Tag Archives: holy Family

15 September: Familial sacrifices, Our Lady of Sorrows.

from CD.

Good Morning! We make a big mistake if we say that the sacrifice of Christ was what happened on Calvary Hill and leave it at that. As Rowan Williams said, he lived a life-long passion. A passion caught from his parents, Mary and Joseph.

We know that Jesus suffered hardship on the road, but he kept going. As an infant seeking emergency refuge in Egypt, he still had what he most needed, the intimate love of Mary and Joseph. As an adult itinerant preacher, the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head.

As an infant he went where his parents chose in order to preserve his life, while for his sake they accepted exile, anxiety, pain, and a double dose of the exhaustion that every new parent knows. No doubt the magi’s gold ran out soon enough, spent on wayside inns, renting a place in Cairo, buying new tools for Joseph. Meagre rations until Joseph had an income.

Every parent can relate to these sacrifices, though many would not recognise their own daily grind as sacrificial, but it is a grind at times, and so it was for the Holy Family too. For some of us exile is leaving, if only for a while, an enjoyable job with interesting and funny colleagues and customers. It is a sacrifice, as is accepting the waves of tiredness, boredom, loneliness, depression that can knock a new father as well as a mother off-balance.

Jesus learned about sacrifice from the sacrificial love of his parents. They prepared him to be about his Father’s business even if they did not realise what it meant in practice to a 12 year old boy, let alone the man he grew into.

And a sword will pierce your heart.

Let it be done to me according to your word.

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1 June: the flight into Egypt

On this day the Coptic Christian Church celebrates the Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family, but our image is from Amsterdam. This plaque once adorned the side of a house called ‘The Flight into Egypt’. The fact that the home owner could pay for it to be erected suggests an established, prosperous household, not a little family of refugees.

I’m sure Joseph will have conserved carefully the gold Jesus was given. They could walk to Egypt, no need to entrust their fate to traffickers with half-rotten boats. Our Coptic picture shows a companion with them, is it a guardian angel?

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27 December: The Carpenter’s Son, Part I.

Saints Joseph and Etheldreda from their church, in Rugeley, Staffordshire.

Continuing the theme of the Holy Family, I’ve chosen for today and tomorrow this extended reflection from our friend, Sister Johanna OSB.

They said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter’s son, surely?” …And they would not accept him. (Matthew 13:54,57; New Jerusalem Bible).

The non-acceptance of Jesus by the people of his own home town of Nazareth seemed extremely sad to me as I pondered this passage for my lectio recently. It also seemed strange. And in the end it even seemed scary. I wondered why was there no sense of local pride in Jesus. I kept turning this over in my mind. When one of ‘our own’ boys becomes famous it reflects well on everyone, I thought. Here was Jesus; everybody knew he had notoriety as a preacher and healer. His reputation was well-established; he was not a beginner still trying to prove himself. Jesus’ ministry had been developing and his following had been growing for some time. He had chosen the Twelve, he had worked marvels. He was, in short, a sensation. Why didn’t the people of his village greet him with excitement and open arms? His name was a name they could have casually dropped to impress their cousins in the next village. It would have been only natural for some of them to brag a bit about, say, knowing Jesus when he was a small boy. Or would it?

It suddenly hits me that we are looking at a different set of natural reactions that surfaced in the town of Nazareth. It seems that the people who knew Jesus from boyhood must have pigeon-holed him long before he showed up in Nazareth that day. According to the text, the people were saying, “This is the carpenter’s son.” In other words, Jesus is only a carpenter. Nothing more. We know his mother and his other relatives, they claimed. They are all ordinary people.

But did they know his mother and his other relatives? I wondered. Certainly his mother Mary was the greatest woman ever to have walked the earth. In saying her ‘fiat’ to the Angel Gabriel, she bore the very son of God. What immense treasures of wisdom and spirituality she must have possessed in her mind and heart. If anyone had had a heart-to-heart talk with her they’d have been bowled over. Did anyone bother to talk to her deeply? Probably not. They were blind to her greatness as they were blind to the greatness of Jesus. And Joseph. His courage in accepting Mary’s miraculous conception, and his docility to the message he received from an angel in a dream makes him too an exceptional human being in every sense. But no one seems to have recognised his greatness either.

