The Holy Family

Holy Family sculpture in the motherhouse of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Pittsford, NY (artist unknown)This past Sunday was the feast of the Holy Family, and it calls to our imagination that “longest sermon” of Jesus first 30 years, as Cardinal Seán O’Malley called it.

I remember, as a teenager, wondering what Jesus was like as a teenager. (What did he do with rushing hormones, for example?) As a father, now, I find myself wondering what Joseph was like. I sometimes find myself thinking about their ordinary life—Joseph heading off to work, Mary making bread, Jesus helping clean up or doing lessons. What were weekends like? Holidays? Dinner time? How did they pray together? What was it like at the Temple? How did Joseph show affection towards Mary, or vice versa? Did Jesus ever do anything that really irritated his parents? Did Mary ever feel overwhelmed? Did Joseph ever second-guess marrying Mary? Did Jesus ever wonder what he was going to be when he grew up?

I love the sculpture in the photo—it struck me as a very human portrayal of the family. (I took the photo when I was there last month, during a delightful visit to Nazareth College.) During this week, perhaps we might try a little Ignatian imaginative prayer, paying a new year’s visit to this young family and learning more about them. What does their home smell like? What do you see? How do they greet you, and what do you talk about?

A meditation on the Holy Family might help us recall that theirs is not the only holy family. Family life is vocational: it is a calling from God. Every act, every decision within the life of the family, when done with great love, is a real symbol of Christ’s love. During this holy season, let us recall our holy families and reach out to them with ever more generous love. Let us too reach out to those without families, recalling the words of the mature Jesus who redrew the lines of family: “those who hear and do the will of God are my mother and my brothers” (Luke 8:21). The love we learn and practice in families is ultimately the love that ought to govern our way of relating to all people.



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