Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
On this feast of the Holy Family it seems to me we have a lot to pray about. I’m thinking of the many conversations I’ve had over the holidays when troubled people have expressed their family struggles: lack of unity, refusal to forgive, members who have left the Church, members who have turned their backs on their families. A kind of voluntary estrangement that is the fruit of self-centeredness. You see, in our culture of individualism, addiction and self-absorption, it is tough for the family to survive. The voices of the world are so loud that they have captivated the ears of youth—and many adults—and the old sacred structures of family values based on an understanding of a Divine Plan have lost priority.
We see a lot of new confusing concepts of “family” based on individualism. A lot of marriages are really more arrangements which allow individual license, situations established to allow for personal satisfaction. Divorce is so common. Often, secular values have replaced religious values and the world doesn’t value life, or family, or tradition.
A family requires sacrifice, and a willingness to humbly submit to one another out of love. A time to willingly and gladly set aside our own wants and needs for the good of another. Family life is not easy (I think it gets harder and harder as the years pass), and the obedience and respect of children to parents is something that must develop into a mutual offering between adults when children grow to adulthood; the new generation needs the good example of the previous one to make good choices, and not reject it. But too often today the vital good example just isn’t there. People are just confused.
For years now we have known that Fredericksburg has one of the highest rates of pregnancy outside of marriage in the state of Virginia, and a recent statistic quoted to me (shockingly) states that of the pregnancies which have happened in the City of Fredericksburg this year, 43% of them have been aborted. It is a desperate society that would choose to terminate life and family in this way. And I can only imagine what kind of emptiness this can leave behind; it is hard enough to survive the loss of a loved one in a family when it is beyond our control.
So we must look first to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. A surprise family, to be sure. A great deal of trust in God, and obedience to a plan of faith. Remarkable hardship, poverty. Herod was seeking to kill Jesus. In his rage had all the boys under two years of age murdered throughout Judea. We just celebrated the Feast of the Holy Innocents Saturday this weekend, in memory of all those whose lives were not valued more than the self-will and hunger for control of King Herod.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph became homeless refugees fleeing for their lives to a pagan land—the land from which their ancestors had already fled from death—in order to save Jesus’ life. I wonder if they were welcomed any more than immigrants are welcomed today?
Thank God, St. Mary responds profoundly in support of life with our various pro-life ministries, and our refugee resettlement program. We try to teach our families the values of faith and love, reconciliation and hope, to reach out to those who are in need seeking the truth and answers to their questions. We want everyone to know that they never need to feel alone, fearful, without a solution.
But we need to do more. Families need help, and we need to strengthen each other. We need to keep the message of family and tradition fresh in the minds of our children, and teach by example more than by words. And we need to turn again and again to the Holy Family of Bethlehem, of Egypt, and of Nazareth in their many transitions to see how we might be able to adapt and respond faithfully, like them, to life’s many abrupt challenges and changes. May God strengthen you with his grace, and keep you together in his love.
God bless you.