The Feast of the Holy Family

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January 13, 2013 by lucieromarin

If there’s one thing that singing in a liturgical choir has taught me, it’s that every joker in the pew is a critic. People who will never, ever sing in public will still tell you, after a full five minutes in your community, what your choir is doing wrong. Discovering how annoying this, and given that my resolution for 2013 is to not complain, I cannot write the post I wanted to write about the sermons that traditionalist Catholics usually have to listen to on today’s feast – that of the Holy Family.

I think, however, it is fine to acknowledge that for some Catholics, today’s sermon has the element of a trial, and I’ve been thinking about ways that it could be made less so.

1) Now, I’m not about to write against obedience, since I’ve never met a happy brat. However, I do think that if the Church had wanted domestic obedience to be the dominant theme of the feast, then it wouldn’t have closed the Epistle before St Paul’s words about it. There are also a multitude of Old Testament verses that refer directly to filial piety and submission that might have been chosen for other parts of the Mass – and they weren’t chosen. So I think that, despite the Collect, there’s more to this feast than ‘and he was subject to them.’ And if we don’t hear that ‘more’ from the pulpit, there’s no reason why we can’t find it during mental prayer.

1a) I do wonder sometimes why today’s preaching tends to ignore St Paul’s warning, “…do not drive your children to resentment.” I suspect there’s an underlying assumption that if the parents are happy then the children will be happy, so the responsibility lies with the children to keep their parents happy by never causing any trouble. I don’t know where this assumption comes from or why it is thought to be true.

2) I know it’s significant that Our Lord chose to be born in a family; it’s significant, because it proves that His Sacred Humanity is as real as His Divinity, contrary to the assertions of some early heretics. It wasn’t just a kind of stunt for sake of the twentieth century pro-life movement; it was the setting for the Incarnation. (I think there’s a sermon on hospitality in there somewhere – something about making it possible for the Incarnate Word to manifest Himself in your daily life – a sermon as applicable to single people as to married people.)

3) I’ve said a few unflattering things about married couples so far, so today I’ll say something kind. It must be pretty awful for non-delusional adults to discover that the near-psychic ability to understand (and, therefore, control) their children at all times that was promised to them by lunatic fringe of the homeschooling movement didn’t manifest itself upon childbirth.  Surely the fact that today’s reading records a moment in which the perfect woman and a very great man find themselves bewildered by a child tells us that this bewilderment is not necessarily a sign of failed parenting?

3a) I don’t really know if it helps to be told repeatedly that life’s problems will be solved by being more like the Holy Family a) since problems are caused by sin or the wounds of sin, and two members of the Holy Family were without either, and the remaining member never committed any sins after he married Our Lady and b) where one stresses obedience as the primary way to bring about peace, one ends up blaming the victim (she or they did not obey enough; if they stopped minding these stupid requests/degrading nicknames/etc they would be happy) and guarantees that the sins of verbal or psychological abuse are never acknowledged or the sinners called to repentance.

I think that, instead of hating this Feast because of its sermons, I’m going to like it, because the Holy Family is proof that fame in the Catholic loop is not the same thing as value in the eyes of God. We don’t even know St Joseph’s birthday!

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