During St. Teresa’s younger years she was quite ill and even crippled. After seeing how helpless the doctors were, she began to seek help from the saints in heaven that they might cure her. She writes in her autobiography that she took for her advocate and lord St. Joseph recommending herself to him with all earnest. It is to St. Joseph’s intercession that she was able to walk once again. She writes:
“I saw clearly that as in this need so in other greater ones concerning honor and loss of soul this father and lord of mine came to my rescue in better ways than I know how to ask for. I don’t recall up to this day ever having petitioned him for anything that he failed to grant. It is an amazing thing the great many favors God has granted me through the mediation of this blessed saint, the dangers I was freed from both of body and soul. For with other saints it seems the Lord has given them grace to be of help in one need, whereas with this glorious saint I have experience that he helps in all our needs and that the Lord wants us to understand that just as He was subject to St. Joseph on earth . . . so in heaven God does whatever he commands.” (The Book of Her Life)
Once she was in need when setting up a new monastery and did not know how she would pay the workmen. St. Joseph assured her that she “would not be lacking”. She hired the workers even though she did not have any money. The “Lord in ways that amazed those who heard about it provided for me.” Her brother, who was living in South America, sent her the money that she needed. In her letter to him on December 23, 1561, she acknowledges his gift and expresses her gratitude. (The Collected Letters of St. Teresa, Vol 1)
On another occasion she writes about the protection she received from this wonderful saint. In the midst of conflicts and exhausted, St. Teresa didn’t worry. Instead she “prayed to the Lord to protect me and to my father St. Joseph to bring me to his house, and I offered God what I would have to undergo.”
She always celebrated his feast day with as much solemnity as possible. Since she has experienced so much good from this saint, she has done much in promoting devotion to him. “I have not known anyone truly devoted to him and rendering him special service who has not advanced more in virtue.” And who wouldn’t want to advance in virtue? St. Teresa is convinced that he will benefit souls in a powerful way – all they have to do is to recommend themselves to him. “For some years now I have asked him for something on his feast day, and my petition is always granted.”
St. Teresa also says that St. Joseph is someone who persons of prayer should attach themselves. Since he was so good and assisted the Blessed Mother and the Infant Jesus, she is convinced through her own experience that he will not fail to assist anyone who is devoted to him and entrusts themselves to him.
“Those who cannot find a master to teach them prayer should take this glorious saint for their master, and they will not go astray.”
Ask St. Joseph to help you pray and recommend all your cares and concerns to him. Perhaps there is a virtue that you need. If so, ask St. Joseph for this, today on his feast day.
The Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve tells about how the birth of Jesus came about. The Gospel of Matthew 1:18-23 is read at this Mass. During the Christmas Eve Vigil we hear that, “She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” and that “God is with us.” No one could know God is charity, except through this most important event in all of history – the Incarnation.
Traditionally it is believed that Christ was born at midnight. Midnight is when it is darkest and this can be seen to represent spiritual darkness that is in the world. Only Christ, the Light of the world, can dispel this darkness. The birth of Jesus, the Word made flesh, has shown us the love of God. With allusions to Christ’s birth in our souls by grace – through the Word, God’s love is manifested and now tangible in this little baby who holds out his arms to us.
The Church celebrates three Masses at Christmas. The first Mass is the Mass at Midnight. This is also known as the Angel’s Mass since the scripture passages are highlighted with the visit of angels. “The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord’. . . And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God. . .” The Gospel reading is taken from Luke 2:1-14 which describes how the birth of Jesus took place.
The Shepherd’s Mass or Mass at Dawn is celebrated early Christmas morning. Continuing with the theme of light, this Mass takes place at dawn when the natural light is increasing. The shepherds go to the crib to see the Christ child – a light in the darkness. In our consideration of these three Masses it would be incomplete without a visit to the creche, to see and worship the Infant Jesus.
The third Mass of the day is known as the Mass of the Divine Word. The Word is a light that shines in the darkness. The Word is life. The Word became flesh. The Word is God. The Word enlightens and dwells among us. (Jn 1:1-14) And the Word ushers in a new law.
