Friday, December 30, 2011

The Feast of the Holy Family

This is the feast that almost every year falls on the Sunday between the feast of the Nativity and the Feast of the Mother of God, (New Year's Day).  However, it does not fall that way this year or any year when Christmas is celebrated on a Sunday.

Perhaps the absence of this feast from the weekend liturgy many not be recognized by many.  But for those who have the opportunity and time to attend a daily liturgy today, there will be the time to consider that the Church puts this family before all of us because each of us is from a particular family whether we eventually are married with a family or single and stand as a member of a family of origin or of another community that might well be considered a family.

When we consider this family, we know it is unlike any other family that has or will ever exist on this earth of ours.  The mother of this family is so different from other mothers but, hopefully, she gives comforts to other mothers especially during maternal moments of pain and frustration.  Likewise, Joseph is not exactly like other fathers or foster fathers.  Imagine being told you are caring for and teaching a manly life to the Son of God!  That might lead some thinking fathers to stop, look, and listen.  Each parent, whether father or mother, knows that each child he/she brings into this world is unlike any other.  Not quite like Jesus, of course, but perhaps at times considered by doting parents almost equal to the Son of God!

So, today, whether single or married, widow or widower, priest or father, religious sister or mother, we have an opportunity to look to this family for insights that may not have entered one's mind.  Queen Elizabeth, as you may have heard on newscasts spoke to the British Commonwealth this Christmas emphasizing the significance of the family in today world.  As a priest, neither married nor a parent, I wonder what a mother or father must think not just at the time of a child's birth but throughout the life of an offspring.  Parents carry no light burden in this 21st century if they have children.  Recently taking a "child" into my own life, a 12 week old puppy, has taught me to think about parenthood and family life more personally than ever before even though I have had older dogs in my life or when I was too young to know what a worry a dog pet could be.  Getting up in the middle of the night because the puppy was crying ... missing his first family ... feeling hunger pangs ... and, of course, always worrying about the condition of the carpets in the house.  Did the Holy Family every have a dog pet?  Let's leave that until the kingdom of heaven to learn.

So, the human family has much to be thankful for in the reality of the Holy Family.  Mary, Joseph and Jesus are teachers, too.  What can we learn?  Hopefully more than what a puppy can teach!