love at the Table,” the episode that the Rapps are on, is episode five, and Bishop Caggiano of Bridgeport and Bishop Malone of Buffalo are on the episode as well. In true accompanying style, they are not the “stars.” They are nestled in among the other speakers, guiding and relating to their people even if none of them are in the same room. Bishops are on many of the podcast episodes (the Mother’s Day episode consists of six bishops sharing stories of their moms) but they are not always the focus. Made for Love aims to share the stories of “no-name” Catholics—men and women living out the call to love quietly and effectively in their daily lives.
Catholics are called to this “everyday holiness,” but often it is not clear what that looks like, and it is easy to be both surprised and discouraged when one realizes that it looks so ordinary. After all, what Craig and Stephanie Rapp are doing, sitting down with their small children every night for dinner, does not seem that hard. It does not look heroic, and many hope for a grander call of some sort. Their lives are not frontpage material. But nonetheless, this is the stuff of holiness. It is like the hidden life of Christ, and Made for Love shares these stories to remind people to answer this call and to share their experiences with others.
As Christ’s hidden life prepared Jesus for his public ministry and ultimately the Paschal Mystery, small sacrifices like cooking dinner every night for the family can prepare a person for a time when he or she is asked to be more obviously heroic. “When Love Meets Silence”, the most listened-to episode to date, follows Terri Corcoran’s journey as she confronts her husband’s rare genetic disorder, meets and converts to the Catholic Church through the parish priest who comes to visit Vince, and says goodbye to her husband who has been silent for years. “I am proof that God is real… or I never ever could have done this. Because I am not one of these strong people, I’m timid, I’m… whatever, weak…” Her life shows how the call to love can be a call to love heroically. She is an extraordinary witness of faith and love.
From lighter stories about sharing family dinner and the role of sports in family life to heavier topics like spousal caregiving, Made for Love explores the joys and difficulties that come when we answer God’s call to love. This USCCB initiative from the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage under the chairmanship of Bishop Conley in Lincoln, responds to Pope Francis’s call to avoid idealization or abstraction (see Amoris Laetitia, no. 36) and shares the real struggles and triumphs of couples and families. It shows Catholic marriage and family life as it is lived out today—ordinary and holy.
Sara Perla is the Program Specialist for the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. She is the host of the new USCCB podcast “Made for Love.” Sara attended the Catholic University of America and received her Masters degree in Theological Studies at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C. She is also a baker, a ballet dancer, and an avid listener of podcasts.