This is how St. John of the Cross speaks of the new law of grace now that it has entered into time, explaining how we do not need to question God and have him reply as it was necessary in the Old Testament because:
“in this era of grace, now that the faith is established through Christ and the Gospel law made manifest, there is no reason for inquiring of him in this way, or expecting him to answer as before. In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word – and he has no more to say.” (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book II, 22. 3)
God has spoken through his Son. The Son speaks the Divine Word. We are to listen to that Word and carry the love that God has revealed into the dark places of our world.
If possible make plans to attend all three of these Christmas Masses. Reflect on these themes: angels, shepherds and the Divine Word. Worship the Infant Jesus, let his Word enter your heart and bring the law of light and love to our dark world.
St. Therese had to wait to make her profession. As she waited for this day, she told God she would wait as long as he desired. Until that day she resolved to carefully “make a beautiful dress enriched with priceless stones”. Therese began applying herself to practicing little virtues by doing small penances that especially mortified her self-love. She was not practicing these virtues alone. St. Therese stated that the Blessed Virgin, “was helping me prepare the dress of my soul; as soon as this dress was completed all the obstacles went away.”
The Bishop finally gave his permission and the community voted in favor of receiving St. Therese. The date set was September 8, 1890, the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. St. Therese writes of this occasion, “What a beautiful feast on which to become the spouse of Jesus! It was the little Blessed Virgin, one day old, who was presenting her little flower to the little Jesus. Everything was little that day except for the graces and peace I received.” (Story of a Soul, Ch 7)
St. Therese was set on mortifying her self-love and practicing little virtues and said that the Blessed Virgin Mary was helping her do this. The Blessed Mother also teaches us to live these hidden virtues and under God’s shadow. Her birth was unnoticed, yet without her, the greatest mystery of our faith could not have taken place. It is because of Mary that the Incarnation of the Son of God and Redemption of man was made possible. Her birth is like the dawn projecting new light over the new day. Yet her birth is unknown, unnoticed and not even mentioned in the scriptures. She remains hidden to the world except for the eyes of God, who sees her in the silence and obscurity of her life.
Today’s feast invites us to imitate this hidden life of Mary and even that of St. Therese, who was enclosed in the cloister and unknown to all expect for God. A hidden life that focuses on the interior by quietly practicing virtue and doing little penances keeping in check the selfish ego. Putting to death the need to be noticed, seeking praise, or making excuses for failures, these can be done under the shadow of God, just like Mary. St. Therese knew this and put this ideal into practice in the convent. We too can do this in the ordinary circumstance of our days under the watchful patronage of the Blessed Mother, whose birth we celebrate today.
Since man’s life on earth is a time of trial, and all who would live devotedly in Christ must undergo persecution, and the devil your foe is on the prowl like a roaring lion looking for prey to devour, you must use every care to clothe yourselves in God’s armor so that you may be ready to withstand the enemy’s ambush.
Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for as Scripture has it, holy meditation will save you. Put on holiness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the flaming missiles of the wicked one: there can be no pleasing God without faith; and the victory lies in this — your faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Saviour, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts. Let all you do have the Lord’s word for accompaniment.
(Rule of St. Albert)
In the Rule it says we are to have our loins girded with chastity. What does it mean to gird our loins with chastity? To gird one’s loins means to prepare for something that will be difficult or challenging.
In Medieval times, when a man was to be knighted, he was encircled with a belt or band around his waist. The purpose was to gather up his garments and to have a place for his sword. There are three ways according to Kees Waaijman in his commentary on the Rule of St. Albert (The Mystical Space of Carmel) that Carmelites are to put on the cincture of God’s chastity. Clothed in this cincture reminds us that we are to protect, bind, and purge.