It seems to me that this says something important about the life and character of Jesus and the Holy Family. Namely, that they seemed fairly unremarkable, unless you were a person of prayer and faith. Unless you made an effort to relate to them deeply. When the newly pregnant Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth alone knew, through her communion with God, that Mary was carrying the Messiah. But, otherwise, Jesus, Mary and Joseph were not recognised. So they were superb at blending in. They did not draw attention to themselves.

As I continue my reflection, it occurs to me that this is still the case. Jesus, Mary and Joseph will abundantly reward our efforts to relate to them deeply through prayer and an active

spiritual life. But if we do not try to know them, they will remain only discreet presences in the background of our lives. Is that where I want them to be?

I would like to pause this meditation here and continue tomorrow.

SJC

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26 December: Happy Families

Here is Saint Francis, witnessing the life of the Holy Family by CD

Did it make you squirm when well-meaning priests or other adults urged us as children to be ‘like the Holy Family’. If we were, it was never for long – rarely if ever were we free from petty jealousies or quarrels, despite my father’s holding to the motto, ‘the family that prays together, stays together’, which is not totally untrue in our case, decades past childhood. Perhaps we have been blessed, guided and defended more than we generally acknowledge.

A silent ‘thank you’ for that grace on this, the feast of the Holy Family, which is usurping Saint Stephen’s day.

Following the death of his close friend Mr Thrale, Doctor Johnson realised that he would be seeing much less of the Thrale family. He composed this prayer on the last occasion that he stopped over at the house they were putting on the market, where he had spent many happy days.

To thy fatherly protection, O Lord, 
I commend this family. 
Bless, guide, and defend them, 
that they may so pass through this world, 
as finally to enjoy in thy presence 
everlasting happiness, 
for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen

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26 July: Over the Hill, SS Joachim and Anne, grandparents.


This is not about Anne and Joachim, or whoever were Mary’s parents and Jesus’s grandparents, but about how we put a value on, or better, find value in, grandparents and other older people. We can be sure that Mary was well brought up by good people, and perhaps it was with his understanding grandparents that Jesus stayed when he stopped behind in Jerusalem, aged 12.

This essay by Alan Jacobs explores the values that cannot be measured in pounds, euros or dollars, and makes for refreshing reading whatever your age. Read, enjoy, and ponder!

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19 March: Pope Francis on Saint Joseph, Going viral LXXII; ordinary, decent people

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Here is an extract from Pope Francis’s letter about Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, ‘Patris corde’. The Pope encourages us to be conscious of the Body of Christ, experienced in the extraordinary service given by so many ordinary people; Saint Joseph responded to extraordinary challenges with faith and trust.

Now, one hundred and fifty years after his proclamation as Patron of the Catholic Church by Blessed Pius IX, (8 December 1870), I would like to share some personal reflections on Saint Joseph, this extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience. For, as Jesus says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone…

How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all”.*

Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.

* Meditation in the Time of Pandemic (27 March 2020): L’Osservatore Romano, 29 March 2020, p. 10.

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4 January: The man with a father’s heart

Pope Francis has declared this to be the Year of Saint Joseph, the Man with the Father’s Heart. Here is the thinking behind that, from his letter, Patris Corde – with a Father’s Heart.

Now, one hundred and fifty years after his proclamation as Patron of the Catholic Church by Blessed Pius IX (8 December 1870), I would like to share some personal reflections on this extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience. For, as Jesus says, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt 12:34).

My desire to do so increased during these months of pandemic, when we experienced, amid the crisis, how “our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone… How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all”.[6] 

Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.

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26 December: Venite, Adoremus

A Welsh shepherd on horseback

Another poem from Father Andrew. We won’t be able to press through the church doors this year, but still, every soul should be a shrine for God’s Eternal Son. We can all light a candle upon the altar that is our family dining table.

‘Come along, shepherds,’ the Angels cried,
‘Come along, every one!
For great things happen on earth to-night,
And you shall see a wondrous sight –
In bed of straw, on napkin white,
Come down to earth from heaven’s height
God’s own Eternal Son.’

‘Come along, comrades,’ the Shepherds cried,
And quick those men did run,
And in they pressed through the humble door,
And low they knelt on the stable floor,
Where Mary and Joseph, as poor as poor,
In rich contentment did adore
God’s own Eternal Son.

