The first Sunday after Christmas celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. This is one of my favorite feasts of the church because it always gives me hope that our family can be better. When you think about it, it really is amazing that Jesus chose to be born into a poor family with all the struggles of living in a small village under Roman rule. Even today, a family can relate to the struggles surrounding Jesus’s birth and life before his public ministry.
Now you can look at the Holy Family and say, “Well, Jesus was perfect, Mary never sinned and Joseph must have been the perfect husband.” Our families are not perfect and will never be perfect. But the Holy Family gives us a model of the ideal in family life and marriage. With the Holy Family, we see how the family is the place to learn to love, serve, respect and support each other in order to take it out to serve the world.
So if there are no perfect families, where do seminarians come from? Not from under a rock, but from families, just like yours and mine. They are born into and grow up in
typical families with flawed parents, strained marriages, periods of
unemployment, relatives with drug and alcohol addiction and sick grandparents. These families fight and argue over the remote, among other things, and whose turn it is to take out the garbage.
They celebrate holidays and birthdays and have cook outs in the summer.
Parents work to provide what they feel is the best they can afford for their children. Older children hand down clothes to younger siblings and want the latest electronic device because “everyone has one.”
Vacations are planned and cancelled at the last minute. Parents try to manage the family finances and then the refrigerator breaks down. Doors get slammed and harsh words are exchanged. Apologies are either generously offered or coaxed out of the offender. Misunderstandings and outright lies, broken promises and letting each other down happen with varying degrees of frequency over the years.
Teenagers break curfew, get into to trouble at school and fall in and out of
love before graduating from high school. More trouble ensues in college with learning money management, underage drinking, minor car accidents and repeating college courses more than once to pass. Now the fighting is about using the car, whose turn it is to mow the lawn and still taking out the garbage. Teens and young adults at home are prodded to get to Sunday mass and reminded when confessions are scheduled even though they’ve been at the same time for the last 15 years.
These families have relatives who don’t talk to each other and others who
have not had contact for 20 years. There have been sudden deaths and unexpected pregnancies in and out of marriage, divorces and broken engagements. Some have not been to church in 15 years and others are verbally hypercritical of the Church and certain teachings.
Does any part of this sound like your family? Well, most of these troubles have happened in our family over the years. That’s why the example of the Holy Family gives hope to keep moving forward.
So they next time you say that seminarians or priests don’t know what it is like to live in the real world, just remember that they grew up in a family with all the problems and stresses, joys and sorrows this world provides.
Please know the authors on this blog, pray daily for the parents of discerning sons and daughters to find understanding and peace.
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