First, we are to protect all that is vulnerable in us. In this regard we will have an attitude that will keep us from violating the intimate, tender, and vulnerable parts in ourselves and in others. This will require strength and the ability to fight in order to protect. Balance and respect will also be needed and the ability to restrain and abstain in order to keep from violating the vulnerable, intimate and tender parts. Chastity protects.
Secondly, the cincture of God’s chastity gathers up or binds by keeping us from dissipating. We so often get lost with impulses of the moment or are led astray by some diversion. Chastity helps to gain control over ourselves. Chastity brings with it concentration and order. It helps to regulate and moderate our activity and aids recollection.
Finally, chastity removes all that is not real. By all that is not real, we mean all that is superficial in our conduct, feelings that are all confused and bewildered, all our prejudices, all our selfish needs, all the trivial things we impose on others and other such things that estrange us from who we really are in God’s eyes.
Chastity is a gift from God and we make this gift our own when we practice it. With sensitivity and patience we can, with God’s grace, make chastity part of our daily clothing. God’s chastity should abound in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Chastity in our words will be reflected in the respect and esteem that we give to others. With integrity permeating our thoughts, we will think honestly of ourselves and others. Daily doing deeds of love express the love that has entered into our new life with God.
As Secular Carmelites with the Discalced Order the promise of chastity that we make “reinforces the commitment to love God above all else, and to love others with the love God has for them”. By making this promise we seek “the freedom to love God and neighbor unselfishly”.(Constitutions. #13). Each day let us put on chastity as part of the armor of God.
Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, or Our Lady of Solitude, is one of the titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Soledad, or Solitude, refers to the Blessed Mother contemplating the death of Jesus, her son. It is both a physical and psychological solitude for only a mother can know the pain the death of a child brings. A mother who has lost a child is truly isolated from those around her.
Under this title of Our Lady of Solitude, Mary is a model for those of us who withdraw from the world to pursue a life of contemplation. Devotion to Mary under this title commemorates the solitude of the Blessed Mother on Holy Saturday.
In art Our Lady of Solitude is represented dressed in black and white, like a nun, with her hands folded in prayer. In this picture by Nicholas Rodrigues Juarez, symbols of the passion of Christ are below the Blessed Mother and she is seemingly bowed in contemplation and mourning the death of her son. This devotion is dedicated to Mary’s solitude on Holy Saturday, the day when the body of Jesus laid in the tomb before His resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Patroness: of the bereaved, consolation, a happy death, and against loneliness.
Who better is there as our model for the contemplative life than the Blessed Mother. She is the ideal of this life consecrated to seeking God and toward an intimate union with Him. Everyone who wishes to imitate Mary will soon realize that her soul was a beautiful garden of virtues. Chief among her virtues is silence. Silence and peace reigned in her soul even amidst the turmoil of the world around her.
It is only in silence that God can speak to our heart. This state of stillness makes us able to listen and to be receptive to Him and His will. Silence helps our emotions by calming the body and ordering tranquility in the soul. Silence and peace in the soul enters when the noise of our passions and attachments have ceased within us.
Our Lady of Silence teaches how to live the hidden virtues of silence, listening and humility under God’s shadow. Her birth was unnoticed, yet without her the greatest mystery of our faith could not have taken place. It is because of Mary that the Incarnation of the Son of God and Redemption of man was made possible. Her birth is like the dawn projecting new light over the new day. However, Mary’s birth is unknown, unnoticed and not even mentioned in the scriptures. She remained hidden to the world except for the eyes of God, who saw her in the silence and obscurity of her life.
It was in silence that the angel, Gabriel, found Mary. Alone and in silent prayer, she was silent in the presence of God. This is love in action for a contemplative “the silence of love is love in silence.” To sit silently just loving God and letting Him love us and to transform us. To be alone with the “one who is alone”. To be silent like Mary “who was able to hear the voice of an angel”. (Marie-Aimee de Jesus)
By being silent one is able to stay away the evils that come about in the abuse of words. What do we have to talk about? What is it that we communicate when we speak? Ideas? Actually, most of what we communicate are images and impressions – mostly foolishness and nonsense. In reality the more we speak the more our interior recollection is clouded. While on the contrary, silence makes for recollection. Silence is difficult and poorly observed. This we can all agree. It costs.
