May Holy Family bless, strengthen, and heal us Print
Bishop Hying's Column
Written by Bishop Donald J. Hying   
Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
Bishop Donald J. Hying's column

This Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family, honoring the beautiful truth that God entered into the world through a family, an extraordinary one at that, but a human family.

Pondering this remarkable truth for 2000 years, the Catholic Church has a highly developed theology of marriage and family, seeing each Christian home as a domestic church, a sacred place where children are conceived, born, nurtured, and raised to know, love, and serve God.

Family as icon of the Trinity

Saint John Paul II viewed the family as an icon of the Most Holy Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit love each other completely and give themselves to each other in an eternal procession of love and being.

St. Augustine said that the Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit is Love itself. The particularity of the Three Divine Persons does not diminish the radical unity of God nor does the Oneness of God crush the individual identity and activity of the Persons. The Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier.

In just the same way, when a husband and wife give themselves to each other in a radical gift of self, expressed in the marital embrace, children are co-created with the power of God and a marriage rooted in the love relationship of Christ and the Church explodes with new life. What a wondrous mystery!

When a Christian family lives in Jesus, loving, praying, serving, sacrificing, working, playing, forgiving, and learning together, we gain an insight into the very inner life of the Trinity. We perceive a spiritual unity that does not crush the individuality of each family member, but rather, builds an environment of faith and love which helps each person to become fully alive, completely the person that God has created them to be. When a family lives its mission, both society and the Church flourish.

Living the divine vocation

I commend every family which sincerely strives to live this divine vocation. Between work, sports, meetings, illness, homework, and the thousand things that clamor for our attention, a family can quickly fly apart, everyone running in a myriad of frenzied directions.

To honor Sundays as Sabbath, to sit down together for a meal, to pray together, to simply spend time as a family — for many, such moments of domestic peace and unity may seem an impossible ideal.

This Sunday’s feast challenges us to prioritize our families as the primary value of our lives, to see our parents, children, and siblings as the remarkable sons and daughters of God who have been entrusted to us by the Lord, as assuredly as the Father entrusted His Son to Mary and Joseph. This sacred season calls us to view our home as a sacred place, as a domestic church where we live the Christian life with joy and heroism.

Church supports families

The Church needs to seek out, support, and love families. I commend what our diocese and our parishes do to prepare couples for marriage, support them in the early years of their lives together, and help them in the challenges of raising their children. As goes the family, so goes the Church and our society.

We need to help our brothers and sisters who experience the pain of separation and divorce, know the challenges of being a single parent, those who may feel alienated from the Church.

While remaining always faithful to Catholic teaching regarding marriage and family, we can always strive to engage everyone and help them move closer to realizing and living in their own lives the gift and mystery of marriage and family, as the Lord has given these beautiful realities to us to cherish and live well.

The ‘hidden years’ of Jesus’ life

In my prayer, I often contemplate the Holy Family, living in the silence, peace, and love of Nazareth, embracing a seemingly anonymous existence of prayer, work, joy, and faith during the “hidden years” of Jesus’ life.

When he visited Nazareth, Saint Paul VI said the home of the Holy Family was a school for us to learn and live the Gospel virtues and to fully embrace the love of God in the seemingly ordinary details of our daily existence.

I have to think that when the Virgin Mary was washing the dishes, the child Jesus was doing His chores, or Joseph was busy at work, there was something qualitatively different about how they did those ordinary tasks, that they went about the day in a joyful spirit of contemplation, that the point of each activity was not to simply rush through it and get on to the next thing, that they felt the beauty and power of God in their home and that each moment, every activity bore within it the divine presence.

We can say, of course, that they were the Holy Family — the Son was divine, the Mother was sinless, and the foster Father was one of the greatest saints, that we are not them. That is certainly true!

Invite the Lord into our homes

Nevertheless, can we not invite the Lord into our marriages, homes, families, and hearts with a greater surrender and joy? Could God be inviting us to do less but to act with greater recollection and peace?

In this new year of 2020, what small but significant changes can our family make to be more prayerful, spend more time together, and feel more deeply the holy harmony and abounding love of Nazareth?

Know of my prayer, love, and support for all families in our diocese, especially those who are separated, broken, struggling, and wounded. May the Holy Family bless, strengthen, and heal us!