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Family Life:School of Holiness
Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “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. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
Opening Prayer: Mother, I come before you as your beloved child. You guided your son, Jesus, and you desire to guide me as well. In your freedom from original sin, you are what we were all meant to be. Let me see in your example what it means to live a fully human life and then help me grow in those virtues I most need to follow your Son so that I may live as the person he created me to be and grow in union with his holy will for my life.
- The Anxiety of a Mother: It is easy to imagine the fear that Mary and Joseph felt when they could not find Jesus among those with whom they traveled and how that fear increased as they searched Jerusalem for three days before finding Jesus. Mary asked him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” They embodied this definition of parenthood: “Parenthood is when a piece of your heart lives outside your body.” On today’s feast of the Immaculate Heart we can consider that, in the image of the Immaculate Heart, Mary’s heart is shown outside her body. Her whole heart lives outside her body because of her fire of love for God and the fire of her love for each of us. She is our Mother. We were given to her and her to us by Jesus as one of his last acts from the cross (John 19:26-27); Mary’s “spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed (Jesus) came to save…” (CCC 501), and she intercedes for us before God in order to obtain the necessary graces for our salvation (Lumen Gentium 62). We are pieces of Mary’s maternal heart living in the world. She loves us and watches over us. We can ask her to form us as she formed Jesus.
- In Her Heart: The last words of any member of the Holy Family until Jesus began his public ministry were Jesus’ words to his parents: “Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” Some translations say, “…that I must be about my Father’s business?” After this, they lived the hidden years, during which Mary “kept or pondered these things in her heart.” During this time, Jesus was obedient and he “advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52). The Catechism quotes St. Paul VI in describing the home of Nazareth as “the school of the Gospel.” The first lesson of that school, he said, is silence. He continued, “May esteem for silence, that admirable and indispensable condition of mind, revive us…” (CCC 533). How do we teach the value of silence to our children and what priority do we give to silence ourselves?
- The Hidden Years: In these hidden years–the longest part of Jesus’ life–he “shared the condition of the vast majority of human beings, a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor (CCC 531). His life was simple, encompassing the things that make up life for most of us: family meals, chores, religious services together, family fun. In fact, the Church teaches that “The hidden life at Nazareth allows everyone to enter into fellowship with Jesus by the most ordinary events of daily life (CCC 533). Our ordinary daily life matters. According to St. John Eudes, it was Jesus’ plan “to make us and the whole Church partake in his mysteries and to extend them to and continue them in us…This is his plan for fulfilling his mysteries in us” (CCC 521). When we live our family life well, we make Christ present, and we extend his mysteries to today’s world.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, thank you for the gift of your Mother. Thank you for entrusting me to her maternal care. Thank you for the beautiful image of the Holy Family and for sanctifying marriage and family life. Help me remember that the day-in and day-out of family life matters and that it is an essential part of living my Christian vocation to witness to the Gospel. Life is so busy that it is hard to think of family life and silence as belonging together; Lord, today I feel challenged to see how silence might become a part of our family life—even if it just starts with a minute or two before we begin grace or bedtime prayers.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray a decade of the rosary with my family (or invite my roommates to pray a decade with me), starting first with a minute or two of silence and closing with this adaptation of the Prayer for the Synod on the Family (2013):
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection, and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth, make us more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer.
For Further Reflection: Watch this video Pursuing Holiness in the Family by Jason and Crystalina Evert.
Janet McLaughlin and her husband, Chris, live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.