Skip to comments.Imitating the Holy Family: Four Traits that Make It Possible
Posted on 12/30/2013 5:05:33 PM PST by Salvation
Like many parents, every day my wife and I face real and challenging issues in our family. We have two teenage sons and three younger children. Like many families, our children fight and bicker.
Sometimes they are loving and kind, but at other times they are disrespectful. Sometimes they resist doing chores and homework.
In addition to these very common problems with our children, my wife and I have to balance work and family life, make educational decisions for our kids, track our finances, and work through marital disagreements. This is our life! While we would never trade any of our kids (at least not most days!), each day presents its own set of dilemmas along with plenty of tension.
This reality stands in stark contrast to the perception of the Holy Family that I cherished as a child. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph seemed to have such a peaceful existence. After all, Mary and Jesus never sinned, and Joseph behaved like a saint! This makes it easy to dismiss the “Holy Family” as passé or irrelevant in today’s world.
That’s why it’s so vital not to settle for a shallow understanding of the Holy Family! Even though they lived in a different age and culture, the family life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph can bring us hope by showing us how we too can live as a “holy family.”
Beset with Trials. Joseph and Mary faced real problems, even serious crises that families typically don’t confront. Imagine how you would feel if armed soldiers were searching house to house for your son or daughter, intent on murdering your child! Fear, rage, and bitterness might grip you, not just for days but for years. This is just one of the trials that Mary and Joseph endured. Afraid for their son’s life, they fled their home and the only country they had ever known. Later they had to forgive those who had threatened them lest they be bound by bitterness.
Even before Jesus’ birth, Mary had already endured trial. Many in her town may well have known of her pregnancy outside of marriage. Rumors in a small town can be vicious, and Mary was likely the butt of various jokes and gossip from those with whom she had grown up. All of this before facing the normal struggles of raising a son!
Jesus’ parents also faced financial pressures. Because Jesus had been born into relative poverty, there was barely enough money to pay for even the least expensive Jewish circumcision. Living modestly was the rule by which they lived. They had to be frugal and still tithe. Then, as their son turned twelve, they faced perhaps their greatest scare: a runaway child!
If one of your children were missing for several days, wouldn’t fear and guilt consume you? For days, Mary and Joseph must have battled the condemning thoughts that any parents would face in a similar situation: Will we ever find our son again? Is he hurt? Why didn’t I keep him with me? Did he run off intentionally?
Can We Become a Holy Family? So, if Mary and Joseph faced trials just like ours, then what exactly is a “holy family”? And how are we supposed to live like them? First of all, even though much of their lives involved mundane routine, Joseph and Mary had a sense of God’s call and plan for their lives. They knew that in raising Jesus, they played a unique role in God’s plan. Even during the worst times, they couldn’t escape the fact that God’s hand was on their lives in a special way.
Of course, while no mother or father will ever again raise the incarnate Son of God as their own child, every husband and wife should have a similar sense of God’s plan for their family. God has called each family together uniquely; no one else has been given the opportunity to love and raise your children. We must find that sense of awe even during the “dog days” of sibling rivalry and financial stress. God has called you personally!
Mary and Joseph’s relationship wasn’t based on common interests or similar personalities. While they may have been very compatible, this wasn’t the basis of their unity. Their relationship with God was the foundation of their marriage, and it was this strength that held them together during trials. Similarly, it is vital that in our homes, at least one parent—if not both—find their strength through a relationship with God.
Husbands and wives don’t always approach their faith in the same way. Often (but not always!), wives have a deeper sense of the need for God’s presence in the family. In these situations, perhaps only the wife will find her strength through prayer. Single parents especially need to turn to the Lord for the energy and wisdom to raise their children.
Whatever the circumstances, it is a blessing when one parent deepens in his or her faith walk with God. During trials, the faith of one parent will produce strength and peace for the whole family. Of course, it’s best when both parents are seeking to wholeheartedly follow the Lord.
Set Apart for God. Another aspect of being a “holy family” is that we have an awareness that we have been set apart for God to live out his call and build his kingdom. When we possess such an awareness, our lives will naturally reflect a different set of priorities than those held by most other people in the world. We don’t need to own the most possessions. We don’t need our children to win every game or academic award. We won’t find our security in the pursuits that many others desire.
Instead, being a holy family means that we try to obey God in all of our decisions. God is not simply our co-pilot, helping us out during those few times when we call upon him. Instead, we want each decision that we make—whether it involves parental discipline or family dinners—to be pleasing to him. We want to listen to God and live in the way that he wants us to live. This is what it means to be “set apart for God.”
We want to trust God, especially in the midst of the most difficult situations. When our kids are behaving badly and we don’t know how to respond, when the funds in our checkbooks are low and the fuses are short in our marriage, we want to find a way to obey God’s will in our relationships. This is what it means to be a holy family.
Another important aspect of living as a holy family involves repentance and prayer. Many of us recall the movie that defined today’s definition of repentance: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Oh, if this were only the case! If you and I are to have a holy and loving family, then the exact opposite is true.
Love means seeking and offering forgiveness on a regular basis. Love means not holding grudges and angers. Love means recognizing when I have wronged my spouse and making sure that our relationship hasn’t been damaged. Repentance in a marriage is one of the most beautiful gifts from heaven. It softens the heart of the offended, and it heals the hurt in a relationship. We would all do well to practice repentance and forgiveness and to teach our children to do the same.
Being a holy family also means that we will find ways to pray together as a family. We find this difficult with our kids, especially our teenagers. But in the long run, short times of family prayer combined with family attendance and participation at Mass will have a positive impact on our children. As Mother Teresa used to say, “The family that prays together stays together.”
