“The triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.” — G.K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce
The family is the cornerstone of all the institutions in the world, and yet has suffered from an unbelievable assault over the past few decades; an assault that has produced unfathomable damage, including everything from divorce to elective single parenthood, to lower marriage rates and a new definition so freewheeling and loose that the core identity of the family seems to have been irreparably weakened.
Whether due to circumstance or choice, it is true that families come in all shapes and sizes. However, the Holy Family serves as a model of the family that God intended, and the family that until just a few decades ago, was considered standard form in every social circle. The Holy Family is not the Universal family, for there is no such thing. Rather, the Holy Family stands as the pinnacle of all families throughout the history of the world. The Holy Family is the ideal to which all other families should subscribe, if they hope to find joy and fulfillment in this life.
Families matter. And your family can be an incredible light to the rest of the world. Not by being perfect. By being a family. I speak from personal experience. When I was growing up, God used family after family to inspire me to seek His truth. Again, these weren’t perfect families. But they were families. And I’m willing to bet that not one of them has any idea of the impact their faithfulness had on my life. But it did. Families are beacon to the world of the Light of Christ. And the contribution of the family is critical to society. As Saint John Paul II said in Familiaris Consortio, “The future of the world and of the church passes through the family” (75).
So what better way to affect the future for good than to have a great family?! And where better to seek inspiration than in the Holiest of Families?!
Here are five ways to model your family after the Holy Family:
- Be grateful. Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my soul rejoices in God my savior…” (Luke 1:46-47). Think about those words every day. We are His handmaids in this family with which He has so blessed us. Rather than think, If only this child would cooperate, or if only my husband would be more patient – thank God for those beautiful, amazing personalities that He has deigned you worthy to serve.
- Be joyful. Think of the Joyful mysteries – those mysteries associated with the Holy Family. Mary was overwhelmed with joy when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived by the Holy Spirit. St. John the Baptist was overjoyed when he beheld Christ in the womb of Mary, His mother. Heaven and earth rejoiced at the birth of Christ. Simeon was overcome with joy when he held the baby Jesus. And Mary and Joseph were overwhelmed with joy upon finding Jesus in the temple.
Paul said to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (4:4). So rejoice! Your family will love you for it!
- Be Absolutely Devoted. From the moment the angel appeared to Joseph and secured his understanding of the situation at hand, Joseph was absolutely devoted to his wife and foster child. He led them to Bethlehem, showing particular care and consideration as he guided his expectant wife to shelter. Shortly thereafter, upon receiving further direction in a dream, he immediately woke his wife and child and led them to safety in Egypt. When the family returned to Nazareth, Joseph devoted his life to quiet, but diligent work in order to serve his family.
- Spend Time Together. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were together. Presumably until Joseph died, the three were very much a single unit. In fact, St. Joseph is the Patron of happy deaths; particularly because tradition teaches us that he died in the arms of Mary and Jesus.
- Sacrifice. Ultimately, each member of the Holy Family sacrificed his own life for those he loved. Joseph raised a child that wasn’t even his own, while remaining a celibate man for his entire married life. Mary was told from the moment she presented her son at the temple that she would suffer as a result of her motherhood. She didn’t balk. Rather, she loved with a devotion that none of us can fathom. Her seven sorrows were a result of her love, and yet no doubt her love was strengthened in her sorrow. And Christ? Well, in addition to sacrificing his very life for each and every one of us, the God of the Universe lowered himself to the level of a child, and “was obedient” to his parents all the days of his life. If that’s not sacrifice, then I don’t know what is.
The family, as a community of persons, is thus the first human “society.” — Saint John Paul II, Letter to Families.
Family is sacred. And God is so good that He allowed each of us the privilege of entering the world by way of a family. Even more, many of us are married and blessed with children of our own. Family is a gift that we must cherish beyond all things. There is no argument that trumps that bond. There is no disagreement, no selfish action, no betrayal, nor any sin that should break that union. Pain and suffering may make it more challenging, but regardless, always cherish that beautiful family you’ve been given the opportunity to love.
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Artwork: La Santa Famille by Francesco Vanni, 1871