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Imitating the Holy Family; Four Traits that Make It Possible ^ | 2-2003 | Jeff Smith

Posted on 02/23/2003 8:53:53 PM PST by Salvation

Imitating the Holy Family
Four Traits that Make It Possible

By Jeff Smith

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. One of my sons tries to wiggle out of Mass regularly, but this is one area where my wife and I refuse to negotiate. 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. n

Jeff Smith is the publisher of Together in Christ. He and his wife Jeanne have five children.

TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Charismatic Christian; Current Events; Eastern Religions; Ecumenism; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; History; Humor; Islam; Judaism; Mainline Protestant; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Orthodox Christian; Other Christian; Other non-Christian; Prayer; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics; Religion & Science; Skeptics/Seekers; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: crhistian; dedication; family; holiness; kindness; love; perseverance; prayer; together; values
Blessings to all families in all places in all kinds of situations.

Prayers for all.

1 posted on 02/23/2003 8:53:54 PM PST by Salvation
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To: Salvation
Even though all my children are grown I found this article quite touching. I especially liked his examples of different families accentuating their strengtths.

Every family has their strengths, but sometimes we are too close to see clearly what they are.
2 posted on 02/23/2003 8:55:30 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
Imitating the Holy Family; Four Traits that Make It Possible

Lots of Graphics: Post your favorite image of the St. Mary and Child, the Holy Family...

3 posted on 12/26/2004 8:36:41 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

BTTT of the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

4 posted on 12/26/2004 8:38:05 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All

Jesus, Mary and Joseph pray for us!

5 posted on 12/26/2004 8:38:48 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All

6 posted on 12/26/2004 3:59:38 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: father_elijah; nickcarraway; SMEDLEYBUTLER; Siobhan; Lady In Blue; attagirl; goldenstategirl; ...
Saint/Feast of the Day Ping!

Please notify me via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Saint/Feast of the Day Ping List.

7 posted on 12/26/2004 4:06:05 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

Thanks For The PING

8 posted on 12/26/2004 7:13:11 PM PST by Smartass (BUSH & CHENEY to 2008 Si vis pacem, para bellum - Por el dedo de Dios se escribió)
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To: All
Sunday – Feast of the Holy Family

Being Part of a Family

In Jesus’ time, the little town of Nazareth had about 100 people. It was a hick town on a hill up north. It’s never mentioned in Scripture until Jesus is associated with it.

As towns and society were back then, most everybody in that town would have been a relative of Jesus. In the Mideast, especially back then, families and extended families lived in light quarters, near one another, and were part of each other’s lives.

We can forget about our images of Jesus quietly sitting with his father, Joseph, in the carpenter shop, watching him make a chair. Jesus was thrown together with cousins, in-laws, people of all kinds and rubbed elbows with them. He was in the thick of family and there was no getting away from it.

If, over the holidays, you experience a large family get-together, that’s what Jesus experienced every day of his life until he left Nazareth.

Family life requires a lot of indirect kindness that you hope will have an effect. Maybe it won’t. But you just try to be kind and understanding, and you just do your best. You can’t directly move in and change things. And to be honest, the chemistry in an enormous extended family can’t all be good.

But society can’t do without families. There’s never been a society in the recorded history of the human race, that was worth anything that didn’t have family, and families that managed.

And that’s what we’re all part of. That’s what we celebrate on this Holy Family Sunday. Jesus was part of that kind of an extended group, in close quarters.

The Lord has been there. He knew what that was like.

Spend some quiet time with the Lord.

9 posted on 12/26/2004 7:29:21 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
Spend some quiet time with the Lord.


10 posted on 12/26/2004 9:44:42 PM PST by kstewskis (Political correctness is intellectual terrorism.......M Gibson)
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To: Salvation; GatorGirl; maryz; afraidfortherepublic; Antoninus; Aquinasfan; livius; ...

In this Octave of Christmas, recalling the Holy Family and the trials they faced is a good and useful devotion. Thanks for the post.

11 posted on 12/26/2004 10:11:10 PM PST by narses (Free Republic is pro-God, pro-life, pro-family + Vivo Christo Rey!)
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To: All
The Holy Family

The Holy Family
Jesus, Mary & Joseph

Feast Day
Sunday within the Octave of Christmas

Sunday After Christmas

When a Sunday does not occur between December 25 and January 1, this feast is celebrated on December 30 with only one reading before the Gospel.

The Holy Family - h h hitchcock (pencil)

Venerunt pastores festinantes, et invenerunt Mariam et Joseph et Infantem positum in praesepio (Luke 2:16)

The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem, where they found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. (Luke 2:16 - Entrance Antiphon)

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Pope John Paul II's prayer for the Family - 2004
Collect for the Feast of the Holy Family
Prayers for the Blessing of a Child, for a Happy Marriage
Scripture Readings
Directory of Popular Piety | Catechism of the Catholic Church
Church Documents on the Family | "Familiaris Consortio On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World'

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Pope John Paul II - Prayer from Angelus Message for the Feast of the Holy Family 2004

"May the Holy Family, who had to overcome many painful trials, watch over all the families in the world, especially those who are experiencing difficult situations. May the Holy Family also help men and women of culture and political leaders so that they may defend the institution of the family, based on marriage, and so that they may sustain the family as it confronts the grave challenges of the modern age!

