And how to help a sick relative pay attention to what’s important.
Ask Zoe is Aleteia’s new weekly advice column. If you have a dilemma, question, or need some general advice for your life, email Zoe. All questions are given consideration and names are withheld.
My adult son is living in another city; has lapsed from the faith, and has just started to cohabitate with his long-term girl-friend. They are now coming, as a couple, for the first time, to stay with us over the Christmas holidays.
How should I handle their sleeping arrangements? For religious reasons, I would prefer if they had separate rooms. On the other hand, we love them both very much and want them to feel welcome and “at home” with us. Our greatest fear is that we might alienate them both by forcing unwanted sleeping arrangements on them and, with this overt expression of disapproval, the long term negative consequences that it might have for our relationship with them.
My inclination at the moment is to let them choose whichever sleeping arrangement they wish without expressing any preference on our part. I would be grateful for any advice you can offer.
Wondering about sleeping arrangements
I understand your conflict here: You want your son and his girlfriend to feel welcomed and enjoy their stay, but you’re not exactly thrilled that they’re living—and sleeping—together without being married.
I think the situation calls for a conversation with your son before they arrive. Call or email him and be honest about it: Say that you’re very excited they are coming for Christmas, but you want to bring up sleeping arrangements beforehand to avoid any awkwardness or confusion when they arrive. You should mention that your preference is separate rooms since they’re not married yet, and ask him what he was thinking about it. He might surprise you and say, sure separate rooms are fine. Or maybe he’ll say that they prefer to sleep in the same room, but not to worry, there won’t be any hanky panky under your roof.
Or maybe he’ll get defensive and won’t respond well. If that happens, you’ll have to decide how much you want to push it. Remember, it’s your home and you have every right to express your preferences and ask that they be respected. Simply having the conversation lets him know (or reminds him) what you believe about sex and marriage, and puts the issue in front of him to consider. Which is a good thing. It can be a catalyst for the two of them to think about their decisions and their future. Who knows, maybe this time next year your son will be bringing home his bride.
A relative of mine is sick with cancer. Although he somewhat practices his Catholic faith, he seems overwhelmed by doctors’ appointments, applying for disability, etc. Any suggestions on how to approach the subject of prayer, confession, death, etc. with him? I hate to see him ignore what’s most important at this time in his life.
Concerned about my relative
People who are seriously ill have a lot on their plates to think about and it’s easy for them to feel overwhelmed and consumed with practical details, especially when physical energy is limited.
The best thing is to intentionally create situations where you can bring these topics up with him in an organic way. Plan some specific times to visit and start by offering to help with some of the practical matters he has to deal with. Perhaps there are calls you can make for him, forms you can help him to fill out, or mail you can post.
The easiest way to bring up the weightier things is to begin by asking questions, even if you think you already know the answers. Once you’re sitting together chatting, you might ask if he’s been able to spend time in prayer since he got sick. Perhaps you can bring a prayer book or Bible with you as a gift for his bedside, and offer to pray with him when you’re there—even something short and simple can bring peace and soften the heart. In the course of your conversation, you could ask if he’s been able to get to confession lately and you could offer to take him, or to arrange for a priest to visit him at home.
The bottom line is, make it easier for your relative to pay attention to his soul by offering to help him be able to do that. And if you make a point of regular visits, you may find some amazing fruit will come of your conversations—for both of you.
If you have a dilemma or question for Zoe, please send it to: email@example.com
Zoe Romanowsky is the Lifestyle Editor and Video Curator for Aleteia. A freelance writer, blogger, and consultant, she’s been published in many national publications including Real Simple, Catholic Digest, Baltimore Eats, and TruthAtlas. Zoe holds a Masters degree in Counseling from Franciscan University, and a certification in life coaching from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). She’s an urban homeschooling mother of twins with a weakness for dark chocolate, vintage Harleys, Instagram, and vodka martinis—not necessarily in that order.