Christ famously chose to be born on Christmas morning, as an infant child into a human family. By doing so, He shows how important families are to God, so important that He chose to be born into one in order to redeem it and create a domestic Church. Because of this, the Holy Family is a model for all of our families to imitate, and around this time of year I’m always introspective about how my own is doing. Here’s how we measure up.
The Holy Family has a unique home-birth story that I’m sure they repeated to their friends at every party. In my family, one of our daughters was born in Cape Cod in the middle of tourist season. The traffic was horrible getting to the hospital and we almost had a car-birth story to share with all of our friends. We made it to the hospital, though, with eight minutes to spare. No angels or shepherds came to congratulate us, though.
In the Holy Family, St. Joseph doesn’t yell or argue. He is quiet and considerate, the very picture of a strong husband and father. Mary is patient and considers the words and actions of her Son in her heart. In my family, voices have been known to have been raised a time or two.
The Holy Family, as far as I can tell, went to all the major religious feasts and participated without any complications. Our family is frequently the object of much amusement to parishioners as the toddler yells my name through the whole Mass and the five-year-old shouts the Alleluia very loudly, always at the wrong time.
When the Holy Family lost Jesus on a family trip, they asked around and looked until they found Him in the temple in Jerusalem, praying and talking with the elders. When I lost my son at the zoo, it’s because he’d wandered off to stare at the gorillas.
In the Holy Family, when Our Lord was with a crowd inside of a house and His mother was asking for Him to come out, it’s because He was doing a miracle and teaching people about God’s love. In my family, the toddler hides in the closet and won’t come out because she has secretly stolen my phone and is trying to play a game on it.
I suppose we have a long way to go. Maybe your family does, too. Though what I really see in the Holy Family that our families can all imitate is that the Holy Family always supports each other. They get through the difficult engagement and pregnancy together, make the trip to Egypt together, pray together, and Mary is even there at the foot of the cross. In each of our families, no matter the argument, frustration or disappointment, we can imitate the Holy Family by staying together and loving each other. No matter what we wish was different about our family, no matter the mess that surrounds us, we belong to each other.
Father Rennier is parochial administrator of Epiphany of Our Lord Parish in St. Louis. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained in 2016 under a pastoral provision for the reception of Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his wife, Amber, have six children.