"During this Year of the Eucharist may Christian families find the light and strength to be united and to grow as the 'domestic church' especially in their diligent participation in the celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday."

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Collect for the Feast of the Holy Family

O Lord Jesus Christ, who by subjecting thyself to Mary and Joseph didst consecrate family life with wonderful virtues: Grant that by the help of both thy parents we may fashion our lives after the example of thy Holy Family and obtain everlasting fellowship with it. In thy most Holy Name. Amen.

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The Scripture readings for the Feast of the Holy Family show the love between Mary, Joseph and Jesus, and also tell the mystery of the Incarnate God subjecting Himself to the authority of His earthly parents. Parents might offer a special blessing prayer for their children or for their marriage on this feast. Two such prayers are below:

The Blessing of a Child
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, who came to earth as an infant and thus sanctified childhood, pour the graces of thy blessing upon [Name], thy child, being mindful of the faith and devotion of the Church and of us, his {her} parents; so that, growing in virtue and wisdom before God and men, [Name] may attain a blessed old age and enjoy eternal salvation: Who livest and reignest forever and ever Amen.

A Prayer for a Happy Marriage
Lord Jesus Christ, who by thy presence at the wedding feast at Cana didst bless the state of Holy Matrimony; and by thy love and favor hath raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament: Grant that we may be ever faithful to the marriage vows that we nave pledged. May all that we do bring us to greater love for each other and for thee. May no act of ours be unworthy in thy sight. May we never forget the ends for which matrimony has been instituted. And especially may we never, through selfishness, defile ourselves and our unity in mutual love by any action displeasing to thee. Teach us to trust in thy gracious mercy. May we gratefully receive children, and train and guide them with wise responsibility in the knowledge of thy love. Grant us the spiritual and temporal means to raise these children according to thy will. And may we worthily receive thy grace and favor through the sacramental bond of marriage. May every expression of our love for one another be united to our love for thee. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.
(Adapted from Mother's Manual, by A. Francis Comes, S.J., William J. Hirten Co., Inc., 1984)

Scripture Readings for the Feast of the Holy Family
While many families will attend Mass together on this Feast, it would be appropriate, also, to read (or have the children take turns reading) these passages as the family is gathered at mealtime or in the evening for prayers. (Note: the Scripture passages correspond for the most part to selections in the Lectionary. They are given here in the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition. )

First Reading: Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 3: 2-7, 12-14
For the Lord honored the father above the children,
and He confirmed the right of the mother over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and whoever glorifies his mother
is like one who lays up treasure.
Whoever honors his father will be gladdened by his own children,
and when he prays he will be heard.
Whoever glorifies his father will have long life,
and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother;
he will serve his parents as his masters.

O son, help your father in his old age,
and do not grieve him as long as he lives;
even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance;
in all your strength do not despise him.
For kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
and against your sins it will be credited to you.

OR 1 Sm 1:20-22, 24-28

Second Reading: Col 3:12-21
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

OR Col 3:12-17
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

OR 1 John 3:1-2,21-24

Gospel Reading - Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy Him." And he rose and took the child and His mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called My Son."

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Rise, take the child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead." And he rose and took the child and His mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

From the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy

The Feast of the Holy Family

112. The feast of the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Sunday in the Christmas octave) is a festive occasion particularly suitable for the celebration of rites or moments of prayer proper to the Christian family. The recollection of Joseph, Mary and Jesus' going up to Jerusalem, together with other observant Jewish families, for the celebration of the Passover (cf. Lk 2:41-42), should normally encourage a positive acceptance of the pastoral suggestion that all members of the family attend Mass on this day. This feast day also affords an opportunity for the renewal of our entrustment to the patronage of the Holy Family of Nazareth(120); the blessing of children as provided in the ritual(121); and where opportune, for the renewal of marriage vows taken by the spouses on their wedding day, and also for the exchange of promises between those engaged to be married in which they formalize their desire to found a new Christian family(122).

Outside of the feast, the faithful have frequent recourse to the Holy Family of Nazareth in many of life's circumstances: joining the Association of the Holy Family so as to model their own families on the Holy Family of Nazareth(123); frequent prayers to entrust themselves to the patronage of the Holy Family and to obtain assistance at the hour of death(124).

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
533 The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life:

The home of Nazareth is the school where we begin to understand the life of Jesus - the school of the Gospel. First, then, a lesson of silence. May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive in us. . . A lesson on family life. May Nazareth teach us what family life is, its communion of love, its austere and simple beauty, and its sacred and inviolable character... A lesson of work. Nazareth, home of the "Carpenter's Son", in you I would choose to understand and proclaim the severe and redeeming law of human work. . . To conclude, I want to greet all the workers of the world, holding up to them their great pattern their brother who is God.

534 The finding of Jesus in the temple is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus. Here Jesus lets us catch a glimpse of the mystery of his total consecration to a mission that flows from his divine sonship: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's work?" Mary and Joseph did not understand these words, but they accepted them in faith. Mary "kept all these things in her heart" during the years Jesus remained hidden in the silence of an ordinary life.

12 posted on 12/29/2007 10:31:40 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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