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Have you heard…. Whenever someone was at fault in the Holy Family, they always knew Joseph was the one to blame. (He was, after all, the only one who was not without sin.)

Seriously, in our ordinary families we likely aren’t saints, at least not yet. Nevertheless, there is holiness in our family.

We don’t know a lot the details of holiness in the Holy Family.

We know the stories of

  • how confusing it was at first for both Mary and also Joseph,
  • the poverty surrounding the birth of their child,
  • being forced to flee from their homeland into Egypt,
  • the panic when Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.

These stories lead us to believe that they

  • trusted in God even in the midst of suffering and confusion,
  • continued with their lives even when they did not know what was coming next or why God had placed them in this situation.

Our Families

Ordinary Families

In an ordinary family, we may get frustrated and even angry with each other. Arguments can sometimes be very painful.

We try to love and support each other. We try to humbly serve each other and be Christ for each other.

We don’t do it perfectly, but we try to be holy. When we fail, we get up and try again.

Dysfunctional Families

Unfortunately, some families, more than should be, are dysfunctional (behave in a way that is unhealthy) or abusive (physical/sexual/spiritual/emotional or some combination thereof).

In the midst of the Christmas season, many people find themselves either faced with memories of dysfunction and abuse or faced with navigating relationships with unhealthy people.

Yet, God calls these families to holiness, too.

What should you do if you are in a family like this, and you still want to be holy?

This is, of course, a heartbreaking situation. Yet, praying for dysfunctional or abusive family members (and establishing whatever boundaries are necessary to keep yourself safe) is loving them. Praying for their healing (as many people who are dysfunctional or abusive are also mentally unhealthy or were victims of abuse themselves) may even help them to one day get to heaven.

This kind of prayer and love is honoring (no matter what an abusive family member might tell you).

And if anyone in one’s family doesn’t treat the rest of the family that way? It is important to establish healthy boundaries and seek healing (whether for ourselves or for a difficult relationship).

Mental health matters. Part of families being holy is seeking out the resources the need to have healthy relationships.

There is always hope for a family like this to be like the Holy Family. We never know how God will work in the hearts of others, and praying for and loving family members can help them get to heaven; even if they aren’t safe or healthy to have in one’s life right now.

All Families Are Called to Holiness

Holiness is about love — the kind of love that is willing to suffer or die for the beloved.

We will all fail in ordinary, daily ways, but it is important that we truly desire the good of the other person.

Holiness will look very different, depending on the health of the family dynamics, but regardless, all families are called to holiness. 

The most powerful thing you can do is to daily entrust the health, healing, and holiness of your family to God.

And this is precisely why on this feast of the Holy Family we look to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to guide us in the midst of our struggles in family life.

I will pray for you and your families. May we be inspired by the Holy Famiiy to become a holy family.

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk.

Holy Family and our families

This reflection was inspired by a reflection in US Catholic