Each Family Is Unique. I know some families who really are holy. One couple has raised six children, one of whom is disabled. During these last twenty-five years, they have encouraged each of their children, including their disabled daughter, to follow the Lord and to develop their unique gifts. Most importantly, their life and love witness to a vibrant faith.
I am a close friend of another couple who don’t see eye to eye on a host of issues, but they too are holy. Both had been widowed, and combining two separate families into one was a real trial for them. They brought together different parenting philosophies and strategies for discipline, and sometimes their views conflicted severely. But because of their willingness to repent and forgive each other and because they sought God’s way over their own, their children have experienced a beautiful home life.
A third couple is struggling with a strong-willed child. Even though they don’t have any magic answers, they are trying to learn how to help their daughter. Her angry outbursts and moods can negatively affect the atmosphere of the whole family. However, this couple has told me that their daughter has taught them how much they need God as the foundation of their family. They too are a holy family.
The strengths and weaknesses of each family differ greatly. But in every case, they are holy because they are trying to put Jesus first in their lives as best they can. One or both parents are seeking God in prayer. They are trying to make love and encouragement flow in their homes more than criticism and negativity. They are doing their best to teach their children how to repent to one another. And in every case, as a family, they attend weekly Mass.
Of course there will be moments when we fall short. At those times, we may even begin to wonder whether it’s worth trying to imitate the Holy Family. Remember, however, that God is pleased with our faithfulness. While we tend to focus on our failures, he sees the intentions of our heart. When things aren’t going well, it’s tempting to throw up our hands in despair. Instead, we can call upon God in each moment of the day, asking him to bless our efforts to be a family that witnesses to his life and love.
This article was first published in The Word Among Us magazine in December, 2002.
**Mary and Josephs relationship wasnt based on common interests or similar personalities. While they may have been very compatible, this wasnt the basis of their unity. Their relationship with God was the foundation of their marriage, and it was this strength that held them together during trials.**
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Ultimate goal: to BE a holy family.
Holiness is spiritual wholeness. What the devil gives you is a spiritual picture that is cleverly expurgated. It is what we commonly call a curse.
One very helpful trait will be for all members of the family to bless one another (in God). If Christ said to bless our enemies, shouldn’t we bless our loved ones too? And if loved ones squabble and become “enemies” for a period, the way to solve it is, again, to bless. Families that have prolonged mutual cursing in them will, at best, be empty shells full of hells.
This is a pan-Christian advice. If you want answers that are solely out of the Catholic playbook, then by all means delete my message.
marry a pregnant girl
never have sex
lose your kid on a trip
. . .just kidding- i’m protestant- they had sex
And you do not need to be nasty about it. Mary, fallen or not, had more grace than you are showing.
But bless your soul anyhow. You need it badly right now.
I have a sad confession to make. I ran over the Virgin Mary recently.
I was driving on I-8 and the car in front of me swerved. I couldn’t swerve, and ran over what it had avoided. What it had avoided got stuck under my engine, between the front wheels. Loud dragging noise!
I pulled off the interstate, onto the shoulder. It was about 3 foot high plastic Virgin Mary, kneeling, in prayer. There were two holes, each the size of a 100 watt light bulb. My daughter was able to reach under, thread a rope through the two holes, and we were able to pull it out from under the truck.
Gosh! I guess I need to say some ‘Hail Mary’s.
and more of a sense of humor than you are showing
it’s a joke
just a joke
Yup, carrying on like C. S. Lewis described in Screwtape Letters. Say something prideful and offensive then back off when called on it, saying you were only kidding.
Stephen Frye said while in Utah he was given a tour of a Mormon museum. At the end of it, the lady giving the tour said, she wanted to give people a brief idea of the religion.
She said that their religion taught that after death, families would all be reunited, to be together forever.
Stephen Frye asked “And what would happen to you if you were good?”
The nice lady invited him to leave.
which part of my comment is not part of catholic doctrine? the prideful part or the offensive part?
i identified the uniquely protestant part- that they had sex after the birth of jesus- the other parts (the assumed prideful and offensive parts) are, i believe consistent with catholic teaching- and with the exception of the ‘never have sex’ part consistent with protestant teaching as well
i stand by my joke- which i identified as such (not backing away as you suggest) in my first comment
I thought it was kind of funny.
I don’t think so. Mary was the Ark of the New Covenant. She was pure so that Christ, being pure, could be in her womb.
Remember how people who touched the Ark of the Old Covenant died? It’s my belief that if anyone had touched Mary sexually they would have likewise died.
why just sexually
people in the old testament didn’t die when they touched the ark of the covenant sexually
they died when they touched the ark of the covenant- period
why only sexual touch with mary would result in death?
seriously, even if you believe they never had sex, do think joseph never made physical contact- even innocent physical contact with her and never had a sexual thought at the same time
i guess that could explain why joseph died at some point before jesus’ ministry
People in the Old Testament died when they touched the Ark of the Covenant, period.
What don’t you get about the Bible there.
Mary was a perpetual virgin. Haven’t you ever heard that?
i’ve heard of it- just don’t find it consistent with scripture
Matthew 1:24-25: And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife. And he knew her not till she brought forth her firstborn
i know catholics interpret that differently, but if i had a daughter and it was recorded in scripture that she and a male did not come together until after their second date, i would not view that as a proof text for her ever-virginity- and i doubt you would either- regardless of whether she said it in english or greek
and please don’t assume i agree with luther or calvin or anyone else in totalitarity- especially luther or calvin