‘Come along, Christians,’ the bells ring out,
‘Ding-a-dong, come along, come along!’
For round the Altar tapers shine,
Where waits our Saviour, yours and mine,
Veiled ‘neath the mystic Bread and Wine,
And every soul should be a shrine
For God’s Eternal Son.

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29 December: The Holy Family

 

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

There always seems to be a romantic air to images of the Holy Family, at least when baby Jesus has become a boy. Here He seems to be concentrating hard, learning poetry by heart – a Psalm, perhaps Ps 22/3, since the shepherd and his sheep are within sight, making for quiet waters. The style of this window suggests it was created before 1967, when the building was acquired by the Catholic community from Ebenezer chapel. 

There are traditional representations of Mary as a girl with her mother, reading together; since we have no Scriptural reference to Mary before her Annunciation, such an image would not have appeared in a Congregational chapel. Mary surely taught Jesus in many ways. and perhaps the artist was sending a message that parents should be teaching their children to read the Bible and learn some verses.

… That is as far as my thoughts had taken me when I went to a funeral of Theresa, someone I probably knew by sight – Saint Thomas’ in Canterbury has the excellent tradition of holding funerals at the daily noontime Mass, so there is always some silent support for the family. At the end her grandson said a few words, describing how she had taken great pride in her role as home-maker: that was her job, she said. She always had time for her grandchildren, hosting them for the summer holidays, walking through the orchards or into the city. Time and good meals! Love was her way.

We parents and grandparents may need lessons from Scripture and stained glass, but – is not this the carpenter’s son? The Gospel writers suggest that Jesus and his family did not stand out as specially different in Nazareth. As the window suggests, Joseph and Mary both played their part in making a home in Cairo and in Nazareth; we talk about those times as ‘the Hidden Life’. Our families’ lives are, mercifully, hidden most of the time; may they be Holy Families and grow in holiness.

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26 July: Saints Anne and Joachim; grandparents matter!

 

joachim (519x800)
Statue of Saint Joachim, Holy Name Church, Manchester.

An extra post today – a Pastoral Letter about grandparents from Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth. 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On the 26th July we keep the memory of Jesus’ grandparents, St Joachim and St Ann. It is good to know that Jesus lived within a family and to reflect on the reality that he knew the influence and presence of an older generation. In light of this, I wanted to take this opportunity to write to you about the importance of grandparents, both for us personally and in the life of faith.

I know that many of you have grandchildren and play an important part in their lives. Many of us are grateful for the sacrifice and generosity we experienced in our grandparents and thank God for them, living or dead.

I want also to thank those of you who are grandparents, for what you do in passing on the faith within your own family. As I have visited the Diocese, celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation these past weeks, it has been good to meet some of our young people and to hear them speak so positively of the importance of their grandparents. They look up to you, and are grateful to you for your support and love for them. They know that for you, our Catholic faith is vital. Many want to deepen that faith, in their own lives.

In his recent letter to young people, titled ‘Christ is Alive’ (Christus Vivit), Pope Francis speaks of the importance of dialogue between the different generations. He reminds us that “helping the young to discover the living richness of the past, to treasure its memory and to make use of it for their choices and opportunities, is a genuine act of love towards them, for the sake of their growth and the decisions they are called to make”.[102]

He says that it is not good if there is “a rupture between generations” (Par 191). This is sometimes presented to us by our society but it is a lie for it would have us believe that only what is new is good and beautiful. Our experience in the Church is much richer. We know there a wisdom passed down from generation to generation, “familiar with human weakness and not deserving to vanish before the novelties of consumer society and the market (Par 190).”

Whilst at the Synod in Rome, for young people, in October, I was reminded of the humorous saying of Pope Saint John XXIII, “The young need to remember that the world existed before them, and those who are older that the world will continue to exist after them!”

So, to our young I say, ‘continue to cherish your grandparents and learn from them what it means to love and to live a life of faith’. To our grandparents, I say, ‘thank you for your fidelity and generosity. Do continue to witness to the Lord, and to the beauty of our faith, both within your own family and to the people around you.’

In the Gospel today, we see in St Mary and St Martha, two essential dimensions of our faith – prayer and action. All of us need to hold on to both of these. In rooting our lives in a personal encounter with Jesus, may we each be of service to our loved ones and to our neighbours. May each of us, young and old, deepen our faith in the Lord, and in the company of the Church, bring others to Him.

Pray for me.

Yours devotedly,

+ Mark, Bishop of Plymouth

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