Holy Family Sunday
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen – Livestreamed & T.V. Broadcast
December 27, 2020
The Good Example of My Parents
Last year, my family marked some important milestones. On January 12th, my Mom celebrated her 100th birthday. On January 18th, my parents celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary.
Some months prior to those celebrations, Mom said to me, “You know, Bill, I thought your Dad and me were married 73 years but it turns out it’s only been 72 years.” – “You’re practically newlyweds,” said I.
Soon after those celebrations, my dear father, nearly 99 years old, went home to God.
My Mom would be embarrassed to hear me say this, but every year when the Feast of the Holy Family rolls around, I feel as though she and Dad write my homily for me – not with pen and paper – but with a lifetime of love and caring. Even now, though, I can hear Mom saying, “Stop canonizing us!” – so, please not a word of this to my Mom!
And it is not my intention to idealize the family into which I was born. Like all families, we had plenty of struggles, heartaches, and running arguments about money and my Dad’s driving.
Mom and Dad worked hard to support their three sons. Mom was a homemaker and Dad worked for the telephone company. Our home wasn’t large or lavish but was always comfortable and clean, with plenty of good food on the table.
My parents were handy with power tools and so did their own home renovations.
Whatever genes I inherited from my parents, I did not inherit the power tool gene!
Like many Catholic families back in the 1950’s and early 60’s, our family went to Confession every Saturday and to Mass every Sunday. Mom and Dad were active parishioners at their parish in New Albany, Indiana.
They sent me to the parish school and made sure that I did my homework every night, and especially that I memorized the questions & answers from the Baltimore Catechism. (Little did I imagine that someday I would live in the residence where the Baltimore Catechism was invented!).
Sometime in the 1950’s, we began to pray the Rosary as a family, every day, a practice my parents continued throughout their marriage – and this was the source of many blessings.
By my reckoning, Mom and Dad had more than their share of crosses, not only the ones I foisted upon them by getting into trouble now and again, but also in caring for my older brother who had special needs. Back then, there was less understanding of his condition and fewer resources to help them deal with it.
More than a few times my parents’ hearts were pierced with the sword of sorrow, but frustrated as sometimes they were, their love never failed.
Mom and Dad provided everything they could for my brother, and indeed loved and cared for my brother until he died.
In an age when people find long-term commitment difficult, I think of Mom and Dad. When they were married in 1947, little did they know what their wedding vows would mean in practical terms: “to love one another in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.”
In their advanced years, their love for one another remained as young as ever.
After I finished celebrating Mass for their 70th wedding anniversary, Dad turned to Mom and asked, “Margaret, do think this thing is going to work?”
Not missing a beat, Mom replied, “Well, Frank, we should try it a few more years!”
Until last year, Mom and Dad lived together in an assisted living facility. Mom looked out for Dad’s needs right up to the moment when he died, just as Dad’s love and concern for his bride of 73 years were always evident.
The Virtues of the Holy Family
I don’t know if Mom and Dad ever consecrated our home to the Holy Family,
but looking back, I can see that, with God’s grace, they tried to live the virtues of the Holy Family, the virtues we celebrate at Mass today, and the virtues we seek to strengthen in all of our families and homes. As a takeaway from this Feast of the Holy Famly, let me suggest three strengths, three virtues, of the family into which Jesus, our Savior, was born.
First, imagine the prayerfulness of the home at Nazareth where Jesus was taught to pray the Psalms and to know the Law and the Prophets. The family should be a place of faith and prayer, so much so that, in the Church’s teaching, the family is called “the domestic church”.
Indeed, parents are the first teachers of their children in faith and prayer.
The home should be a place of love and security and peace, where parents and their children pray together, learn the faith together, and grow in knowledge and love of God, and indeed develop a personal relationship with Jesus.
Even when children attend a Catholic School or a parish faith-formation program, the faith still needs to be reinforced at home, by the parents.
And, it’s still a really great practice to pray a family Rosary every day … perhaps the best fifteen minutes you’ll spend together.
The centerpiece of family life should be Sunday Mass when the family is joined together around the Table of the Lord.
This year we have had to cope with restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic,
and thankfully, in most parishes live-streamed Masses were available.
When the pandemic finally loosens its grip, I hope our families will return in full force to participate in Sunday Eucharist, there to find the strength needed to live a vocation no less challenging than mine.
Second, just Mary and Joseph formed Jesus’ human character in their holy home, so too every family should be a place of character formation, a place where young people learn life’s most fundamental lessons.
These days we need to remind ourselves that not everything can be learned by staring into an electronic screen, be it big or small. Some things can only be learned in an atmosphere of love and trust … lessons such as generosity to those in need; honesty, justice, and fair play;
courage and perseverance in the face of problems and difficulties, and illness; the ability to talk problems over with others and to find solutions; forgiveness when we’ve been wronged and humility when we’ve wronged others; the value of friendship; silence; and self-mastery and control of one’s appetites; gratitude to God for the gifts and talents he has bestowed;
appreciation for the gifts and talents of other people.
In a word, the family is where character and virtues are formed in the young.
Think of how many social problems are averted by strong and loving families.
A third and final quality that I’ll mention is the value of hard work and cooperation,
with which Mary, Joseph, and their Son, Jesus, exemplified. Back then, household chores were arduous, and Joseph worked as a carpenter. In the Holy Family, no one argued about doing household chores, if you can imagine it!
Growing up in my home, household chores were a team sport and everyone was expected to participate.
After all, the home is where the work habits of a lifetime are forged, and where young people begin to learn to develop the talents God has given them and where they learn how to work together with others.
It’s not that such lessons aren’t sometimes resisted – they are – but what a gift to grow up in a home where one learns to work hard, to do the best one can in accomplishing every task and project, and to work cooperatively with others – even if it’s with your brothers and sisters!
Prayer, faith formation, character formation, and hard work – all done with love – these are some of the lessons you and I can learn from the Holy Family. I pray that, throughout 2021 and beyond, the Lord will bless your families and keep them always in his love.