Fr. Emiliano Antenucci has a lovely little booklet titled Our Lady of Silence.The booklet introduces devotion to Mary under this title and promotes the importance of silence, of not speaking badly of others, and of listening to God, all of which are important to the Holy Father, Pope Francis.
St. John of the Cross teaches that silence is the language God hears best; therefore, one ought to remain in silence with desires and tongue silenced. Thoughts and words are limiting. They limit time with the Lord. To be truly present before Him, the faculties need to be silenced and remain in a state of interior quiet. It is in this silent waiting of prayer through faith and love that will bring the soul to the God it is seeking.
We need to bring Christ into the lives of others, but first we need to begin by bringing Him into our own life. We can begin by inviting Him to join us in the interior of our heart: in deep recollection, in silence, and in solitude. Then we can hear His voice and prepare for His coming however He may manifest His presence.
We can add more silence into our lives by first setting aside useless chatter, then self-love, sensitiveness, the prattle of fantasy and imaginings, and the thoughts that flit from here to there. In addition to these, we can get rid of any preoccupation with useless things, so that we can hear the Lord speak.
Silence can be uncomfortable at first, but by gradually making some changes there can be more room for silence. We can begin by not turning on the radio after getting into the car. Forgoing the evening news, or maybe just by being more gentle and soft when we speak are other ways to add more silence. More ways to foster silence throughout the day can happen by eliminating gossip, curiosity, and any noisy habits that can disturb and upset us and our peace of mind. Silence can bring health to mind and body. The habit of silence will take some effort, but the fruits are precious: more calm, more peace, more attentive understanding towards God and others. Allowing more “space” to be silent with the Lord to hear what he has to say is the silence of contemplation.
Exterior solitude can assist in interior solitude enabling the spirit to soar up to God. This exterior solitude is in imitation of Jesus who often sought places of solitude to pray – to the mountain, the garden, a lonely place. Try to sit alone for five minutes in a quiet, comfortable place, then gradually add more time and just be still.
God comes and speaks to the heart in this solitude where there is silence of the senses and spirit. God, however, speaks silence, and for most of us He is passed by to the noisiness of the day and events that fill it. No one thinks to find Him in the silence – so near and within. Now this is where Mary can help us. She can teach us silence and how to listen. Mary shows us how to be attentive to the needs of others, how to be humble, docile and pure all the while trusting in the mercy of God. Let us learn to listen to Him speak to us in the Silence, letting Him love us, while we return the love.
“A silent heart is a pure heart; a melody singing in the heart of God. Like a sacristy lamp flickering noiselessly at the tabernacle, and like incense silently rising at the Savior’s throne, such is love’s silence.” (Marie-Aimee de Jesus)
One afternoon my family had the pleasure of serving dinner in our home to two friars from the Carmelite monastery of Mount Carmel in Wyoming. (Check out what they are doing overhereat their website.) One of the things that still stays with me about the visit was the topic of the evangelical counsels. The evangelical counsels are vows that religious make in their desire to become “perfect”. The counsels are three: chastity, poverty, and obedience. These counsels are not binding upon all Christians, but are works that are more than what duty requires. Religious make a public profession of these counsels in the way of vows before the recognized authority in the Church which then recognizes them as members of the consecrated life. One of the Carmelite friars that afternoon referred to these counsels as: obedience, chastity and poverty. He said that obedience was most important, which is why he referred to them in that order listing obedience first. According to Rev Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O. P., “Obedience is the highest of the three evangelical counsels, just as the pride of life is in itself a graver disorder than the concupiscence of the flesh.” (The Three Ages of the Interior Life)
For Secular Carmelites the desire for holiness brings us to make promises to tend toward evangelical perfection. The practice of the three evangelical counsels makes faith grow as well as hope and charity. The promise of obedience, for Seculars, is an exercise of faith. To obey is to do what pleases God. Obedience frees one of all self will and of one’s own judgment. Obedience particularly applies to the duties of the present moment. As a lay person, Secular Carmelites “search for God’s will in the events and challenges in society and in one’s own personal life”. In the context of the Secular Carmelite vocation, members cooperate with those leading the OCDS community and the Carmelite Order.
The promise of obedience is a pledge to live open to the will of God, “in whom we live and move and have our being” (Ac 17:28) imitating Christ who accepted the Father’s will and was “obedient unto death, death on a cross” (Ph 2:8). The promise of obedience is an exercise of faith leading to the search for God’s will in the events and challenges in society and our own personal life. For this reason the Secular Carmelite freely cooperates with those who have responsibility for guiding the community and the Order in discerning and accepting God’s ways: the community’s council, the Provincial and the General.[Const. #15]
To know God’s will begins by being open to it. God makes His will known in His revealed Word, through scripture, throughout the events of the day, and through those in authority. Those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Mt 5:6) will then value any occasion that manifests in daily life to do the will of God even in the “little things” – which make up the majority of each day. Small acts of self-will are not acts of love for God; however, these do not break our friendship with God or separate us from His grace. The promise that Secular Carmelites make provides the grace – that is the state of mind and willingness – to obey. The more willingness there is the more grace is given.
Related to obedience is the virtue of justice. As an act of submission one submits to the will of another (a lawful superior) since they represent God. We must obey God through His the commandments. After all we are creatures. He is the creator and obviously superior! We have free will – a gift we have received from God. A good way to acknowledge this gift is by freely submitting our will to God, the Creator and giver of the gift. As His children we should obey just like Jesus did. Imitating Christ’s obedience who “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2: 8) Obedience applies also to any promises made and especially to vows (like marriage vows).
Have the mind of Christ Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,” (Ph 2: 5-7)
The will of God includes the Commandments, Church and civil law, as well as the natural law. We should also be willing to submit to the Precepts of the Church. We can show our obedience to Christ’s counsels by performance of good works according to our state in life. The performance of duties related to our state in life should take precedence. Obedience should also be given to the inspirations of grace – when clear and submitted to a spiritual director, least we be under illusion. Generally inspirations of grace will be customary things undertaken according to our state in life and that do not trouble the soul. If this is the case, then we may do them without hesitation or under the guidance of a spiritual director. When we discern God has spoken, sometimes we need confirmation and we should seek it. If we believe that we have had a communication from God, we need to have it confirmed through others in the Church. St. John of the Cross says that, “God is so pleased that the rule and direction of humans be through other humans and that a person be governed by natural reason that he definitely does not want us to restore entire credence on his supernatural communications, or be confirmed in their strength and security, until they pass through this human channel of the mouth of another human person.” (The Ascent of Mount Carmel, 2:22,9) Extraordinary undertakings need to be done with a spiritual director’s advising. If it is from God He will make it known and confirmed in His own way and time. With this confirmation one can be assured that there is not any danger of self deception or illusion.
The Constitutions and Rules of Life (for religious) are also to be obeyed. In this case obedience is to be given to the superiors with and within the limits of the rule, obeying promptly and with generosity. St. John of the Cross in his Sayings of Light and Love (#13) explains that, “God desires the least degree of obedience and submissiveness more than all those services you think of rendering him.”(#13)
Obedience to those in authority can be challenging to our ego. Recalling that all authority comes from God, we should obey others over us out of reverence for God. Therefore, the wishes of those who govern us and make laws, police officers, teachers, and our bosses in our places of employment should be obeyed. Obeying them is obeying God. We should obey only those things that do not go contrary to the law of God. Additionally, we should obey not only when being watched, so as to get on the good side of the superior, but doing so willingly to serve Christ and from the heart.
“Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ” (Ep 6: 5-9).
