Our Own Versions of the Holy Family

Old St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco

First off, let me thank you for tolerating the week of silence here on A Good Measure. Like most of you, I took the past week off to celebrate Christmas with my family and am now dragging myself, kicking and screaming, back to my keyboard. I hope the Octave of Christmas has been as beautiful for you as it has been in our home!

I want to write a bit today about what I heard at yesterday’s Mass for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The day found my husband Greg, our son Eric and me celebrating at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco. The photo you see here shows the beauty of this church, California’s first Cathedral, all dressed up for the holidays. From my vantage point on Sunday morning at 11:00 am Mass, I witnessed a parish that works overtime to provide a welcoming, sacred worship environment.

We were treated to a Mass celebrated by Father Daniel McCotter, CSP, who is also the pastor of Holy Family Chinese Mission based at Old St. Mary’s. In a lovely homily, Father McCotter broke open the messages contained in yesterday’s Liturgy of the Word. These are some of my favorite readings — I can recall vividly as a child watching my parents lovingly chide one another as our pastor read the mandate from Colossians:

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,
as is proper in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives,
and avoid any bitterness toward them.

And of course, we children always got the all-knowing look from our mom and dad as the words of Sirach’s first reading were proclaimed:

God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.

Francesco Vecellio’s Madonna and Child with Sts. Joseph and John the Baptist

I found myself yesterday, glancing down the pew at my twenty-one year old Eric with the same look my own mom has given me so many times on the Feast of the Holy Family — that, “Are you paying attention to this?” smile and wink.

In his homily, Father McCotter acknowledged the challenges faced by today’s families. The disintegration of family units, or even their redefinition with changing cultural mores, leaves our children to grow up in a society which is vastly different from the one we knew in our own childhood. And yet the fathers and mothers of today’s families still strive — as Mary and Joseph did in yesterday’s passage from Luke — to keep our families intact amidst the many challenges presented by a society rife with economic and social pitfalls.

To pause and to focus upon and celebrate the Holy Family and their example to us as we venture into a New Year is a lovely reminder to us about what matters most. I find myself parenting in an environment that challenges my former assumptions about the meaning of the word “family“. With one college-aged son who drops in these days for extended breaks from school and another teen who has one foot out the door, I’m learning still how being a mom of young adults works and what my role can be in these next few years of our family’s history. It’s easy to get caught up in wishing back those “good old days” and missing out on the opportunities I have in the present to serve my family in new and creative ways. Some things remain constant: the need for me to set a good example for my Domestic Church, the need for me to lovingly subordinate my desires to those of my husband in partnership and love, and the need for me to pray — without ceasing — for the members of our extended family, including our aging parents.

In closing, I urge you to take a few moments and meditate upon Pope Benedict XVI’s Angelus Message from the Feast of the Holy Family, which contains so much wisdom — including this pearl:

The love, loyalty and dedication of Mary and Joseph are an example for all Christian couples who are neither the friends nor masters of their children’s lives, but the guardians of this incomparable gift from God.

What do the Feast of the Holy Family and the readings proclaimed at yesterday’s Mass mean to you at this point in your family’s history? How do you want the nature of your family life to change or stay the same in 2013?


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About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at LisaHendey.com and connect with her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram.