Finding joy on the Feast of the Holy Family


Ever since I became a mother, I have identified more closely with four of the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

The Annunciation aligns so well with how we received word that both of our sons would be coming into our family—both times by telephone and with some degree of surprise.

The Visitation—when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth—I thought of as I waited with fellow expectant mothers, especially those who were also waiting to adopt.

The Nativity came to mind when we found ourselves becoming parents on the other side of the world, far from family and the comfort of home.

And I reflected on the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple at both our sons’ baptisms, when they became children of God, and we promised to raise them to love and serve our Lord.

It’s that fifth one, the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, which I’ve never identified with much. I thought maybe that would happen as our children get older.

Somehow, though, today, on the Feast of the Holy Family, I found the Gospel had a message for me.

John and I have been on vacation this past week, enjoying extra time as a family. The boys are out of their routine, and Leo—at 5—is delighted, while Daniel—at a very recent 3—is happy but somewhat confused and overstimulated by the holiday fun. And he’s testing the limits to see what will happen.

He’s always been independent, but during the past week, he has become increasingly confident and determined.

And three times in the past week he has sprinted full-speed away from us in public places.

You don’t feel like—or look like—a good mother when your son is laughing loudly, running as fast as he can away from you, ignoring your desperate calls of “Stop! Stop!”

But maybe you also don’t feel like a good mother when you and your husband travel a full-day’s journey away from Jerusalem and realize you left your son behind. Today I noticed for the first time that it took Mary and Joseph three days of searching to find Jesus. How have I missed that detail before? It makes the two minutes I spent chasing my son around a store seem much less eventful.

In today’s reading from Luke, Mary says, “’Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.’ And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them.”

I didn’t understand Daniel’s reasoning for running either. I suspect he was having a grand time, enjoying the extra attention and excitement.

Even before I heard today’s Gospel reading, however, I had decided there was one place I was determined not to lose Daniel this week, and that was in his Father’s house. So he stayed safely at home, and the rest of our family split up to attend alternate Masses this morning.

That might not sound ideal to you, but it made for a much more peaceful Mass experience—even with my squirmy 5-year-old sharing my pew. And it meant that when Leo and I got home, we had heard the Gospel story, and we were able to tell Daniel about how Jesus got lost.

Daniel listened to the story. Then he asked, “My Jesus?”

“No,” Leo said, and he spoke with the authority of a big brother. “Everybody’s Jesus.”

Hmm. I think someone has been paying attention. It’s moments like those that make me even more joyful.

Photographs were taken at St. Mark’s in Catonsville.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.