Friday, January 2, 2015

Where does the family begin?

1 comment :
Two years ago on the eve of the Feast of the Holy Family, my husband and I headed out in the lightly falling snow to attend our first wedding as a married couple.  Inside the church, white Christmas lights contrasted against green trees and red ribbons.  Poinsettias filled the sanctuary.

The wedding began normally – a beautiful bride in white walked down the aisle.  Her father gave her hand to that of her soon-to-be husband.  But when the readings were read, the priest announced that something was slightly different.

Rather than choose their own readings from the list of suggested options, this particular couple chose to use the readings and prayers for Sunday’s vigil Mass – the prayers and readings for the Feast of the Holy Family. 

After Communion, instead of processing to an image of the Blessed Mother, the couple walked to the Nativity sitting at the edge of the sanctuary and consecrated their new family to the Holy Family.

It was the scene of this new little family, formed in a simple yet beautiful Mass, that came to mind when I read these words of St. John Paul II in his “Letter to Families”:
In the Church, the treasure of the family has been entrusted first and foremost to witnesses: to those fathers and mothers, sons and daughters who through the family have discovered the path of their human and Christian vocation, the dimension of the "inner man" (Eph 3:16) of which the Apostle speaks, and thus have attained holiness. The Holy Family is the beginning of countless other holy families. The Council recalled that holiness is the vocation of all the baptized. In our age, as in the past, there is no lack of witnesses to the "gospel of the family", even if they are not well known or have not been proclaimed saints by the Church. (#23)

Patrick Sweeney, "nativity-scene" is licensed under CC 2.0
It’s easy to think of the Holy Family as the exception – a small unit of two perfect people (one of whom was God) and a virtuous man whose voice is utterly silent in the Gospels.  The Holy Family seems to be very holy but not exactly a family – something more like a museum or a reliquary or a monastery. 

The Holy Family is the beginning of countless other holy families.”  My friends who celebrated their second wedding anniversary this past weekend witnessed this truth quite literally as they prayed together in front of the manger scene, looking to the Holy Family as the source and strength of their own family life.

It is true for every family, whether they are aware of it or not.  The grace of Jesus Christ, born in a humble stable in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, born into a family, pours into our own families and invites us to embrace holiness together. 

The holiness of our holy families might not entail the epic moments of the Holy Family – traveling to another city by donkey, welcoming the visit of three kings, departing for Egypt to escape a murderous king – but our own moments of discernment, transition, hospitality and uncertainty can be entrusted to Jesus, Mary and Joseph as we respond to God’s call in our lives.

Where have we seen this holiness?  How are we called to live this holiness?  The holiness of changing diapers in the middle of the night, of sacrificing sleep to go to work to provide for food and shelter, of caring for a sick spouse – these everyday opportunities are the makings of great saints, whether or not their names are known.

Having just celebrated Feast of the Holy Family this past Sunday, as we look at the Nativity scene, we can ask ourselves what witnesses to the “gospel of the family” surround us.  Perhaps we have never noticed their quiet testimony to the possibility of becoming a holy family.   Whose family life reminds us that holiness is possible (and beautiful)?  How do these witnesses encourage my family to become more and more a holy family in 2015? 


1 comment :

  1. Thank you, Emily for the beautiful insight. I am eager to share this post and the website with my adult children. Thank you for all you do.


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