In the Catholic Church, yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Family. Every year on the Sunday after Christmas, we celebrate that God chose to be born into a family. He chose to enter into our world as a child, to have parents, to live and work among us. And, by doing so, he elevated the family as something holy and gave us a shining example to look to for inspiration.
(Painting by Greg Olsen)
Now, I have to tell you. I don’t often look around my chaotic home and all the goofy people in it and sit back, patting myself on the back thinking, “Yep. If this ain’t holy, nothing is.”
No, it’s more often the case that I look around that same chaotic home and those same goofy people, raising my eyes to the heavens while praying, “Jesus, take the wheel!”
I’m just saying…
But what is it that makes our families holy? Beyond that, who can we actually call our family?
My Holy(ish) Family
Simply living together in the same house with people who share your DNA isn’t a holy thing. Rather, that’s what is called the bare minimum. Holiness lies in the day in, day out. It’s part fondness, part familiarity, part forgiveness, part foolishness. It’s all of the little things…
laughter around the table
working toward a common goal
sharing and growing in faith
desiring the happiness of the group over your own comfort
late night fever checks
early morning snuggles
providing for the needs of the others
taxiing kids hither and yon
prioritizing each other above the rest of the world
passing on interests and talents
encouraging, advising, guiding, supporting, upholding
It’s messy and it takes a ton of hard work. There’s no secret to that! But in our “holy family” no one person is more important or more loved than another. And while members are added with much joy and excitement, the loss or sadness of one leaves the others rocked to the core.
Family is as family does
Just like being related doesn’t make your family holy, I’d venture to say that being family doesn’t even mean being related! Not always, anyway.
We can think of families as the rings in a tree. In the center ring, we all have our nuclear families with mom and dad and kids (wherever it is that we fit in that equation). Then, in the next larger rings are our extended families of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. All of the various and sundry DNA-sharers we know and love serve to make our lives larger and richer, stronger and sturdier.
But we’re still missing something, aren’t we? We’re missing all of the friends! All of the branches and leaves and fruits that add that special extra something to our lives. Although, I’m not talking acquaintances here. No, I’m talking soul-friends. They’re the people with whom you share a deep connection of faith or interest or community or purpose.
For our family, the members of the Music Ministry at St. Joseph’s has been a source of this type of extraordinary family. In our years with them, we have grown to love and be loved by so many good and beautiful people who have opened their hearts and homes to us as we’ve opened ours to them. First, a newly married couple who are now on child #3 and a grandpa-type who has loved our children as his own grandkids. Then there’s the couple who give endlessly in service who have unexpectedly become guardians of a baby boy and the young girl who used to babysit our kids who has grown up to be an emergency room nurse. And last but not least, there’s the couple we watched become engaged, then married, then parents (to two of my godchildren!) and some of our dearest friends.
How beautiful it is that God has granted us the opportunity to expand our families in this way! There’s a saying that friends are the family you get to choose for yourself and I’d say that I not only wholeheartedly agree, but stand as testimony to the sentiment.
2018 – A year for family
So, as we head into another new year today, I’m renewing my focus on family.
This doesn’t mean making sure that everything is perfect for everyone all the time because that doesn’t do anybody any good in the long run! What it does mean, though, is making sure that every person feels loved.
But how can we show this love to the people we include in our family circles? And who can we look to for inspiration in that quest?
As for me, I plan on printing out this Holy Family Prayer and saying it daily (well, as often as I can remember…who am I kidding?). Maybe you’d like to join me?
JESUS, Son of God and Son of Mary, bless our family. Graciously inspire in us the unity, peace, and mutual love that you found in your own family in the little town of Nazareth.
MARY, Mother of Jesus and Our Mother, nourish our family with your faith and your love. Keep us close to your Son, Jesus, in all our sorrows and joys.
JOSEPH, Foster-father to Jesus, guardian and spouse of Mary, keep our family safe from harm. Help us in all times of discouragement or anxiety.
HOLY FAMILY OF NAZARETH, make our family one with you. Help us to be instruments of peace. Grant that love, strengthened by grace, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass. May we always have God at the center of our hearts and homes until we are all one family, happy and at peace in our true home with you. Amen.
However you decide to honor the people in your family this year, may you be blessed to be a blessing to others.