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LOF: The Holy Family knew the struggles of ordinary family life

December 22nd, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized

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Catholic News Service

            The other day I joked that parenting was a bit like trying to fit one more school photo into the picture frame hanging on the wall. You open it up and find so many wonderful memories inside, then try to squeeze in one more and hope the whole thing doesn’t come crashing down.

            Some days, when the laundry is manageable, the dishes are done and the house is reasonably clean, I feel like we are actually handling life with three kids, two working parents, a dog, a fish and a calendar that magically fills itself.

            Of course, that’s about the time the toilet backs up, a school project suddenly becomes due and the dog decides to throw up on the carpet — again.

            I’m going to be honest — on these days, it’s tough. Sometimes, I have a pity party. I whine to myself about how life isn’t fair. I complain to God. I magnify my struggles and harden my heart. This is not me at my most glamorous.

 

Franciscan Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak looks over a painted model of a clay mural of the Holy Family she was in the process of creating in her studio on the campus of Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio, in this 2014, photo. There's a risk of glimpsing the Holy Family only through the lens of perfection. We miss ourselves in the reflection -- or at least our attempt to live a life worthy of God. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

Franciscan Sister Jane Mary Sorosiak looks over a painted model of a clay mural of the Holy Family she was in the process of creating in her studio on the campus of Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio, in this 2014, photo. There’s a risk of glimpsing the Holy Family only through the lens of perfection. We miss ourselves in the reflection — or at least our attempt to live a life worthy of God. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

           Thankfully, I don’t remain this way for very long. After all, my life is incredibly blessed and it’s silly to think otherwise. But it’s the quiet strength of the Holy Family that helps me find the plunger, grab the poster board and turn on the steam cleaner — in other words, to get back to the business of life.

            Sometimes in the midst of it all I do cry out, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” but, really, they totally know where I’m coming from.

            They are the Holy Family, but I don’t mean the mild-faced people with the sinless wife (literally), the perfect Son (literally) and the hardest-working dad (hey, he makes stuff with his hands).

            They are, of course, all of those things. But they also were faced with an unexpected pregnancy, several last-minute moves, a complicated parenting relationship for Joseph, and, for Mary, the kind of pain no mother expects to endure.

            And they made it through those trying moments. Every time. Without question. How? By living a life of faithful obedience.

            Mary accepted her role as the mother of the world’s Savior even though she didn’t understand God’s reasons. Joseph listened when the angel appeared and told him to protect his young family by taking them to Nazareth. Jesus accepted his Father’s will to save us all.

            On the surface, Jesus, Mary and Joseph may seem like the perfect family because, well, they are. But there’s a risk of glimpsing the Holy Family only through the lens of perfection. We miss ourselves in the reflection — or at least our attempt to live a life worthy of God.

            The members of the Holy Family are our models not just because they get it right, but because they know what it’s like to struggle. They know worry. (I joke that even Mary and Joseph once lost their kid in a busy place.)

            They give us hope on days when everything seems hopeless or when our beliefs seem to run counter to everything we see on television and social media. They remind us that it’s OK if we don’t have all the answers — we don’t need them when we rely on our faith in Christ.

            The truth is, our families are the most basic part of our church. It is in the home where we first learn of God’s love for us and the ultimate sacrifice made for us by his Son. As parents, we teach our children how to pray, how to thank God and how to be of service to others. It’s where we become us.

            It’s also where we first see the grace of God — in a sibling’s forgiveness, in a mother’s comfort to her child, in a father’s protection even in uncertain times. Our children learn from watching us. And we, in turn, have much to learn from the Holy Family.

            Did Mary have to clean up dog vomit after a bad day? I’m not sure. But I do know that her unflagging faith in the face of much worse gives me something to cling to when I’m feeling low. Unlike the picture frame on the wall, there’s always a place for us with the Holy Family.

            (Bothum is a freelance writer and a mother of three.)

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