The two holiest people in the history of the Church were not priests, deacons, nuns, or hermits in the desert. No, they were a married couple – Mary and Joseph! I recently saw a quote to this effect by St. Josemaria Escriva. I can’t seem to find the exact quote at the moment, but you get the drift. Sometimes people wrongly assume that the clergy and religious are the holiest people in the Church. While it’s true that being called to the priesthood or religious life is a great gift from God, and a sign of the kingdom of heaven, this does not mean that married or single lay people are called to holiness any less than the clergy.
In the last part of this semester, I showed a short video series by Sr. Miriam James Heidland to my students at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School. It was called Behold and was a series of meditations about encountering God in family life. I was struck by the meditations which centered on the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. One of the most profound aspects of the Incarnation is that Jesus chose to become a baby in the context of a family, growing up with a mom and dad, and being obedient to them. Maybe this is the lesson that our generation needs to learn from the Christ child. Nobody’s family is perfect, and that’s ok. Our families are an immense gift from God, and our parents are the ones who teach us what God is like – as tender and caring as our mother, as strong and protective as our father. Love starts in the family, and having a faithful family is the best way to pass on the faith to the next generation.
This is my third year of priesthood, and in some ways, it seems like a long time ago that I was ordained and assigned to the Cathedral as a new priest. I probably would not have guessed that I would be here for more than two years, but here I am, and happily so! I am so blessed to be here at the Cathedral with our bishop and three brother priests. We have a great parish staff and parish community to walk with on this journey of faith every day. This year, some of you may have noticed that my responsibilities have shifted a bit. I don’t celebrate quite as many parish Masses as I used to, as I focus my time on ministry at SHG along with studying some canon law online. I still do my best to be present at as many parish events as I’m able to.
Speaking of families, I have been especially grateful for my family this year. My brother and his wife welcomed their sixth child in November, and I had the privilege of baptizing him on Thanksgiving Day at my home parish! This is now the third niece/nephew that I have baptized. One challenge is that my brother was away for much of this year with the military, so I have had to be more intentional about staying in touch via phone calls. I am blessed to have a sister who lives in town, but I could always be more intentional about staying in touch with family.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s give thanks for our families, even if they aren’t perfect. Maybe some forgiveness or even some good boundaries could improve relationships. Whatever the case may be, I invite you to consecrate your family to God in your heart. As you pray, imagine yourself with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in the stable in Bethlehem. Allow them to draw you into their communion of love, centered on Jesus. Mary brought Jesus into this world, and Joseph protected them on their flight into Egypt. They intercede for us now from heaven. May Mary and Joseph pray for us to experience healing and wholeness in our families. Parents – don’t be afraid to let some activities go to focus more on family time, especially time together at Mass and in prayer. If your children don’t experience closeness in the family, where will they experience it? If you don’t teach them to pray, then who will? Don’t be afraid to be who God wants you to be. He will help you to do it with his grace!
May the Lord Jesus bless you all in this new year of growing in his love.