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Between the Ideal and the Real
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 30, 2012
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I often have approached the Feast of the Holy Family with some reluctance, thinking about how often it gets elevated to an impossible standard of perfection. But in a conversation with my sister awhile ago, I realized that a parish community is quite similar to a human family, with many of the same strengths and weaknesses. In both cases, we’re held by bonds we can ignore or stretch, but never quite break. Whether in our biological families or the communities that make up our social obligations, we are perpetually caught between the ideal and the real. We strive for the one but often are held back by the other. We can only hope that within that tension, we will find something of the grace that Jesus promises in his own experience of a human family.

Even in the infancy narratives, the evangelists were trying to understand the Easter experience. In the story of the boy Jesus lost in the temple, Luke is not simply showing us that Jesus had a supernatural knowledge of his destiny as the Son of God. Rather, Luke is finding different ways to understand and explain the overwhelming experience of Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, who was crucified and raised from the dead.

Jesus goes up to Jerusalem with his parents as he would later go up to celebrate Passover with his disciples. His destiny lies in Jerusalem, for he knows his life centers on doing the will of the Father. He is lost to his parents as he would be dead to his followers, but they recover him after three days. When Mary tells him of their sorrow, their search for him, he says, “Why did you search for me?” just as the messenger by the tomb will ask the disciples, “Why do you search for the living among the dead?”

If the early listeners of Luke’s Gospel were having trouble understanding the experience of death and resurrection, perhaps they could begin with a simpler story of a child separated from his parents. They could see in the parents’ confusion and searching an image of their own search for belief in the Risen Lord. But perhaps in the child’s simple response, his independence and growth in understanding, they can find an answer easier to grasp than the report of a journey through the unknown land of death into an everlasting glory. Luke tells us that to be a disciple is to discover ourselves in the presence of God with the other people in our lives. Jesus is the compassion of God. We’re called to show forth this compassion in our own lives. God’s call in our lives can terrify us with a stark awareness of the risks involved. But it always promises life.

While we are on this journey of faith, we always will be searching—for ourselves and the meaning of our lives, for others who share our faith, for the God who is at the center of that faith. The challenge for us is to continue to explore the stories of Jesus. In all these stories, we see people trying to grasp the meaning of the kingdom, of covenant, of everlasting life. If we can understand these stories, perhaps we can begin to understand our own story of the promise as it unfolds in our own lives.

At the center of that story is the belief that if we die with Christ, we will rise with him. Only in this way can we be about our Father’s business. Only in this way can we be part of the Holy Family of those who hear the Word of God and keep it.

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Theodora Guérin: Trust in God’s Providence enabled Mother Theodore to leave her homeland, sail halfway around the world, and found a new religious congregation. 
<p>Born in Etables, France, Anne-Thérèse Guerin’s life was shattered by her father’s murder when she was 15. For several years she cared for her mother and younger sister. She entered the Sisters of Providence in 1823, taking the name Sister St. Theodore. An illness during novitiate left her with lifelong fragile health; that did not keep her from becoming an accomplished teacher. </p><p>At the invitation of the bishop of Vincennes, she and five sisters were sent in 1840 to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, to teach and to care for the sick poor. She was to establish a motherhouse and novitiate. Only later did she learn that her French superiors had already decided the sisters in the United States should form a new religious congregation under her leadership. </p><p>She and her community persevered despite fires, crop failures, prejudice against Catholic women religious, misunderstandings and separation from their original religious congregation. She once told her sisters, “Have confidence in the Providence that so far has never failed us. The way is not yet clear. Grope along slowly. Do not press matters; be patient, be trustful.” Another time, she asked, “With Jesus, what shall we have to fear?” </p><p>She is buried in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, and was beatified in 1998. Eight years later she was canonized.</p> American Catholic Blog In the eyes of God we are the most beautiful thing, the greatest, the best of creation: even the angels are beneath us; we are more than the angels, as we heard in the Book of Psalms. The Lord favors us! We must give thanks to him for this.

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