As I sit down to write, my daughter has just returned to school
after a week of illness. So bear in mind as you read this that my reflections on the Holy Family will
be colored by my own holy familys recent realities. But I think thats what we as catechetical
leaders are about anyway: A big part of our job is helping real people connect the messiness of their
ordinary lives to the riches of our faith tradition.
A lot of times the Holy Family is depicted as so perfect or so separate
from our realities that we fail to recognize them as real. Okay, they did have some unusual
characteristics: 1) Mom didnt sin, 2) kid didnt sin, 3) kid was both human and divinewhatever
that meant in the everyday, and 4) Mom and Dad didnt have sexual intercourse. Aside from these things,
we believe they led fairly common lives for people of their time and cultureat least their life in Nazareth
before the start of Jesus public ministry.
When I was a child, it was difficult for me to connect the serene woman
in blue with my own mothera very hardworking and harried farmwife with eight children. And I expect that
the home shared by Jesus, Mary and Joseph was pretty quiet and peaceful compared to the chaos in my own.
I came to a new appreciation of Mary when I became a mother myself. Ive often found myself turning
to our Blessed Mother at times when parenting has been particularly challenging or heartwarming. I expect
that many fathers have a similar experience with St. Joseph.
I believe that the way we speak about the Holy Family to the young people and adults
in our communities may have a significant effect on their relationships with its members. If we can offer the
Holy Family as more real people in a real family setting, perhaps more of our parishioners will turn to
them for help with the challenges of family life.
Our Advent-Christmas season is an ideal time to consider the ways we portray the Holy
Family to the families in our parishes. Does the Holy Family inspire them to grow in their own style of holiness
or discourage them because of their failings? Are we sending the message that every family is the domestic
church (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, #11), that every family can be a holy family?
Ive selected two products that I think may be useful as you celebrate the Holy
Family later this month and seek to support the growth of more holy families all year long.
- The Birth of Jesus: A Spiritual Pilgrimage with Stephen Doyle, O.F.M., can help make the
Holy Family even more real to viewers by taking them on a video pilgrimage to the places that Joseph and
Mary lived and traveled as they first learned of, then anticipated and finally celebrated the birth of Jesus.
Click here (RealMedia | Windows Media) to
see a clip from this video.
- Another resource to which I must call your attention is our Home Meal Prayers card. I have no
doubt that Jesus first came to his understanding of the value of table fellowship through the experience
around his own familys table. So many families struggle to find or make the time for regular family meals
these days. If theyre not eating together, theyre probably not praying together either
(at least not at mealtime). If the dinner hour seems impossible for some schedules, encourage families
to eat breakfast together. Every family needs some face time at least once a
week. Heres a prayer card that will help families start that time off right. Im slipping one inside
each of my Christmas cards this year. At just 30 cents a piece ($14.95 for a pack of 50), I figure its a
great investment in the Christian families on my list!
May you experience God’s grace and peace in your own holy families this Advent-Christmas
season and into the new year!