Michelle Martin

Brothers and sisters

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The day the text of Pope Francis’ “Fratelli Tutti” encyclical was released, my husband found an old photo of Caroline and Frank, maybe ages 10 and 8, sitting on the couch together playing Mario Kart.

You can tell because they have the old white plastic steering wheels to hold their Wii controllers.

Frank and Caroline did not have many interests in common growing up. Frank ran cross country and played basketball, soccer, baseball and hockey in grade school, kept up with hockey all the way through high school and picked up tennis somewhere along the way. But he doesn’t really like movies and to my knowledge has never been to a play unless someone he knows was in it.

Caroline quit basketball in sixth grade to focus on musical theater and graduated from college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in film, and she’s my go-to for any movie-related trivia or knowledge. But for years, she was the unquestioned Mario Kart champion in the family.

Mario Kart provided a path for the two of them to connect, to do something together. Sure, Tony and I played sometimes too, but we rarely won. Never mind that we spent hours each week actually driving.

Now Teresa, nine years younger than Frank, is our resident Mario Kart (and Animal Crossing, and Minecraft) expert, although she plays the newer version, and it has become a game that we all can play. During the pandemic, Animal Crossing, Minecraft and other online games also provided a way to connect to the friends that she wasn’t seeing at school.

Finding connections between brothers and sisters is important, because there is no guarantee they will have common interests or even outlooks on the world. You can’t choose your family; if you want your family to work as a supportive system for all its members, you have to choose to make that happen.

That, perhaps, is one of the messages of “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship.” If we were all created by God, and we all are brothers and sisters, then we have no choice but to be family, sharing our common home, the earth. We do have a choice as to how we go about it.

Are we the older siblings that shut ourselves in our rooms with our things, oblivious to the interests and needs of the others we share our home with? Are we the ones who look at our things to see what we could share, what might amuse our younger brothers and sisters if they had a chance to play with it? Or suggest things we can do together, whether cooking a meal or playing a game?

Are we the younger siblings who spoil our siblings’ things, staining the clothes we borrow, or dropping the phone we weren’t supposed to have and cracking the screen? Or do we appreciate the effort our siblings make to include us and share their perspectives?

If we are all brothers and sisters — and we are — isn’t it time we acted like it?



  • family life
  • fratelli tutti