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Christi Ink Slingers Marriage Vocations

A Day in the Life of the Holy Family

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt…”  Matthew 2:13-14

With the decline of the family becoming very evident already in the late 1800’s, Pope Leo 13th endeavored to promote the feast day of the Holy Family in hopes that the Holy family would be an inspiration to the world.  But long, long before our modern day popes were concerned with the breakdown of today’s family life – St John Chrysostom (344 – 407 AD) was urging families to look to the Holy family for inspiration as how to make the family a domestic church.

But in order to be inspired by someone, or something , one must come to know it. So with that in mind – let’s take a moment and in our minds eye take a little time to imagine what life must have been like for the Holy Family the morning St. Joseph woke from that second incredible dream.

ADayintheLifeoftheHolyFamily

Joseph rolled over onto his back and stared up at the roof of the cave – smudged in places from the soot of the small fire kept burning near the front. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he resisted the urge to shake his head in hopes of clearing of his mind. The roughness of the stone that was his pillow would not be softened any by this action. He pushed himself up on one arm and stared at the tiny baby wrapped in Mary’s arm and winced. What would she think when he woke her to tell her that they must, on the basis of a dream, pack their meager belongings once more and this time head out, not towards an ancestral home, but for a land unknown to either of them? Egypt! The angel had been very clear on that.

Well, nothing to do but to get moving he decided. Wasting time lingering in the heavy large shawl he had slept in would not serve anyone. Still, he mused, no need to wake Mary and the babe just yet. This was not going to be an easy journey.  The caravan they had traveled with to Bethlehem had long ago reassembled and returned to Nazareth. But with Mary recovering from birth and such an arduous journey to Bethlehem, Joseph had opted to remain in Bethlehem for a while. He had earned a few coins doing the odd carpentry job here and there, though not enough to cover the foodstuffs they would need to procure in order to eat on such a long walk to … Egypt!  Thankfully they had not needed to spend any of the gold the three men had brought with them to give to the baby Jesus.

Joseph deftly rolled up the shawl, tucked it away and then added fuel to the smoking coals left in the small fire pit. He grabbed a gourd and headed to the community well where he quickly filled it with fresh water. Once back in the cave he rested the water near the folded shawl and knelt to wake Mary.  Gently he touched her shoulder and smiled as her eyelids fluttered and then opened. Mary’s smile was brief as she noted the look of concern deeply etched on Joseph’s face. Trying to avoid waking the baby – she gingerly wiggled out from under the wraps covering her. 

“What is it Joseph?” she whispered. Her deep brown eyes searched his face as he sat there puzzling how to tell her of his dream. 

He sat back and absently picked up a stone and quietly rolled it about in his hand. For not the first time Mary studied the strong fingers as they deftly moved the pebble in and out. Carpenters hands studded with scars from chisel hits. She patiently waited. She knew he would speak when he was ready. 

“Remember the dream I had, after our betrothal, Mary?”

Startled by this remembrance, Mary nodded somberly and waited. Her dark hair slid forward as she shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position on the hard stone. 

“I’ve had another… it was a most fearsome dream, Mary. The angel warned me that Herod is looking… looking our baby. Our dear sweet Jesus!”

Mary started, and protectively placed her hand on the sleeping child.  “What do you mean Joseph, looking for Jesus? To take him away from us?”

“No, much worse Mary. He is deathly afraid of the child growing into a man and taking his kingdom from him!” 

“Why that’s just ridiculous Joseph, we both know -“

“Shh, yes Mary – we both know… but Herod obviously doesn’t. “

“So what does the angel want us to do, are we supposed to hide him somehow – how will we hide him until he’s grown?” 

Joseph hesitated for a moment and then taking Mary’s other hand he held it tight. “Mary, the angel has told me that we must escape to Egypt.”

“Egypt?!”

Her fingers tightened around his and she sat there absorbing the news.

Then she straightened her shoulders, caressed the baby’s round cheek gently before whispering “We had better begin to prepare, I guess.”

Painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Joseph helped her up and bent to help her collect the heavy wraps from where they had fallen. The baby stirred and Mary gathered him up.  She turned worried eyes to Joseph; “How long do we have to get ready. It took several days to gather all we needed when we left Nazareth… ” her voice trailed off.  

Joseph rolled the wraps up and tied them with some leather thongs and placed them with the shawl he’d folded earlier.  “I don’t think there is much time. I want to be on the road by late afternoon if at all possible. “

Seeing the worried surprise in her eyes he pulled her near him and hugged her and the baby close. “It will be ok, Mary. The lord will provide. He always has, right?”

Mary smiled her agreement. “Yes he has. Actually I guess that might be why those men left the gold. Our lord must have guided them to us for that very reason. Those gold pieces will make it much easier to get the food we need for –  actually, how long do you think it will take us to get there, Joseph? “

“It’s over 400 miles just to reach the outer parts of Egypt, so I think we will be at least three weeks on the road, maybe four. There are some settlements and villages on the way so we can freshen our supplies as we go, though there is no guarantee of fresh rain water so I will see if I can buy a an extra wine skin or two in the market today. We are down to only a cupful of cleansing water as it is. Let’s cleanse our hands now, say our morning prayers Mary, and have a bite to eat before we start our preparations. I will try to find a caravan. The road we will take to Egypt will be less treacherous than it was to reach Bethlehem, but I would feel better if we traveled with at least one other family. 

