A few weeks ago we celebrated the Solemnity of the Holy Family. It is a beautiful celebration of the Blessed Mother, Joseph, and the Christ Child. Unfortunately, in the past few years since becoming a single mother, it has become a solemnity of bitterness and disdain for me. Deep inside I saw it as nothing but a feast to enhance my shortcomings. A reminder of how he left us and continues to destroy my Catholic vision of family life.
Fortunately, this year there was a change in my thinking, a shift in my heart that encouraged me to celebrate the solemnity as the paramount liturgical celebration that it is meant to be.
In the Gospel for the day, one hears the customs of the time – Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple, as was the tradition – and it may seem like an easily forgettable passage. However in Luke 2:40 it states, “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him”.
Growth. From verse 40 it screams to me. I think about the growth I have experienced in the past three years. I think about the growth of my children and how they are thriving. I think about the wisdom I have gained. I think about how we may not have the look of the Holy Family in our living room, yet in our home, we are growing closer to God each day.
Coupled with the Gospel, I heard an exceptional homily on that day as well. It is was one of those moments where the priest was speaking directly to me. He said, “Our own families truly can be holy families. All we need to do is strive. To grow ourselves. One step at a time. And to rejoice when we see growth.”
Striving. Growing. Rejoicing. How beautiful is this message of the Holy Family? How important is it to teach our children that no matter the situation we must continue to strive, grow, and rejoice in the Lord?
No family can compare to the Holy Family. It is laughable for me to think that I can. And, for me to focus on the shortcomings of my own beautiful family is detrimental. Instead, I must continue to strive, grow, and rejoice in our faith-filled life no matter the circumstances.
Nicole Henning Brinkman is a cradle Catholic who was raised in a Catholic/Lutheran home. She was educated in Catholic schools kindergarten through master’s degree (Go Irish!). Born and raised in the Midwest, she has lived throughout Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio. In 2015 her faith was tested, and forever strengthened, when her husband suddenly left her and their two young boys; shattering, but not destroying, her belief in the Sacrament of Marriage. Today, she lives near family in northern Illinois (think corn fields, not Chicago). She is a fourth grade teacher, wanna-be writer, perfectionist, and a single mother who strives to live a Catholic vision of family life no matter the circumstances.