Today, the sixth day of Christmas, the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family (only celebrated on this day when Christmas day falls on a Sunday). Relatively speaking this is a new feast, dating from the seventeenth century and being recognised formally only in 1893). In our own era in the West, it is one to which we might want to pay particular attention. St Pope John Paul II said that: ‘As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live’ – and he was right. In my lifetime we have seen a major change towards the idea of the family.
When I was a child most of the families I knew had three, four, or more children. The parents stayed together, often united not by conjugal love, but the recognition that it was better for the kids – as well as knowing that the financial consequences of a separation would be destructive for all concerned. Not, to be sure, the most romantic of reasons, but then the world I grew up in was not one saturated with Romance. It was a pragmatic world which recognised that romantic love, like its twin, lust, was a swift-burning meteor, and that whilst it was short, life was long, and children were a life-long responsibility. Life was not easy for most of the people I knew growing up, we all lived one week’s pay away from financial disaster, and when, for example, there was a strike, without help from the local churches, we’d have gone hungry; it was that sort of working-class community. No one asked the local churches for anything, and my father, who was by way of being a Union activist and ardent secularist, would have cut off his right hand before asking them for help, but when they offered, and when it as for his kids, he accepted it – though I recall he ate nothing from the food parcels for himself, but gave it all to us.
That experience was the first time I’d realised how wide a definition of ‘family’ could be. My mother was an occasional chapel-goer, but that did not matter to the chapel ‘family’ – she was in need, so was the community of which she was a part, so every Friday there was a delivery of food. It was something which, until a few years ago, I had almost forgotten, and then my own church began to collect for the local ‘foodbanks’. I always give – having received and been grateful, it is the least I can do. But it is a bad sign all the same. For the best part of half a century there were no foodbanks in this country, now, in the fifth or so richest country in the world, we need them.
Too many families grow up incomplete. As a divorced man myself, I hate to contemplate the effects of divorce on the children, and can quite understand why people prefer to concentrate on other aspects of the experience. But a society in which families are fractured, is, itself, fractured. Here in the UK we have grown used to thinking that the State can pick up the tab for our transgressions – it will take care of the wife and kids if we don’t want to, or can’t, and it will take care of the poor and those down on their luck, But as the number of these grows under the weight of our own irresponsibility, no State could take the burden, and so we are back to charity – with a much-diminished charitable sector to take the burden.
The Holy Family fled into exile in Egypt soon after the birth of Jesus. We do not know how they managed, but the likelihood is that the large Jewish community there sustained them until it was safe to go home. We need our families and we need our wider communities, and without them not only are we diminished, but so, too, is our whole society.
I have five siblings. We were originlly six, but our youngest brother is no longer with us. I don’t think of him as dead. In the Lord’s mercy he is still very much part of our family circle as are our parents. Over the years we have continued together and although now living apart those early years of family life have been crucial in our love for each other. Neither of our parents were regular church goers, but they believed in God. In many ways we’re a typical middle class family. with traditionl values which have stood us all in good stead.
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Good to hear Malcolm, and I can relate to that with my own birth family.
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Philip Augustine said:
Building on thoughts on Family and Faith.
My father had faith in God, though at times, I believe fell into the sin of sloth in regards to attending church and engaging in his faith. He was Methodist for most of his life until he converted to Catholicism; however, again, he didn’t have the zeal as I have seen in most converts. So, how did I know of his faith? At times, I challenged it as a youth, I remember asking him questions about God and the universe. It’s odd reflecting on my father’s faith, who had an intelligent academic mind and was engaged in the school of thought of Archaeology. He had a simple faith one that was explained to me with the finely tuned universe assertion.
My father passed away six years ago, and my sister always struggles during the holiday season with memories of him. My sister, who has little to no faith in Christianity, I believe struggles with past because without faith it’s the only relationship she can continue with my father. Of course, different denominations have different schools of thought; however, as I explained to her with the traditional faith of our family (at least on my mother’s side) we can continue to have a relationship with our Father through the body of Christ. I showed her where I had masses offered for our Father in the Middle East and that I continue to pray for him.
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Bosco the Great said:
AYE, SAY, GOOD BROTHER cHALCEdoN, I SUBMITTED MY POST 2 DAYS AGO.
I’ve asked twice when you want it published. I will dobso later today if that is OK with you
Bosco the Great said:
Thanks good brother. Now its time for me to scold you a wee bit and others who think Joseph and Mary lived on handouts.
“We do not know how they managed, but the likelihood is that the large Jewish community there sustained them ”
So, you cant fathom how Jesus family got along eh? Try this…..The Lord of Heaven comes down to earth with no help from above? No no no no. Having a form of godliness, you deny the power thereof.
First of ALL, you seem to have forgotten the Christmas story even befor you digested the ham and turkey. Jesus parents were given lots of gold and spices by rich men. They had need of nothing. Daddy always had work. They might not have been the richest on the block, but the holy spirit knows what needs they had and met them. The just shall live by faith.
They fled to Egypt – as refugees.