December 25, 2021 Essay: Loving Our Holy Family

Dec 21, 2021

We are all part of a family. Our family encompasses most of our first experiences in life. In the small intimate setting with our parents and siblings, we take our first steps, speak our first words, and have our first tantrums. Early in our lives, our entire world is experienced with our family unit. Our homes are our first church giving us the blueprint for how we ought to act. As children, we are each taught, through the examples and directives we receive at home, how to behave in the world.

Reminding parents they are the first church for their family is a great joy and privilege of mine as the director of the Interparish Religious Education Program. In the busyness and striving of parenting we are often swept up focusing on our children’s milestones, doctor’s appointments, and school placements. We get caught up in the demands of the world. When our focus is on the external we may be remiss at remembering the true qualities that make us Christian. In our homes we are called to love, honor, cooperate and be patient with one another. Each of our families is a reflection of the Holy Family who were mired in the tasks of daily life and were literally living a God-filled life.

As I contemplate the Holy Family, my thoughts turn to Joseph and his role in the Holy Family. We know Mary said yes. We are often reminded of her blessed willingness in our faith tradition. Joseph’s yes has a more subtle quality than Mary’s yes. He is a man who remains dedicated to his commitment even with its challenges. I imagine being the father in the Holy Family household may have been fraught with personal, emotional, and spiritual challenges.

When I was 12 my mother married my stepfather, Henry. Middle schoolers are not always understanding, cooperative, and kind creatures. I was no exception. I was offended at the addition of a stepfather in our lives. What my 12-year-old self did not know is we needed my stepfather, a lot. Henry joined our family and participated in extraordinary ways. Reflecting on Henry’s willingness and graciousness today I am brought to tears. He readily and enthusiastically cared for my mother, my brother, my sister, and myself. Henry signed on for a new wife and three stepchildren, ages 12, 10, and 9. Henry’s journey must have been fraught with personal, emotional, and spiritual challenges.

Today Henry is the primary caregiver for my mother in her final days. It is jarring to prepare for the loss of a beloved family member. My siblings, we are 4 in total now, and I am all feeling the impending pain of separation as we accompany both Henry while he cares for our mother in her final weeks. Henry continues to lead our family as husband and father, without pride. Henry’s kindness, compassion, and dedication remain a blessing to our family. He is an inspiration.

In this Sunday’s second reading Paul reminds us in his letter to the Colossians to put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. Striving for these qualities is timeless; families today and millennia ago needed gentle guidance towards these principles. We can each ask for Grace to be the best version of ourselves both in our homes and out in the world. With the gift of Grace and the examples of our family, we can be the church in the world loving our holy family near and far.

– Kate Noonan, Pastoral Associate