The Church representatives guide us – this is how God wants things to be done. Direction from our priest and bishops—this is how God speaks to us through others for our Lord said, “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Lk 10:16) Sometimes “we cling greatly to our own will” and “hold to our own way of doing good more than to the good itself” (Rev Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O. P. – The Three Ages of the Interior Life)
As a disciple we should be ready to listen for the Holy Spirit to prompt us and speak to us through others. God willed that we live in society because we are not self sufficient for all our needs. We need others. With our Secular Carmelite communities we are organized with leadership and the rules of our Constitutions and Statutes approved by the Church in order to come together for a common purpose. To carry this purpose out, we need rules and decisions in the various situations that the group meets. Our obedience only needs be in accordance with and within the limits of the present Rule (Constitutions). Someone needs to coordinate all those in the community towards the common good. Some command – some obey. Without obedience there would be chaos.
Even Jesus was subject to Mary and Joseph. “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (Lk 2: 51) Submitting our will even in things that are hard, difficult or go against our own preferences is not easy. Doing so wholeheartedly, not complaining, with joy and perseveringly will have its rewards.
Obedience challenges us to be of the same mind as that of the superior or the one in charge. To do so means to conform our judgement and understanding (as well as our will) to that of another. Thus obedience expresses humility and puts to death (or mortifies) the self will. We all have self love and our own opinions that can derail us from obedience. St. Teresa in The Way of Perfections counsels: “Strive to obey, even if this may be more painful for you, since the greatest perfection lies in obedience.” (Way 39:3) She also relates this wise consolation in the prologue of The Interior Castle: “Obedience usually lessens the difficulty of things that seem impossible”.
The fruits of obedience will manifest in a correct way of behaving and thinking. It makes us wiser and, having the mind of God, we will think the way God does. Obedience also strengthens the will. However, God never commands the impossible, and He gives the strength to do what is difficult – like with the martyrs – He gives the grace needed. There comes a true freedom of spirit with obedience as St. Paul writes to the Romans – we will enjoy “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Rom 8:21) God’s truth and wisdom frees us from error and doubt. Those who do the Father’s will, will enter heaven. And as scripture reveals the humble “will be exalted” (Lk 14:11) Most importantly obedience “prepares for the contemplation of divine things”. (Rev Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O. P. – The Three Ages of the Interior Life)
The object of obedience is the will; be willing to want to even know the will of God. The precept is expressed by the will of another. The motive or intention of obedience is to please God. The more we become interiorly responsive to doing the will of God, the more obedient we are. God’s will is manifested in many ways and circumstances especially through those in authority over us. Since the word obey comes from the Latin root which means “to be open” “to hear” – we should strive to have the ear of a disciple so as to hear God’s voice – this is obedience.
Mary presents the Infant Jesus in the Temple and accompanies Him on His mission. She submits herself to the laws of purification out of obedience even though she does not need to be purified.
We are in need of interior purification. However, our pride often seeks to exempt us from the law. We make excuses. Often we falsely believe that parts of the law of God just do not pertain to us.
Mary, who was influenced by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, is our model of contemplative prayer and of purity of heart.“My eyes are ever upon the LORD” (Psalm 25). This describes Mary and her purity. Mary’s purity was of heart, mind, and intention. Souls aspiring to contemplation should strive for this kind of purity in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
A pure heart that is detached from all that can lead to sin or trouble the soul.
A pure mind that puts to death curiosity, which only troubles and distracts the soul, scattering its attention in all different directions.
Purity of intentions that have only one aim in mind, to please God.
The fruit of this purity is a great mastery over self and opens the way to constantly thinking of God, conversing with Him, performing all actions with Him in mind, and desiring only to please Him. Then, like Mary, His presence is always in mind and the soul is constantly turned toward Him.
According to the law, Mary was to go to the Temple forty days after the birth of her son and participate in the purification rite. She brings the child with her. This is the first time Jesus, the Light of the World, enters the Temple.
Candles are blessed on this day by the Church. These lit tapers symbolize the life of a Christian – a life of grace that is filled with faith, hope, and love. Since Jesus is the Light of the World, or as Simeon proclaimed, “a light to the revelation of the Gentiles”, these candles should be a reminder to us that we too must be a light for others revealing Christ in us and giving hope to all.