Mary cuddled baby Jesus close to her heart and smiled at Joseph before tenderly kissing the sweet baby’s forehead. She sat and patted the rock beside her. “Come Joseph, sit and tell me a little more of the angel who came to you last night? Was he as fearful as Gabriel?”

She stirred the embers and Joseph reached for the flat rock they would bake their flat bread on. Knowing their Lord would provide, our Holy family  broke their nightly fast together, and planed for the long journey ahead. 

 

 

 

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Christi Domestic Church Ink Slingers Marriage Vocations

Spice Up Your Advent with “Driveway Dating”

It’s that time of year again. It always seems to creep up on me, no matter how much I think I’m prepared. We had a peaceful start: we set up the Advent tree and wreath, and have even managed to start most mornings off with prayer and lighting the wreath. But I know that even this calm start won’t stop one of my favorite seasons from descending into the typical angst as my  “to do” and “naughty and nice” lists grow and grow. My husband is a teacher and as the semester begins to wind down (with his students’ spirits winding up!), I know he, too, will find his anxiety beginning to grow. Then the invitations will begin to roll in. And not just for my husband and I, but for several of our thirteen children, many of which are teens still living at home. 

So how will we find that much needed one-on-one spouse time in the middle of all that manages to invade our lives this time of year? When we were young, eternally broke, and already five children into the game, our favorite go to “date night” was a “car date” in…the driveway!

Back then, we lived in a small town about 20 minutes away from my husband’s job in the city. By dinnertime, I was really ready for a break and my husband, having just left the stresses of the city, needed to ease into the chaos of returning to a home with five young children between the ages of nine and one. With only one income, paying a babysitter to go out just wasn’t in the cards. One day I was struck with a brilliant idea, proving once more that necessity (or is it desperation?) is the mother of invention. I called Hugo at work and asked him to grab two coffees from our town’s favorite coffee shop on his way home. In the meantime, I made an easy dinner for the kids and put dessert in the oven.

When my husband got home, I set the oldest four up in front of the TV with a DVD (today I’d be putting on Netflix or Hulu). Then I set out their “TV dinners”: PB&J sandwiches and juice boxes. Then I popped the one-year-old into her playpen and slipped my coat on. I reminded the oldest, a very mature young lady of nine, that she was only to come to the door and call out to the car if serious issues arose. I then clearly spelled out what a “serious issue” was, quizzing the five- and six-year-old boys on these definitions, since they were most likely to BE the serious issues.

When I heard the crunch of Hugo’s tires on the frozen gravel, I snatched up the plate of still-warm brownies and headed to the car. I slid into the front seat and exchanged warm brownies for a fragrant, hot coffee.  We chatted for a delectable half hour before we saw a blond set of pigtails waving in the front door window. This was our cue that “driveway date night” was over. Refreshed by having a prolonged, uninterrupted conversation that was not punctuated every 30 seconds with “No!” “Maybe,” “Don’t do that!” and “Stop!” we collected our coffee cups and empty brownie plate and headed in.

Today, we have free live-in babysitters, but we still occasionally take advantage of the cheap car date. Now that we have at least one teen available to shepherd and care for the “littles,” sometimes the car date takes place away from home. We’ll drive somewhere and get takeout (or just chips and soda) and sit together in the parking lot eating and watching a movie on one of our smartphones.

Advent Dating
Date night on our anniversary last year. Way cheaper than two movie tickets!

Regardless of how you manage to spend some one-on-one time with your spouse, numerous studies have shown the importance of investing in your marriage with date nights. Around the world, many organizations are promoting regular face time as a way to strengthen marriages. South Korea and Norway are especially spearheading this idea. Inspired by the movie “Date Night” starring Steve Carell, Norwegian Minister of Children, Solveig Home, said date nights are an excellent way to protect family life for married couples with children. Many groups in the United States, including our Catholic bishops, agree about the importance of date night (see this USCCB page for date night tips).

The idea is especially important for couples who are in the throes of raising many young children and who may find it challenging to get quality time away from the house. Misty and Tom, a couple married for 16 years, have five children between the ages of 12 and 1. Tom’s demanding work schedule, the kids’ evening sports activities, and budget constraints have made their “driveway dates” critical for connecting with each other.

“It was so easy to get consumed with the demands of family life that we’d go long periods without taking time to really talk to each other,” said Misty. “Driveway dating has changed that. Now, just a half hour together in the car…just talking and listening to each other without all the noise of TV and kids…that time has become a godsend.” While the couple still has the occasional dates out of the house, meeting in the driveway for a special dessert has had a clearly positive impact on their relationship, said Misty. “After we connect, everything about my vocation just seems easier to handle,” she says.

A truck, a few pillows, some wine...driveway dates are great for summer, too.
A truck, a few pillows, some wine…driveway dates are great for summer, too.

So as the month of December marches forward and the stress of trying to make the season special creeps in and tries to take over, make sure you incorporate at least one date night into your routine. It doesn’t have to be fancy; as my experience and Misty’s shows, even just 30 minutes together in the car (with a hot cup of cocoa to stay warm, of course) can truly bless your marriage!