Since May is the month of Mary, it always leads me to reflect on the Holy Family as a whole. I’ll admit, Mary and Joseph for a long time were puzzling to me. They both seemed like distant figures who I really didn’t know a lot about – and so didn’t really relate to me. Even though as a cradle Catholic I knew that Mary is my mother, and in theory I could see Joseph as a foster father, I just didn’t get it. They were nice, and every once in a while I’d see a mental connection to them, but they weren’t real. That is, until I started seeing images like the one above.
Mary is eating. And doing laundry. Joseph is playing with his son. Jesus is a baby--playing. Now, all of these things may seem obvious, since they were a normal family for much of Jesus’ life (those pesky ‘hidden years’). But sometimes it’s hard to imagine the family you hear about in the gospels just being a family (rather than a super amazing, we’re-here-to-save-the-world example for us all to try to live up to). This is why I love this picture so much. This family isn’t saving the world; these people are simply doing what families do; enjoying and loving the moment they are in. Yet this family is the holiest of families!
Let me tell you, it is so hard for me to remember this. It is much easier to let Mary and Joseph slip back into their ‘holy example’ status. Yet when they are ideals rather than people we get into trouble. This trouble can go two ways:
First, when they are ideals, I can easily write them out of my life. I can think “Mary and Joseph were just holy rollers, I can’t be anything like them, I have laundry to do.” This way, I can go about my daily life without a thought for God.
Or, I can go the other way. I can think “Mary and Joseph were holy rollers, I have to pray constantly, volunteer for everything, be at every Church event, make sure my kid has the Catechism memorized by age 5, and expect my husband to do the same.” This way, I can go about ‘God’s business’ without a thought for my daily tasks.
Now, I hope the problems with each of these extremes are evident—they usually are, when you put them in plain words, but it’s so easy to get caught up in one of these ways of thinking, I’m usually in the thick of thinking this way before I realize how it’s affecting me and my family.
Each extreme has tempted me at different times (and in various forms) in my life. This is why during this month of Mary I most love to reflect on the “hidden years” of Jesus’ life. This time reminds us that the ordinary times and tasks of our lives can be where we achieve holiness, and for most of us, will be where we achieve it. It reminds me that saints aren’t always made in radical near-death conversion experiences (though those are the ones that stick in my memory), but in living daily life with intentionality. Holiness happens by giving every day to God, in remembering that if he has given me an 8 month old and a home to take care of, then that is how I will be made a saint, just as Mary and Joseph became saints through caring for their son and their home.
Friend of Arise