Mary is always united to her Son. We too should always be united to Jesus. Our union with Him is proportional to our purity. On this Feast of the Presentation let us ask the Immaculate Heart of Mary for that pure love, free of sin and detached from all created things, and for a heart directed towards God and always tending toward Him.
“The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children, it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.” (CCC 2205)
Jesus spent most of his life hidden living within the context of a family. Today is the Feast of the Holy Family and the lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph provide us with some important lessons. Their home life at Nazareth is in many ways a school, as Pope Paul VI pointed out in hisaddress on 5 January 1964.
The home of “Nazareth is the school in which we begin to understand the life of Jesus. It is the school of the Gospel.” The first lesson is of silence where “we learn to observe, to listen, to meditate, and to penetrate the profound mysterious meaning” of Jesus and to imitate Him. Silence is an admirable and indispensable condition of mind to revive in us as it teaches “us recollection, reflection, and eagerness to heed the good inspirations and words of true teachers”.
The home at Nazareth teaches a lesson on family life. The Holy Family teaches us what family life is – a communion of love with “its simplicity and austere beauty, its sacred and inviolable character.” When meditating on the life of the Holy Family we cannot help but think about how there is something ordinary about this family. They are living out their daily lives doing everyday things together. They eat meals together, pray and work together, and sometimes they even travel. So much of this is reminiscent of our own family life, doing unremarkable things together day in and day out, even taking a trip once in a while.
On one such trip, the Holy Family notices that Jesus is missing, and the parents go in search of Him. For three days Joseph and Mary went searching for Jesus. Sometimes our life’s present circumstances are buried in endless activities and filled with various worries and sometimes, like with the Holy Family, with great challenges! Mary was afraid that her Son had disappeared. Overwhelmed with anxiety, she and Joseph continued their search with the hope that they would be reunited with Him again. Then they experienced such joy at finding Jesus! Once they found Him, they returned to their home in Nazareth to resume their lives and daily living with Jesus.
Additionally, we receive the lesson of work from the home at Nazareth where the “carpenter’s Son” shows us how to “understand and to praise the austere and redeeming law of human labor.” The life of this holy family was unseen and filled with love and work.
During these hidden years, the whole family lived the hidden human virtues we are all called to live. Simple, humble virtues like work, religion, family life, and activities. These virtues are ways to sanctify our daily lives. There is nothing great here, just ordinary things done daily and lived authentically.
Entrustment and Consecration of Families to the Holy Family
Dear Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
We are orphans in a world grown cold, and we are seeking the Refuge of your Holy Home at Nazareth.
Holy Family, take us in our Heart as we entrust, and consecrated our family, and all families, entirely to you. Infuse in our hearts the same love for each other that penetrated the Heart of the Holy Family.
St. Joseph, we beg you to be the father of our family. Please guide, protect, and provide for us as you did the Holy Family.
Holy Mary, please be our Mother! Teach us, take care of us, and love and embrace us in your Maternal Heart as you did your family.
Jesus, be our Brother and our King. Be the center of our lives. Let your Sacred Heart and the Heart of the Holy Family reign in our homes.
Teach us how to pray together, work together, play together, and become saints together – with God and family as our first priority!
Teach us to praise and encourage one another and to be faithful, chaste and committed.
Comfort us in our sufferings, and dry away every tear of us who are in distress caused by the difficulties, heartaches, and sorrows of our families.
After you have raised us as your very own children, send us out as you did Jesus.
Send us to minister to the poor, the sick, the suffering, the aged, the lonely, the prisoners, and to defend and protect LIFE and the concerns of Holy Mother Church.
Send us, no matter in what walk of life we may be in, to make a difference in this world. Let us be so filled with charity that the cross will no longer be a burden because we will be following Him, our Brother, who gave His life for us. Let us do the same for each other. Amen.