"Hello, holy family! It’s time for your feast day!
Let’s admit it: families have had an exhausting year. We thought we were exhausted back when we were running around to all our normal activities—but this year has brought on a new kind of weariness.
Our days blur together in a relentless sameness. And the lack of freedom to move around leaves us stranded—at home with a potentially toxic mixture of anxiety about the health of our loved ones, grief over our tremendous losses, and fear for the state of our country and the world.
This combination—of lack of control and a spirit of heaviness—can leave us feeling quite tense, to say the least. Gradually, this prolonged state of restriction and tension can deplete us. And the darkness of this time of year doesn’t help.
So, where does this leave the Christian family?
Well, hopefully we are touched by the undeniable graces of Christmas and ready to continue the good fight to bring the kingdom of the Prince of Peace to life in this hurting world! But in case the birth of Our Savior isn’t enough of a shot in the arm, the Church presents us with another beautiful feast just two days later—the Feast of the Holy Family.
Years ago, we were on a road trip and stopped for Mass on a Sunday morning at a beautiful old church somewhere in New Jersey. The parish was run by a missionary priest from Poland, and since we met and fell in love in Krakow, we were eager to speak to him.
“Good morning, holy family!” he belted out as we approached him after Mass, pushing and pulling our five little ones along. For a good long moment, we couldn’t speak. We looked behind us and tried to process his greeting. Holy family? Was he beholding an apparition of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph? But no, he was addressing us.
We had never thought of ourselves as a “holy family,” but his cheerful confidence in us was contagious. As we felt tears of joy springing up, he smiled even more as if to say, “Yes, that’s what I said—and I mean it!”
Remembering the grace of that moment, we want to share it with you and say, Hello, holy family! to you and your loved ones.
Yes, this year is draining, but with the love of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to encourage and guide us, we can surmount the dark forces of these times and rise to the dignity of our calling to be living images of the Holy Family. And even though we’re exhausted, we might just be closer to the Holy Family than we think.
What does it mean to be holy? To be holy is to be like God. And what is God like? He is a communion of persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—so perfectly loving to one another that their love overflows to still more others, to create the world and us in God’s image.
A communion of persons? Yes, that is what a family is! Our families are already much closer to holiness, to being like God, than we might think. But then, of course, there is the hard part: are we so loving to one another that we create overflowing love to share with others, bringing them into God’s grace and so building up his kingdom?
If we take one look around our culture, we’ll find a strong tendency to go in the opposite direction of holiness, of putting one another first. Instead, we celebrate the “Big Me,” the selfie, self-reliance, independence, and the lone ranger. We chafe at being interdependent with others. Asking for help is a sign of weakness.
And the social science stats of today tell a sad story: Americans have never been lonelier or more isolated, with so much consequent anxiety, depression, and even suicide. Bowling Alone—the title of a book on our drift into individualism—puts it perfectly. If the average family in America today is a collection of individuals who are each “bowling alone,” then we find something very different from an “icon of the Trinity.”
Against this bleak backdrop, the Feast of the Holy Family can be a kind of Victory Day over the powerful forces that would tear apart the family. This Feast can be a day when we Christian families recommit to the one thing that can both bring us happiness and turn our culture around—to be like the persons of God and love one another as God has loved us.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, pray for us!